In January of 2020, I decided that I needed a change. I was working at a small, family-owned firm. I was overworked and undervalued. I didn’t feel like I was living up to my full potential. I was working long hours for little recognition and no consideration for my work-life balance. At the time, I was intrigued by Maxwell Locke & Ritter’s core values, especially “No success at work is worth failure at home.” I was interested in finding out if there was true intention behind the words.
I started at ML&R in February of 2020. It was exciting and new. I was meeting new people and learning a new set of skills in a brand-new position at a firm that saw the potential in me that I previously hadn’t seen in myself. It was refreshing and exhilarating and terrifying and thrilling and bustling and busy. I was six weeks in when the pandemic hit in March of 2020.
The bustling, fun, exciting, new job downtown became an uncertain, worry-filled, isolating work-from-home situation. I wasn’t certain if I’d be working from home for two weeks or two years. I wasn’t certain if my newrole at ML&R was really needed. I wasn’t certain if I was meeting expectations. I wasn’t certain if I would ever really get to know my coworkers without spending time with them in person. I wasn’t even certain if I would have time to shower every day because I had suddenly been thrust into navigating a brand-new position at ML&R while simultaneously homeschooling my two young daughters in quarantine. I had to accept that the only certainty I was going to have was that everything was uncertain.
But my expectations of myself were very high. I would work a full 40-hour work week and be a full-time teacher. I would manage my daughters’ zoom calls and help them with their homework and make all their meals and do all their laundry. I would be their janitor and their therapist and their personal assistant and their best friend. I would find a way to power through and do it all. ML&R even stocked up our family with school supplies and gave us everything we would need for homeschooling and virtual learning and working from home.
But as time went on, all the extreme togetherness at home started to feel more like a hostage situation. I felt frazzled and disorganized. I felt like I wasn’t working enough. I felt like I was working too much. I had no space of my own. I had no time to myself. I worked from my dining room table. I ate all my meals at my dining room table. I taught school from my dining room table. I had mini-meltdowns at my dining room table. Work life and family life were no longer two separate lives needing to be balanced. Work life and family life had become one completely interconnected, boundary-less life.
All around me, everyone seemed to be seizing the moment of respite, baking sourdough bread, binging Netflix, and reconnecting with nature. I couldn’t even run a comb through my daughter’s hair before her daily zoom calls. I needed a change. After spending time talking with several of the partners at ML&R and countless others at the firm, I realized that the change needed to be on my end this time. Maxwell Locke & Ritter had given me all the tools to succeed, but I needed to start utilizing them. I needed to take the words “No success at work is worth failure at home” and apply their true intention to my work-from-home situation.
I was told countless times by so many at ML&R to take care of myself and my family. I was told to use the “family care” timecode any time I needed to spend working hours homeschooling my girls. I was encouraged to join the firm’s parent support group and get involved in the “ML&R Kids Club.” Maxwell Locke & Ritter had given me the permission, grace and understanding to reassess my own expectations of what my new role at the firm would look like, my expectations of how many hours it realistically takes to simultaneously parent and teach and work.
I realized I couldn’t separate my work life from my family life anymore, so I needed to stop trying to balance work and family as if they were two separate things and instead embrace them as one interconnected, chaotic, sometimes imperfect thing. Once I shifted my expectations, I gave myself the grace I needed. I was free to be imperfect in my job and empowered to take control of this brand-new role at ML&R and make it my own, but also spend the time I needed to spend with my girls.
Once I started managing my own expectations, I actually started working more effectively and efficiently than even before the pandemic. The positive feedback I began receiving from everyone at ML&R was truly overwhelming. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I feel so fortunate to be valued and given the autonomy and freedom to make the most of my boundary-less work and family life. Even though I’m now back in the office and my daughters are back in school, I still feel the lasting effects of the support and consideration I was given during such uncertain times.