I Don’t Know How She Does It!
I have a busy family life with three boys twelve and under. I worked full time in the field of marketing up until the moment I went into labor with my third child. After that I needed a break. What evolved was an entry into the world of genealogy and history.
From the moment that I stopped working my full-time corporate job I started a process of perpetual evolution. Never can I say I became this or that and worked at it for so many years. The journey has been an exacting process. I’ve had to shift gears and re-evaluate every six months as life and work co-existed peacefully or not.
I am a house historian, genealogist and local historian. That just means I wear a lot of hats and don’t like to be pegged down to one thing.
I spend my days researching house histories, family histories or gravestone carvers. I might be preparing for a talk or writing a blog post. I might pass the day in an archive or take photographs in a colonial cemetery. My goal is to learn (through research), grow (through experience) and share (through writing and speaking).
When I first started in this field professionally I followed the traditional path of interacting with the professional community and taking genealogy clients. I would struggle at times to balance my family life with my professional life. Sometimes the clashes were like cymbals crashing. I took each opportunity in stride. When something didn’t work out I re-evaluated and shifted gears. It was a long grueling process familiar to many working moms who are striving to move forward in a professional community and still trying to do it all as far as the family is concerned.
I fell naturally into the role of house historian. It seemed to be the best combination of all my interests – houses, architecture, genealogy and history. When I got started it was the perfect solution to having babies at home. Families have a bad habit of moving through the generations but houses rarely move and when they do they usually don’t leave town. Suddenly I was working in a discipline where I could control the range of my research. That was a huge help in balancing family and work life.
My kids have evolved right there along with me. When my youngest was an infant I took him to the registry of deeds in his carriage. As I passed by people would say, “Is that a baby?” with shock and surprise. As he got older and could walk on his own, I would time my visits to meet his maximum threshold which usually hit the wall around an hour and a half. The lollipops from the staff always helped stave off a crisis.
Unlike most kids, my boys have been through a lot of old houses and cemeteries. It was actually easier when they were younger. As they get older they are still happy to tour through houses but not as happy to let me photograph in cemeteries.
With each year as my children have entered the school system I have been able to have more time during the day to research away from home. Now with all three boys in school I have a consistent, full work day which is a real joy. But that gets tempered by the power-hours after school of soccer practice, dinner time and bed time.
I discovered a wonderful new outlet for all my pent up energy when I started blogging two years ago. I have always been interested in writing and blogging gave me the perfect format for expressing myself and my interests. Blogging has allowed me to be a fuller participant in the genealogical community without the restriction of specific working hours or location. Even though I don’t get paid to blog I still consider it an important part of the daily work that I do. You will most typically find me blogging between 6am and 10am.
One of the tricks I have used recently to keep everything moving forward is to make use of “down time.” Thanks to getting an Android smart phone earlier in the spring, I am now able to keep up with blogs, Facebook, Google+ and other social media during times that I would otherwise be hanging around waiting. That has freed up a great deal of my time. I have also used the smart phone to help with my research when I am on-site. That has been a real time-saver.
Similarly, I spend a lot of time working through research analysis in my down time. This doesn’t involve the use of an android. If I am dealing with a particular research problem I can spend time thinking it through while watching soccer practice or even in the shower. The best place for me to resolve thinking problems, though, is while taking a walk.
Another trick I use is to compartmentalize my time. I became good at this after my first son was born. When I have something to do I designate a specific time and length to complete the task. Then I free my mind from that task until it’s time to do it. When the time arrives I give it my total focus until I complete the task. This works well with single or smaller tasks but isn’t necessarily the answer for large projects. However, it does allow me to free up some mental space by scheduling out some items.
I can’t answer the question, “how does she it?” because I don’t think I really do. I love to sleep and won’t give up my 7 hours easily. Being able to work from home and having help from the family has been the key to my success. Sometimes things don’t get done and emails don’t get returned. I try to be as efficient and responsive as possible but I don’t sweat it so much if I slip. I think the biggest help has been realistically limiting what projects I take on.
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