For the past 13 days, I have faced the largest challenge of my entrepreneurial career. It is one that no business guru could have prepared me for and one that I never really considered when I struck out on my own. It has required almost all my energy, thinking, and time and has resulted in a few errors, upset clients and really late dinners. What is the challenge? My mother’s condition has worsened.
Roughly two years ago my mother went into an Alzheimer’s unit for 24-hour care for one of the world’s most under-researched, under-funded, and dignity stealing diseases. Shortly after, I went full-time self-employed with a large part of the motivation to be able to invest more time with her and help my father as much as possible. In my heart I knew death was the eventual outcome of this disease I just never thought about how it would happen.
No one ever told me that it would have ups and downs, rallies and pivots, arguments and hugs. I just thought she would go peacefully into that good night.
Here is how I have been managing my time while also making sure I watch over the woman who helped raised me to be a winner.
First things first - To me this means making sure that I put the most important item on my to-do list first. Most mornings that means getting in to see my Mom and making sure nothing has changed with her condition. But, a few mornings last week, that meant making sure I finished up a new client proposal, sent out my speaker’s bio, and replied to a new request for me to speak.
A couple mornings last week I had to make sure I took the time while the sun was rising to make sure my business was on track. That way when I get to my mother’s bedside I can focus on her.
The other reality of my mother’s disease is that most of our time invested together doesn’t involve talking. It simply involves what she did for me when I had cancer, a presence. Me sitting next to her - often I have my laptop open and am still able to work while she rests.
Notify clients - I had to let a few clients know what was going on. Many of my clients like working with Social Impressions because they know 99 percent of the time I am the magic behind the work we produce. That’s a blessing and a curse. When I’m not available due to a family illness, things can fall behind. I felt it was necessary to let my clients know what was going on.
Telling my clients about something so personal was a bit challenging. I feared, and still fear, they would see it as an excuse for errors I made or work that was a little late. But, in my heart, I felt they needed to know the situation. We’ll see if I was correct in the future.
Give thanks - I am lucky to have a rock star wife who supports me 100 percent when I go rushing out of the house because hospice just called for the third time that week. It’s important I help her realize how much her support means to me. For me that means I have to remind myself to thank her. Quite literally…I put it in my calendar. Does that make my thanks disingenuous? I hope not…it just means that I know when I get home I’ll be exhausted and I don’t want my appreciation to get washed away with my late-night shower or attempts at getting caught up on the work week.
Plan - The final thing I have had to learn is to plan each day with my mom as much as possible. Here’s what that means: I make a list either on paper or in Evernote of each item that has to get accomplished while with my mom. That way when I’m in her room, while she sleeps, I can write a blog, manage a client or send emails.
Throughout the day nurses come in and check on Mom and talk with me. This means my day will be broken into 30-minute chunks typically. The list is vital so I can get back on track.
I also make sure I take the time to read to my mom, sing to her, or just sit and hold her hand. It’s important that is on the list - otherwise I can get caught up in work while she sleeps and never actually invest quality time with her.
As this journey continues and my mother prepares to meet her Heavenly Father, I’ve done a lot of reflecting. I’ve realized how thankful I am that I am my own boss. I’ve realized how lucky I am to have amazing clients who support this journey and allow me flexibility. I’ve also realized that life and death are unpredictable - that every day the sun rises is a chance to make someone feel loved - and that I’m thankful for a mother who constantly told me to pursue my dreams and be the man she believed I would be.