An evening in our apartment usually starts with my daughter getting home at 4 o’clock. I’ll be finishing up dinner and we’ll sit and watch the first half hour of Ellen together. By the time each of our plates are clear, my daughter turns off the TV, brings her books to the living room, and does her homework on the floor while I flip open my laptop.
As we sit in mostly silence for at least the next hour, my mind can’t help but to wander. I write so much about the fearless pursuit of my dreams, and how others should be brave enough to do the same. But I write just as much about my relationship with my daughter, the incredible bond that we share, and of course some of the struggles I endure trying to raise a teenager.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized how balanced those posts have been. Probably because I really don’t think I’m balancing anything. I want to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself as a writer as ferociously as I push to be an exceptional parent. Each takes a different set of skills, but both require the same amount of focus and attention to detail.
It’s not an accident that in the same year I’ve been granted full custody of my daughter that I’ve had my most successful year as a writer. My friends would ask me what’s the biggest difference. What have I changed the most since taking on my daughter full time. I tell them half jokingly that one small thing has changed my life: cooking.
They laugh because they think I’m joking. And I usually say it in a way so I get that reaction. But in all seriousness, cooking everyday has really changed my perspective on both my career and my role as a parent.
Time and consistency. Those are the lessons I’ve learned from preparing daily meals. When I wake up every morning and scribble out my day in my notepad, there are very few things that would cause me to ever negotiate my time. I know the precise amount of time I’ll dedicate to each project. I know what time of day I’ll be working on these projects. I know when I’ll be scheduling meetings and these times don’t change.
These times don’t change because my daughter’s schedule doesn’t change. She goes to school and comes home the same time nearly everyday. So by 3:00 p.m, I’m in front of the stove. By 4:00 p.m, we’re eating dinner. From about 4:30–5:00, we’re both working usually till about 7:00. Some nights I have meetings, but most nights we watch a movie or go out to eat (I got her hooked on vegan pulled pork!)
This is every day. Our schedules are consistent because my daughter needs consistency. Her previous life was turbulent and I would never put her through anything like that again. Our schedules are consistent because my writing needs consistency. I’ve increased my output significantly over the same time span because I’ve kept to this schedule. No more wasted time. No more procrastinating. Writing needs to get done and it gets done.
Everything seems so much calmer now. I’m enjoying my days, appreciating the time I’m giving to each of my passions, each of my responsibilities. Nothing seems as urgent, even the urgent stuff. And whenever I do find myself feeling overwhelmed, I simply remind myself that my daughter needs dinner.
Thanks so much for reading. For the ambitious parents out there, know that it never has to be either/or. Your passion includes your role as a parent and achieving your career goals is not impeded by this reality, it should inspire it.
Originally published at medium.com