Learning to live as a Type A person in a chaotic life

Earlier this week, I lost it. I was in my millionth war with my 2-year-old about getting ready in the morning. It goes something like this.

Me: “Let’s get dressed.”

Her: “I want to wear the bumblebee. NO. I don’t want the bumblebee. I want the star dress.”

Me: “The star dress is dirty. You wore it yesterday. What about the polka dots or the hearts?”

Her: “I want the hearts. NO. I want the polka dot. NO. I want my gymnastics leotard. I don’t want to get dressed.”

I’ll spare you the rest of that lively conversation, but it involves some combination of her crawling into her bed to hide while I try to dress her, throwing a tantrum about which polka dot on the rug she’ll sit on and refusing to brush her teeth. At some point, I gave up and went to get dressed. After telling my husband how much I hate the mornings, he decided he’d get her ready to avoid the chaos. [Spoiler alert: it didn’t go well and she gave him the cold shoulder all the way to daycare.]

Later that day, I began planning for a client announcement that doesn’t even have a date yet. THAT’s my comfort zone. I’m a planner. I like when – even if something doesn’t go my way – I have an alternate option ready to go. It’s pretty useful in our line of work.

It’s not so useful at home, where who’s in charge is always a question. So how do you reconcile the immense value a detailed plan has for a client versus the immense stress it brings to deviate from that plan at home?

The short answer is: you don’t. You learn to live with it. Women and (probably out of necessity) especially mothers can do several things at once. So I’ve tried hard to marry the best of both sides. Consider the following.

Skill: detailed planning backed by in-depth research or knowledge of a platform or industry

For obvious reasons, this is incredibly useful at work. But we do some really fun family things at home because I make an effort to maximize our weekend time together by researching what’s going on in the area, staying up to date on events and activities, and planning what works for us.

Skill: Listening to understand, even when what you’re hearing seems nonsensical

Every day, my daughter says she played with Annabelle at school. Annabelle is her best friend. But last Tuesday, she told me Annabelle wasn’t her best friend anymore. I asked a few questions and found out Annabelle left early that day. By Wednesday they were besties again. But this is serious stuff in “Days of Our Toddlers’ Lives.” And listening to understand is a useful skill at work, too! Asking the right questions is valuable when we’re getting to know a new industry, figuring out a problem or finding middle ground on an issue.

Skill: Learning to be flexible

In February, I was four months’ pregnant during a terrible flu season. And my kid got it. When she’s out of school, I still need to work. And getting the flu would have been bad news for me and baby No. 2. We survived with help from my mom, a doctor who gave me preventive Tamiflu and Obsidian’s wonderful flexibility, which allowed me to catch up even after hours. I can honestly say I struggle with this skill, but it’s already making a difference at work! When I first started at Obsidian, I felt married to my plans. Now, I treat them more like a framework that we can adjust, and life’s better for everyone!

As always, I’m still a work in progress. But learning to live in the middle isn’t such a bad place to be.