Life + Work Balance :: Kawania Wooten - Part I

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

washington dc wedding plannerKawania Wooten is the owner of Howerton-Wooten Events, a wedding and event planning company in Washington DC. Today she shares a bit about finding balance with a 9 year old son with strict dietary needs and a husband, while planning weddings and corporate events in a fast-paced city.

When my son was born, he was really sick and had to go on lots of medication, so my husband and I got on a schedule then in order to stay organized. This started with schedules for his medicine, and then schedules for his diet in order to accommodate his numerous food allergies. As he got older, his activities increased, so we worked on creating a house schedule.

These little schedules started partly out of necessity, to keep me sane. I would say that the whole process keeps us sane. Even on vacations, I keep a schedule or itinerary. I don't worry about not having spontaneity because it occurs within the confines of the schedule. We create schedules similar to the block schedules and my husband and I use Outlook to send appointments back and forth.

In the house, we're good about blocking time. My son now understands that work done from home is still real work. The biggest challenge we faced in getting to this point was understanding that time is money. When I break down how much it costs if I have to drop what I am doing for my company to run to his school because he forgot something basic, he understands that there is a value to what I do. This also helps him remember to double check to make sure his lunch or books are packed before he leaves for school. If we all work together, we have a better time at it.

I encourage my son to work with me during the workday when he is home from school and he takes it seriously because I pay him for it. He works for Howerton+Wooten Events (not me) a few hours a week. He stuffs, seals and stamps envelopes. He files (I have a system that even a 9 year old can follow), makes copies, and he cleans my office. He earns money this way, and this is his allowance. He has a puppy savings account and 10% goes to that. Then 10% goes to his charity. The rest he can spend.

I work in the house until 5:00 and stop then. We both respect that time. Because of that, there's no "mommy's always working." I work very hard to be a “guilt-free” parent. I know that I am responsible for part of our household income, so I don’t feel guilty when I am working. We're also very matter of fact that if we don't work, he doesn't get a Wii or the other things that are paid for by working. I'm not a stay-at-home mom. That's not the card we were dealt and we have to deal with that and not feel guilty. Guilt can really wreck a schedule.

I schedule family time that I am not allowed to cancel or reschedule – my family knows that and holds me to it. When I am on family time, I “live in the moment” and I refuse to talk about work or answer e-mails, texts or business calls. Friday night is family night and if my husband is working, then we go roller skating or to laser tag or to the movies or something fun. I have no problem telling clients that I have an appointment during that time. They don't need to know what that appointment is for. Office hours close (phone calls and all) on Fridays at 7:00 and then it is time with my family. I really feel that if you start breaking promises to children, there's no turning back because they come to expect that you will not be consistent.

Every other Saturday is date night. It is not just my kid who needs work and life balance, but my husband, too. We remain flexible and if I have a wedding on that Saturday, then we have our date on Sunday. I do not work on Sundays, not for religious reasons, but to keep me sane. I need a day of rest to unplug from work. I believe having those boundaries is huge or you'll be all over the place.

If I worked in corporate offices downtown still, I would not be able to take a break from that work day to do laundry, so I try to stick to business during business hours. I do admit that I get up at 4:00 am. In part because I am an early bird and in part because I focus when it's nice and quiet. So I get a lot done in the office between 5 and 7:30 when everyone wakes up. Then I help with breakfast, take my son to school and then I'm back at my desk at 9:30.

I also had to learn that it's okay to tell people 'no'. I don't go out with friends all the time or volunteer a lot anymore. If it doesn't fit in my main priorities - family, church, job, or best friends - then I minimize what I say yes to and they have to be okay with it. Unless it fits in, I try not to take it on.

Check back later today for part II of our conversation on Life and Work Balance with Kawania.

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