Life + Work Balance :: Kawania Wooten - Part II

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.

I've been married thirteen years this year and it took us a while to figure out what's most important. Mutual respect is huge. My husband is supportive of me and he knows that my success is his success. He is also very busy with his career and I don't hold his schedule against him if it doesn't always work with mine. I do run most of my household, but I know that I can ask for help. I jokingly went on strike one weekend last year and refused to wash any dishes or do any housework. I have to pull back every now and then and my family knows that they have to help. I have to cook a lot from scratch because of my son's food allergies, so while I am cooking a big dinner on Sundays, I cook two meats. We then have that in leftovers or other dishes the rest of the week. There is no "leftover shame" in this family.

I have a good network and that's key, too. For example, this week I am at a hotel on the Hill running a conference. I have friends I can call and ask to pick my son up from school and watch him until my husband gets home from work. My son is at an age now where I don't have to monitor what he eats as closely because he can do a lot of that himself, and that helps.

Children respond to rituals and schedules and thrive if they know their boundaries. Bedtime rarely changes, so there are no arguments there. I still have to prod him in the mornings to get him out of bed and out the door to school, but he is pretty good at sticking to the schedule we set. When I traveled for events when my son was younger, I'd make copies of his books and bring them with me and then read to him at night over the phone. He preferred I read to him and I didn't want to miss out on that daily ritual. I also write a note to put in his lunch bag every day, so when I know I am going to be gone, I write them ahead of time so the rituals are still there.

It's hard to have work/life balance when you have an overly dependent child. My motto is "always make new mistakes" - go ahead, screw it up, I do. And from that, we learn as we go. If a wedding didn't go quite right, I'll mention it to my son. It's healthy because my son is willing to try new things and not worrying about my reaction if he messes up.

I work from an office in my home and it really helped all of us when I designated that space as belonging to Howerton+Wooten Events and not to mom. It is hands off this way. You can't come take paper and pens; if you need those, we go to the store. I was always running out of paper and it was adding up in my business expenses because he would take it to draw on. I had to separate that space and once I did it really clicked in my husband's and son's heads.

I do take a lunch hour and swear by it and everyone should. I do eat in my house, but not in my office. After I eat, I walk around my block, which takes me a good 25 minutes. I feel so much better afterward and feel renewed for the second half of my day. During my lunch, I'll call my husband to check in on him or call my mom or a friend. Other times, I use the time to just be quiet. When your world is so small and when you get caught up in your own four walls and your company, everything seems so huge, so heavy. When you step back you can get a new perspective.

In September I had a mammogram. They found something and called me, but I let their messages slide because I was busy and I figured it was nothing. After a month of their calls I received a certified letter telling me I had to come back in. I really scared myself because I had ignored my body's signs. I had ignored calls from my doctor for over a month because I was busy and figured it would wait! I really believe that we're missing messages that come from our bodies and spirits if we let our schedule and balance get out of whack and have no control over our life. Not only is work and life balance important, but it's so important to have health balance - to make time to eat right and workout. It really goes back to our priorities and saying 'what's most important here?'.

I get networking in, but I don't do every single thing. I meet for coffee and consultations on Mondays and Fridays and certain evenings. I am adamant about not taking my son to appointments with me. I do make time to blog and twitter because those help my business, but I am also careful to turn them off when I am not working.

Of all the things I do, I am most proud of raising my son. Not because I'm a perfect mom, but because every day I get a chance to try and do it right again.

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