Planning for my next 10 years
From surviving to thriving, what I'm thinking about as pandemic recedes and kids are getting older
👋🏻 Helen here with our Sunday newsletter, thanks for joining us!
When I was interviewing my first nanny candidate 8+ years ago, I started the process in March for a position that was going to be open in July. The response I got from a nice older Russian-speaking nanny was “You want me to start in July? I’m not sure if I will be alive then.”
For awhile after that, when we had babies and toddlers, it was hard to make plans that looked 6 months out because everything kept changing on a daily basis - once we got a night routine down, there was a sleep regression. Once everyone was healthy, teething began and everything went out the window. Once we figured out how to parent one kid, we had a second one. Match that up with my professional soul searching - where just as I would solve one problem, I’d get bored and start looking for my next opportunity, the notion of planning ahead or even envisioning what the future could look like seemed like a futile exercise.
However, now, I can see that my life is shifting into a new stage - the post “little kids, all-consuming survival phase” and into the more planful “thriving” phase. In addition to the kids getting older, I am also feeling settled in my role (as I celebrate. 1 year at Guild) and the pandemic is receding.
As I enter this phase, I am starting to think about what could my next 10 years look like, what are my big goals. While I don’t have a clear picture not control over inevitable Black Swan events, this post is about my approach to what I want the major parts of my life to be and how it’s changing.
I have divided this essay into the following sections: marriage, kids, career, friends/family and giving.
💍 Marriage - Keep joint hobbies, monthly date nights and new house management plan
Adam and I touched on this topic in our reflection on 10 years of marriage that you can read here where we mused on the shortage of novels and examples that talk about what life looks like when you are in your 40s. Here are the things I aspire to ensure we do to stay healthy and connected:
Joint hobby - Mind The Beet has definitely been a great way to work together on writing, creative process and social media. Over time, I hope we will continue to have a joint project together other than the day-to-day of running a household, raising a family, and supporting each other’s professional careers.
Monthly date nights - we’ve been pretty good at getting away for a few days with family support, but as the pandemic recedes, I’d like to get back to having a monthly date night which requires both planning and a roster of babysitters who are able to support.
Put a house management plan in place - as we near the time when our youngest goes to school full time, we will need to sort out a new plan for both getting kids home from school and to their activities in the 3-6pm time frame as well as maintaining our household. I am a big believer in outsourcing things that do not give me joy (cleaning and laundry mainly) so as the kids’ needs change, we need to adjust to what this means for our household and our sanity.
We are so fortunate to have been able to build a strong foundation together, but I don’t want to spend a minute of my time taking the health of our marriage for granted. Working on sustaining and energizing it together is definitely top of mind for me.
👧 👧 Kids - Evolve to be a supportive coach
The next 10 years of our kids’ lives will be full of new milestones, adventures, lessons, and growth. Our role in that needs to evolve as their needs and life stages are changing. I am already sad about the fact that kissing a finger with a paper cut and putting a unicorn bandaid on it will not solve nearly as many problems as it does today.
Evolving from basic needs to emotional support - My mom used to tell me that “little kids = little problems, big kids = big problems.” We have been so lucky to have healthy kids, and the biggest problems we needed to work through involved potty training and picky eating. While those seemed at times insurmountable and difficult, as our oldest traverses elementary school, I am getting the glimpse of the bigger challenges to come.
A few days ago our 8 year old came home from school heartbroken because her two best friends were not sharing secrets with her which means that they probably don’t consider her to be their best friend. I asked if she has other friends who make her feel good, and she noted that she does, but they all already have their own “best friends”. As I started to worry about how to help her, Adam, calmly reminded me that this is her issue to figure out on her own and our job is to support her. I took a deep breath, gave my kid a hug.
Provide opportunities - As kids are growing, we now get to work together with them to identify things that they might want to try (piano, swimming, gymnastics, rock climbing, etc.) as well as expose them to new books, arts, and travel. It is a privilege to be able to support these things to our kids - not just finding the classes, but also figuring out logistics (Uber for kids would be really helpful) as well as making the time to take trips as a family, and engaging in dinnertime conversations.
Support their interests - The second part of providing opportunities is to then support what the our girls are actually getting into. Some of this is easier said than done.
A few weeks ago I was starting to “Type A” camp sign ups (the coveted summer camps get filled up in minutes after registration opens in February) - and Adam reminded me that our kids at this age have a point of view on what they want to do and with whom. I took a deep breath, slowed down, made a list of options and we came up with a great plan together.
So as I think about the next 10 precious years with our kids, I acknowledge that the days of me deciding what they wear, who they play with, and what activities they do are basically over and it’s a new world where we play a supporting and coaching role. I am preparing myself for it by reading books such as How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk and talking to friends with older kids.
💪🏻 My professional life - practice mastery, invest in my network and work smarter
For the last 10 -15 years, I feel like I have been looking for my place in the professional world by mainly experimenting with different job functions (Three Careers by Mid-30s) and now I feel settled into the notion that I am a product person and a people leader, which is liberating. But the question is, what’s next.
Master my craft - as I reflect on my career journey to date, I’ve gotten bored in my role every two(ish) years at which point, I’ve either taken a new role or made some other major changes (like take a step back for 5 months for maternity leave).
This quote really resonated with me recently:
“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.” James Clear, Atomic Habits
So as I get more senior, I want to mindfully go deeper in growing my expertise around both leading effective teams and building good products. This means that I need to overcome the itch that I get every few years because I get restless bored.
Rekindle and keep building my network - as I look to make space for myself, I am looking forward to re-engaging with my professional/MBA/tech network. Additionally, I am now building a whole new set of colleagues and friends in Colorado and in the start-up world, so I don’t want to take that for granted and make time and space to get to know new people entering my life.
My goal is to make time for at least one professional development conference/get-together year (this year, I’m taking a trip with fellow MBA women so we can reconnect and talk about our professional development) and then make space to meet at least one new person a month.
Work smarter, not harder - I am committed to not burning out in the next 10 years. So I am going to continue to invest in myself - work out, eat well, and maintain reasonable work boundaries. When we are younger in career, before kids, family, pets, and other obligations, it seemed perfectly reasonable to work 12 hour days, or shift your start to 11am and go until late at night. This is untenable for my life now nor do I expect to ever shift back into that mindset in the next 10 years.
To that end, I have been reading about efficient Slack practices, calendar and time management and have come across Shreyas Doshi’s write up on dividing tasks into Leverage, Neutral and Overhead (LNO) buckets and treating your time and energy accordingly:
In 10 years, I hope to be able to say that I am a leader that others would follow because I enable the creation of great products and healthy, vibrant team culture where people feel and perform at their best. It’s a tall order and not something that I can build and develop overnight, so I want to be mindful in practicing the right habits on my journey.
🏠 Friends and family - be present, make time and travel more
Be present - As I come out of the firehose of raising small children while trying to balance work and house, I really hope to be able to be more present with my kids, Adam and friends.
One of the things I am exploring is how to change/minimize social media in my life - when we went on vacation last month, I deleted all social media apps from my phone and I felt healthier and happier.
Studies show that ditching social media directly correlates to increased happiness and being more present, so I am working on how to incorporate this into my life and stick to it.
Make time - I feel the speed of time passing by. Kids are getting older and needing us less. And on the other side of the spectrum, parents and grandparents are getting older and needing us more. So balancing these moments - making time to make and take the calls, play games, be together, love and laugh - feel more important than ever in the next 10 years.
Travel more - With the pandemic passing, I am excited to see the world with our children and to visit our friends who are now distributed across the world. In the past, we have toyed with the idea of living abroad - and while we haven’t moved on that plan, I wonder if there is a way to immerse ourselves into a different culture for an extended period of time.
In 10 years, I want to be able to look back and say that we have traveled the world as a family and deepened our connection as well as spent time with family and friends near and far.
🎁 Giving - Make time to volunteer and find innovative giving opportunities
In addition to giving money, make time to actually volunteer. I just started volunteering at 1KProject.org which directly supports Ukrainian families impacted by the war by matching them with sponsors. It’s a great cause and I am now fundraising for it. We’ve just finished raising $3M dollars and funded 3,000 families, but there are at least 50,000 families waiting. If you are interested to learn more or to donate, please reach out.
I would like to also be involved in the community - whether that is with my kids’ school (class mom, PTSA, etc.) or with the city I live in. I haven’t quite figured out what this can look like, but I am a big believer in micro impact because it feels meaningful and tangible.
Overall, as I make time to volunteer, I want to research and support novel and new ways of giving money and time. What I love about the 1K Project is that it is pioneering a distributed approach to getting relief directly to impacted people vs. going through a large centralized organization where money is impactful but not direct. There is so much innovation happening in our society, it’s great to seek out opportunities and contribute.
Summing it up
10 years ago today, I was just starting my career at Microsoft as an operational marketing manager, was living in a condo in the heart of Seattle, and Adam and I were in escrow buying our first home. Today, I am a wife, a mother, and a cross-disciplinary leader working in a high-growth start-up, living in a much quieter part of town. Life looks very different today than it did then and in no uncertain terms, the next 10 years will also bring lots of change. I can’t wait for the adventure.