I Live My Life on a Fire-Fighter’s Schedule

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” 
― Brené Brown

24 on/48 off

That’s how I function. Diets, parenting, self-care, whatever. I can start a new practice, hardcore. I will cut out red meat, sugar, carbs. I will go for a run before work and meditate and journal. I will do whatever is asked with the promise of being “better” after. However, after 24 hours of living that life, I need 48 off to recover.

I can implement a chore chart, have breakfast made, everyone to school on-time with uniforms laid out (and clean) then dinner ready (in the crockpot) when we walk in the door from practice like a boss. Mom-me KILLINIT on all cylinders with color-coordinated charts and sticker sets to match. Though Day 2 and 3 may be blank and I’m guaranteed to be arguing about who did what when it’s time to pay out allowances. Breakfast may be a cereal bar in the car and uniforms may need a freshen-up-fluff-cycle in the dryer by day 2 or 3.

24 on/48 off.

Fire-fighters are heroes. All of them. They run into places everyone else is running away from. Fire-fighters let go of fear and battle the blaze until the job is done and the goal is met. They take care of each other. Fire-fighters must trust the person fighting next to them and know they have their back. I admire fire-fighters and hold them in the highest regard. We could all use a little more fire-fighter in our hearts.

Being a woman with a job and a family and a life is impossible. Yes. Impossible. You can’t have all things all the time. Work/Life Balance DOES NOT EXIST. (re-read if necessary). You cannot be 100% on at work and 100% on at home and 100% present in your life. I am not a mathematician, but I know I am not 300% a woman. 100% badass, yes.

So maybe we live each part of our life on a fire-fighter’s schedule. I can keep it together at work and KILLIT for a period of time. I’ll answer all the emails and get everything signed and approved. Professional-Work-Me rises to the occasion and checks off the boxes until the To Do list is complete. Feeling the flow and getting it done. My crown and shades are on point and my heels click with a purpose as I strut down the hall. Watch out, the queen is coming!

All the while, I rely on my people to get my kids from school and remind me of when the field trip permission slip is due. No one has lunch money on their accounts, there is a foul odor coming from my fridge and I can’t remember the last time I saw a menu from a restaurant that didn’t serve chicken nuggets. Time for a schedule change.

A change in schedule does not mean Work-me doesn’t show up. This is not vacay time. 48 off is when Work-me shows up, but the crown may be crooked. The shades may have a missing lens. The work To Do list isn’t complete. There may be a broken heel. Because now it’s 24 on at home.

There is no balance to this life. There’s suiting up and showing up and giving it everything you got. We have to stop chasing a balance that doesn’t exist. Accept ourselves and each other for where we are and who we are. We all do the best we can with what we have every single day. Some days I’m the apple-shaped-chalk-board pic and some days I’m the van-selfie. My best day may look like your worst day. SO WHAT! That doesn’t make my best any less. Let’s embrace each other and battle together. There is strength in numbers (so I am told).

The key to making this work is knowing someone has your back. Being vulnerable enough to trust someone else will be there for you when it’s your 48 off. When it’s Mom-me’s turn to be on for 24, I have the backs of the other moms in my life. Whether it’s early carpool pick-up, a reminder text that fund-raiser is due or a friendly head-nod to the mom in Target battling her toddler to get into the damn cart.

Having someone’s back does not equate to a scoreboard of favors owed or collected. This is not politics. Let’s stop keeping score of who is most involved mom, works the longest hours, and living their best life ever.

Celebrate each other when you see a lady KILLINIT at work.

Give another mom a hand when you see her struggle.

Give a shout-out when you see someone KILLINIT living their #bestlifever.

One of dearest friends brought this idea to my attention. She told me she could be AMAZING for 24 hours but needed the next 48 off to recover. She thanked me for being there to pick-up when she was down. The funny thing is I felt the same about her. I see her as someone from my firehouse who takes over for me when I’m off. We carpool and shuffle children to and from. We text each other when we have epic KILLINIT moments and make each other laugh while the other one cries. I do not pick-up my house before she comes over and I would be offended if she did for me. We don’t always realize the effect we have on others and it’s important to show gratitude to those we count on.

Brene Brown is a researcher and social worker whom I admire greatly. Her work is fascinating and inspiring. One of my favorite quotes of hers is “If you aren’t in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” So powerful and so true. If you can’t be there for me when I’m fighting to keep it together, then I don’t have any use for you. Get in and battle the blaze with me or stand back and hush your mouth.

Figure out who is in your firehouse. Coordinate your schedules. Suit up. Show up. Battle the blaze together.

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