Scene report from a woman having it all at SXSW

Since we’re still talking about women having it all, let’s talk about this woman trying to have it all.

First off, for a review of the SXSW Interactive panel called OK Women Can’t Have It All But Maybe No One Can, check out this great recap from Moxie Interactive social media manager Suzanne Kirkland, who seems to agree that this silly “debate” is about as productive as arguing over whose barbecue is better. We need to focus on what works and feels healthy for ourselves and whomever else we share our lives with:

Until then, here’s what we can do: try having control over your schedule as much as you can, redefine success, learn from the other gender, and make yourself unplug for a few hours.


During the interactive festival, I went to a panel about GIFs, inspired in part by my friend Alejandra‘s awesome GIF post about Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO who has a new book about her “lean in” work philosophy.

While I was experimenting with GIFs to tell stories throughout the festival, Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer was writing this opinion piece about women who “lean in” to their careers so far that they nearly fall over. She used the example of a former Wall Street executive who stepped down while at the top of her field at age 41 to live a quieter life taking spin classes in East Hampton. Don’t work your life away, Reimer tells us.

It’s hard not to work your life away during an action-packed time like SXSW. Everywhere I look — from the pre-Interactive warm-up parties to the festival-ending barbecue and softball game that I never have enough steam to attend — I see possible blog posts or stories, and that’s not even counting Rodeo Austin, which takes place during the same time period at the Expo Center.

I was happy with my little piece of SXSW. I made some videos, wrote some articles (including one about an all-male panel on innovation in grocery shopping), judged some cooking contests and spoke at some events. For the most part, I enjoy “leaning in” to what has become a nationally relevant festival, particularly hustling and networking and enjoying the events the city and the fine people who live and visit here. But just getting to and from the events seems to take all day, and churning out blog posts and regular work commitments while you’re out there can suck the life out of you.

All the stuff and people outside my work/work-like online obligations don’t stop needing attention during the “lean in” times, and home/personal life starts to get crabby with you if you forget to tend it.

Ian, for the first SXSW, had to work during the same part of the week/weekend that I did, so we swapped kid-sitting with a handful of fellow parents who had things they wanted/needed to do.

For every night I was out working the festival, I spent one night babysitting another set of (very enjoyable and fun) kids and another night at home to recoup. The daytime routine favored work a little more, but Julian’s spring break meant Ian and I were passing him (and Avery outside his regular daycare hours) back and forth almost every day.

I pulled double duty a few times during the week, taking Julian to some of the events I knew he’d enjoy and be welcome at, including the trade show at the convention center on Tuesday. That kid loves swag.

Shuffle shuffle, work work, sleep, shuffle, work, shuffle, sleep. Rinse and repeat for 10 days.

We got tired of it. The kids got tired of it. My body got tired of it. I got some food poisoning or other stomach malady by the middle of the music festival, and I took it as a cue to reel things in. Ian’s birthday was this weekend, too, and we needed to celebrate together. I had to say “no” to what would have been some seriously fun quasi-work related parties, but those will be there next year.

downtonFamily time makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, but the truth is that it’s hard to fill my own bucket when I’m filling theirs. I haven’t done yoga in a week; books are sitting unloved on my nightstand. I haven’t written in my journal in months. (I have caught up on some Downton Abbey, though. So good!)

Alone time is hard to come by when you’re trying to have it all with dependents involved, but that’s part of the wickedly hard and constantly shifting puzzle.

It’s embarrassing how good I have it with bosses who understand this juggle and fully support me to make the right decisions for dividing my time responsibly. I get to choose when I “lean in” and, thankfully, don’t have Marissa Mayer telling me I can’t occasionally work from home or shift my work schedule to tend the home fires and me.

Like everyone, I’m doing my best to have my version of “all,” and I’m pretty satisfied with it.

3 responses to “Scene report from a woman having it all at SXSW

  1. I feel your pain & excitement for the past two weeks. You get on a high and then you crash. Grateful it is over. Lean in to your needs & your family’s.

  2. This is so very timely for me… and I really enjoyed reading about someone else’s “juggle” instead of obsessing over my own for a change. Having it all is exhausting!

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