Is it Possible to Balance Family & Career?

Two years ago, I threw some things into a bag and jumped on a last-minute evening flight from Austin to New York. Those “things” included a few suits, a laptop, and a breast-pump (never mind the bottles, because I already knew, being my second child and 1,700 miles and all, that there would be no mini-coolers toted through security this time around). As I looked out over the city skyline on that first night alone, I remember thinking, “How on earth am I going to find a place for my family to live in this city?”

I had moved many times before; including three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Central America, preceded by soul-searching, some cross-country train trips, and a brief stint in Spain for which I had given away most of my furniture and put a few remaining things in storage. But this was different. I was different. “I” had turned into an “us” over the course of my 30s and the thought of bringing my one-year old, two-year old, husband, and two dogs along for the adventure was both exciting and overwhelming.

As the HORNE team jumped into a major engagement in a new geography, I found myself exhilarated by the challenge. We were in a new environment, filled with complex scenarios and an immense opportunity to serve and provide value to our client. More than a decade of experience in state government had prepared me for the task of building structure around complex requirements within strenuous deadlines. But as our team gathered in hotel conference rooms to work late into the evening, I was the only one with little people running around, and living the work-life integration was a completely new experience for me.

I had been on an extended-travel basis those first few months of project start-up and was flying home every 15 days to see my family. In some ways, I was relieved to be alone in the hotel so that I could work long hours and keep up with the demands of the project. However, each time I flew home, I would dissolve into tears at the sight of my two girls, who somehow managed to grow and change drastically every two weeks. 

HORNE stepped in and supported my family with housing in a comfortable apartment close to the project site.  We relished being together as work demands balanced out and we explored new parks, museums, and beaches while the splendid Long Island summer rolled out before us. My husband had never really traveled before and every weekend became an adventure of discovering a hidden location to explore.  We fully relocated to New York as a family and felt relieved and excited at being able to settle in and enjoy the experience. 

Don’t get me wrong, relocating a family of four was tough. Everything was a little heavier and slower than when I was younger and single, and at times I looked around at the other team members on the project who were pushing hard, unhindered by family obligations, and wondered how I could keep up. But being a parent gives you a special kind of strength; a level of energy unique to mothers that allows you to operate in multiple realms while each of these re-energizes the other.  It also teaches you to set boundaries between work and family that are necessary to be fully present for both the client and the project team, and the ones who await us at home. Returning home each evening to the silly irreverence of my two girls and the support of a spouse who was equally committed to our endeavor made all the difference in our journey.

As fellow parents may know, however, sometimes mom super-power runs a little thin.  As the team worked through project transition a year and a half later and my family and I prepared to return to Texas, a colleague jumped in to watch the girls so my husband and I could enjoy some time in the city; another team member graciously watched our dogs while the movers came; and another let all four of us invade her pristine apartment our last night in town.  Over the course of the engagement, HORNE coworkers became colleagues, who became friends, who became like family.  While my husband and I had started off on our own, we left New York as part of an extended HORNE clan who often jumped in to support each other through moves, life changes, and sometimes, plain old fun. 

Each of us formed complementary part of a diverse team that allowed us to be successful, and my family and I were able to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As HORNE continues to develop opportunities across the country, I would encourage our team members from all walks of life to consider seeking these opportunities to grow.  It may not be as out of reach as you think!

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Topics: Culture

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