Reclaiming Your Energy & Finding Balance in Work & Motherhood
EPISODE: 45 | DATE: June 3, 2021
“Making choices really isn’t enough. It’s being at peace with them. At the end of the day that’s what we want. We want that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that the choices we made were the right ones for us.”
What is your passion and who do you serve?
- My passion is human potential. I help people not settle for less than their full potential.
- I am most passionate about helping working mothers with their full potential.
- Why? Because I am one! And because I think motherhood is kind of like the torture test for an ability to stay committed to your full potential in spite of all the competing demands for our time and attention.
How did you come to this work? Were you always a mentor for busy moms?
- Professionally I didn’t start here. I don’t know how you would. I don’t know how somebody at 18 would be like that’s what I want to do with my life!
- At 18, I was interested in cooking and travel and was enraptured with the idea of hospitality.
- I enrolled in the hotel school at Cornell University. In school, I learned that hospitality is a subset of the business world.
- I fell in love with business so when I finished school, I went to work at Proctor and Gamble. I spent 15 years there learning the art of business and marketing and working with really talented people and great clients all around the world before I left to start this entrepreneurial chapter and that was 11 ½ years ago.
You have 3 children. Did you have them all while working your corporate job?
- Yes I have 3 children. They are 16, 13 and 10.
- I gave birth to my first 2 while I was still working in my corporate job.
- I learned I was expecting my third child around the same time that I resigned. So the first year I was starting my company I was having my 3rd child.
What was it like having a child while working in corporate vs having a child as an entrepreneur?
- When we had our first child I was so lucky that I had a boss who had taken a year off for her maternity leave. This was 16 years ago and that was kind of progressive. Most of it was unpaid but the policy was available.
- Very few people took advantage of that. And I think it was one of the blessings in my life that I had this manager that had done it which made it seem possible for me.
- So I took a year off with each of my first 2 children.
- It was a really important time for me to be all in as a mom.
- When I went back, I went back at a less than full time schedule. Sometimes it was 80%, 60%, etc.
- I tested every flexibility that existed. I was running a billion dollar grant while not working full time. So that was hard.
- What’s different about it is in a corporate environment you have less control over when meetings are scheduled, what the expectations are, what the pace is or the demands
- In an entrepreneurial career, I have a lot more control over that. So when my youngest – Brooke was born – I could set my own schedule. I could set my own pace. If I wanted to go faster or slower that was completely up to me. So I think that’s probably the biggest difference is just the level of control.
Did you ever worry that taking time off would negatively impact your progress at work from a promotion standpoint?
- I never worried about it.
- I have an optimistic belief that talent shows.
- And also on playing the long game.
- It was so clear that we’re in these careers for decades. But that 6 months of having a baby doesn’t come back again ever.
Let’s talk about balance. You recently said in an Instagram post that balance doesn’t just happen. It’s the outcome of a thousand little choices that make key moments matter. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
- First I think we need to align on the definition of balance.
- If you say balance means being fully present in all the moments of your day – from work to spending time with your kids, I say those are key moments in your day that you want to make matter.
- So when I say it’s the outcome it’s the outcome of a thousand little choices to make key moments matter – that’s what I mean. It’s those moments when you drop in when you’re tucking your child into bed or cooking dinner or doing an interview or whatever it may be. It’s a choice. To be present is a choice you get to make.
- I think where we get in trouble is we act like we don’t have any choice. We act like everything is happening to us and it’s completely outside of our control and we have a lot of resentment that we’re in places we don’t want to be.
- “Ugh, look at all this stuff I have to do. It’s not what I want to be doing.”
- In my experience, when women feel like they’re doing what they want to be doing, that’s where they say they have good balance.
Let’s talk about language, because I understand how important it is in the way we speak to ourselves. How do you coach women around that language and their inner critic?
- Let’s talk about 2 word switches.
- First, let’s talk about Should vs. Choose. I should be doing something else vs I choose to be doing this.
- The words we choose over and over again anchors us into the fact that it’s actually a choice.
- It’s my choice to sit down and make dinner for my family. It’s my choice to do this podcast with you today. Who says you should? Who is that narrative of ‘should’ controlled by? You get to choose.
- The other word switch I would look for is ‘have to’ vs ‘get to.’
- So I have to do this today vs I get to do this and that.
- I get to give my child a bath. I get to snuggle with this baby when she wakes up and I get to sit down with my husband. I get to write the next blog post.
- The simple shift from ‘have to’ to ‘get to’ makes you honor the blessings in your life moment by moment.
- And the language there is really powerful because it emphasizes that you in fact have choices. It is a blessing and your life is unfolding exactly as it should be.
- And the other ones – the shoulds and the have tos – suggest that there is some external locus of control, that you are victimized by your life.
Let’s talk about the cultural narrative around what success looks like. Do you think the narrative needs to change?
- I think so much of the cultural narrative around success says: more is more and faster is better.
- That’s really the messaging that we’re ingesting from the time we’re very young.
- More money, prestige, more things. More in any way that you can define it. And getting there faster is better. If you can go faster than you should. That’s our cultural narrative.
- It’s a race metaphor that we’re in. The race is about acquisition and speed. But I think what we’ve been fighting for for generations is choices.
- For example, your choice to stay home with your kids is your choice. You understand the trade offs of that choice and you’re at peace with that. It’s a beautiful decision.
- Someone else who chooses to go back to work at 2 weeks postpartum – that’s also a choice. I believe we’re fighting for those choices.
- And we don’t want anyone telling us what we can and can’t do and how we should do it.
- It’s about beliefs. If our belief is ‘I should go back to work because if I don’t, the fear or the risk is that I won’t get the promotion fast enough, I’ll lose out on a year of income.’ I think the narrative that we should be chasing or the definition of success is being able to exercise our choices.
- And then making the choices really isn’t enough. It’s being at peace with them. At the end of the day that’s what we want. We want that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that the choices we made were the right ones for us.
For any moms who are feeling stuck, like they want to leave their job but need the paycheck or want to do something different but don’t know where to start, what advice do you have for them?
- I will often use the phrase, “let’s double click on that,” when a client will say that she’s stuck. Because I really want to understand what she’s saying.
- I promise you that with 10 minutes of really actively thinking about whatever you’re stuck on could make it better. Maybe even just 3 minutes.
- It’s about pressing pause on whatever the thought is, seeing that you’ve gotten stuck on autopilot, and assessing if it’s still working for you.
- That stuckness is a clue that you have to pause and almost put the whole process into slow motion until you can see where the breakdown is.
Let’s do an example: a mom hates her job and wants to leave and start her own business but she needs the paycheck.
- So the double clicking is, “what would have to be true for me to be living in a new life where I was doing entrepreneurial work that I loved full time and making a living doing it?”
- And so if you go all the way out to the end game and say what would have to be true and keep asking that question over and over again: I would have to be making X dollars and my husband would have to be making Y. Ok – so what would have to be true – my husband would have to be in a different job because he doesn’t have benefits. Ok, is there any other way?
- Then the question becomes, “where would I go to get health insurance, what would that cost? My income would have to be that much higher.”
- Let’s say you want to start your own home organizing business. You’d have to ask: “Doing the work I want to do, how many clients would I need?”
- Do you hear how this level of specificity starts to reveal the answers? Because then there are pathways. And now we’re online looking at health insurance costs and looking at other people in the jobs we want so that we’re really starting to build a model of what it would take to build that other life. And we can start taking steps in that direction.
- That path to your business could be 1000 times long sometimes. But you won’t know where to take the first one until you do that reverse engineering.
How do you work with a mom on finding her purpose when she’s feeling lost?
- Sometimes when we get tangled up in the word purpose, we think it’s the grand arc of our lives. We need to invent the iPhone or solve world hunger.
- The framework I use with our clients to help unstick that is the concept of lower case p purpose. Capital P purpose is so overwhelming to people. You think it’s never going to be big or grand or important enough and if you can reign it in a bit and say in this season – it could be 5 years or 1 month – what is your lower case purpose?
- What’s the most important thing you’re giving your time and attention to? What are you doing that no one else can do or that you feel particularly called to handle or pay attention to? Where are you being of service?
- This way of thinking helps people see that this is just a chapter in their life.
- Also remember that your purpose can shift and change over time. I think that’s often very freeing.
Do you agree with the statement: you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time?
- Are we talking about having it all or doing it all? Because they are not the same thing.
- So can you be the CEO of a fortune 500 company, have 4 children, a house in the hamptons and drive a mercedes? You can have all those things. Can you do all those things at work and at home by yourself and also be on a championship tennis team and volunteer at hospice? You can’t.
- You have the same 24 hours in the day that everyone else has. That’s the difference between having and doing.
- And therefore we go back to choices. We get to decide what are the elements of each of these parts of our lives that we want to actually be doing. So you can do it all, you just can’t do it all at the same time.
- Sequentially, you can say this is the chapter of my life when I played tennis, when I wrote books, when I was the CEO, etc.
- You can sequence through those things through a lifetime.
- You probably can’t do every single one of those things at the same time.
- Your time and energy would just be splintered in a thousand directions.
- I think we need to reconsider having vs doing it all and what you come smack into is what in that covo is what is your own definition of success. What are the things you want to do? We’re all different! We’re so bad at making those choices because we’re so worried about what everyone else is going to think.
As a culture, we seem to be addicted to being busy. It’s become a badge of honor. How do we break that cycle?
- I can relate to the struggle for sure. I don’t have it all figured out. I am definitely a human doing sometimes, not a human being.
- But the journey I am on is around the word rhythm or cadence.
- Think about running and finding a cadence for running. There is exertion and recovery.
- You can sprint but you can’t forever. You can jog for longer. You can walk for a really long time.
- So ask yourself: what’s the rhythm you want to be in in a day? What are the ups and downs, the productive and the recovery?
- That’s the framework I’ve been playing with for years now. What’s the pace I can sustain?
- What’s the pace you’re running at right now? If your whole life is this break neck of dishes and cleaning and doing, and there are no moments to drop in and notice, you’re going to miss it!
- You’re going to wake up one day and be like that was a blur.
- But if you can drop into those key moments in the day – pull your gaze back and pull it in – take a mental picture of that moment of the day: tucking a child into bed, finishing recording a podcast, etc – that brings a sense of rhythm into your day.
- Make those moments have some breathing room around them instead of going across the surface. So think about rhythm or cadence rather than being busy. The key is not how fast we can go.
What are some things women can do to reclaim their energy?
- Energy is something I’m super passionate about because I think about it as a hierarchy of needs.
- Our own health and well being which translates into energy or vibrancy is foundational. And until we get that sorted, and a sense of fulfillment is a pipe dream.
- So it’s the foundational level of building to a life where you really are achieving your full potential.
- Sleep is paramount. I too had a child who didn’t sleep through the months until he was 18-20 months old. So I can relate to that feeling of the rawness of being exhausted. Even then, sleep needs to be the number 1 priority. So that might mean a nap or that you go to bed earlier so that you have more hours of sleep before the first time they wake up during the night. There are optimizations to be made there that may have trade offs but are so worth it.
- So to me, sleep is the #1 thing we want to optimize for. And we might not be getting it in a traditional cycle, but it’s still critical that we get enough.
- After that, we can look at hydration and food and movement as the most powerful 4 practices.
- Hydration is one we overlook a lot. We talk a lot about exercise when people want more energy but simply being fully hydrated is unbelievably transformative. You will feel so different on the days when you get hydrated because it’s like an energizer. We are basically like a plant. If we don’t have enough water, we’re like a wilted plant that looks really sad. And if we do have enough, we’re in full bloom.
- And then food and movement round out the pillars for the 4 ways to optimize your energy.
- After you’ve optimized your physical needs, then you get into mental and emotional energy.
- They matter because even if you’re doing everything right physically, if you’re not taking care of your mental and emotional energy it’s like there is a drain valve opened.
- So if you have a broken relationship or you don’t have good productivity systems so you’re carrying everything around in your mind, or you’re a worrier and your mind is constantly cluttered with worries, or you’re indecisive and you’re constantly in these open loops around unmade decisions. All of that is exhausting.
Cherylanne Skolnicki is an authority on well being, work-life balance, and human potential. Cherylanne grew up wanting to be a Fortune 500 CEO, and started her career at Procter & Gamble where she worked for 15 years before founding The Brilliant Balance Company.
Brilliant Balance helps professionals get the most out of work and life through compelling content, comprehensive coaching programs, and a tightly knit community. As the founder and CEO,
Cherylanne is the creative engine for the company; she is also a popular speaker, an advisor to corporate leaders, and a trusted
coach to a roster of private clients.
Cherylanne hosts the top-rated Brilliant Balance Podcast which reaches thousands of listeners each week with inspiring messages and practical advice.
Cherylanne’s work and guidance have been featured in Thrive Global, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Working Mother, and
Women’s Day, as well as in TV appearances on work-life balance, productivity, and purpose.
Cherylanne graduated from Cornell University in 1995 and holds an MBA from Emory University. She is one of Cincinnati’s 100 Wise Women, a Forty Under 40 Honoree, a happy wife, and a
proud mom of three.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Episode #38 with Julie Ciardi