A few days ago, I had the opportunity to go on a local early morning TV program and talk about some opportunities with the Utah Conservatory of Performing Arts, as I recently became the group's art director. I woke up that morning feeling a little nervous about what I would say and anxious about leaving my kids (again) for a few hours.
I was approached by COPA to become the art director over the contemporary program a few months ago, and I was excited for the new experience. I haven’t had a regular 9-to-5-type job during the 10 years I’ve been married, but I have done singing gigs on the weekends, toured for Deseret Book’s Time Out for Girls events, and spoken at more than a hundred youth conferences, firesides and girls camps all over the country.
Figuring out how to balance work life and mom life has been a real struggle for me. I always feel I am not giving either my best. I don't want to let people down, but I hate the thought of letting my family down the most.
I used to tell my husband, “You just have no idea how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom.” And I still stand by that — in a way.
During the past few weeks, we’ve both had a significant shift in our feelings and our appreciation for each other. After I began this job — which takes only about 15 hours a month and is mostly done from home, which is why I accepted it in the first place — I gained a newfound respect and awe for what my husband and all working mothers are doing out there.
My husband constantly has people needing things from him, asking him to get things done on a deadline, relying on him for answers to questions, and calling on him put out small fires and resolve misunderstandings once in a while, yet he comes home to me saying, “Hey there! Find a child or two and take them upstairs with you so I can finish cooking!”
He instantly steps into “dad mode.” He can switch “work brain” to “home brain” in an instant, something I’m not sure I will ever be able to do. Compartmentalizing is not a gift I was born with. All my thoughts are intertwined, webbed together and connected. While my husband can isolate what needs to be done right now and start on that task, I am always thinking about everything that needs to be done all the time and floating from one task to another, never really finishing any.
I had no idea what stresses and worries, but also open doors to creativity and growth, come with being a working parent.
After my husband watched all four of our kids on his own for the first time while I flew out to North Carolina to speak at a stake youth conference, he texted me this: “I love and appreciate you more than ever.”
All these thoughts were swirling around my already overloaded brain when I pulled up to the TV news set. I walked inside and saw an older woman sitting off to the side, getting ready to go on for her segment.
Her name was June Davidson, and she was as bright and sunny as the month promises. It was her 100th birthday, and she clearly and articulately explained why she thinks she has been privileged to live so long.
“I’m a happy person, and I think one of the greatest things to my longevity is that I always think positive," she said. "I look for the positive things. I do not even dwell on the negative — I know it’s there, but I don’t dwell on it. … I really believe that we all have choices in life. And what we become in life depends on what choices we make.”
Her words settled into my heart. Being positive and not worrying about the negative things is something I have to work on every day, especially when it comes to comparing myself to other women who seem to effortlessly balance home, work, social, church and family life. I find myself endlessly apologizing for my dishes, dust and dirty clothes.
But then sweet June reminded me that in the end, I am responsible for my choices and, more importantly, my attitude.
Perhaps that is where the “balance” comes in — making conscious, prayerful choices that bring brightness and positivity into my life and the lives of those around me, and being grateful and supportive of others who are striving to do the same. I believe that when we do that, no matter what our circumstances are, we can live life with all the hope of June.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.