Archimoms have it all…
Recently, Rosa Sheng shared an article on The New Yorker titled “I am the One Woman Who Has it All” by Kimberly Harrington on Twitter. Post reading the very engaging piece, we decided to share our own archimom moments, and discuss whether we have it all. If we have it all, how did we do it, and if we are chasing it all, how are we doing it… or have we accepted that we can’t have it all unless we trade off something somewhere consciously. A thousand experiences, and a million unique paths to have it all, as defined by us – that is the theme of the Archimom Mother’s Day blogs – this is a small effort to gather stories from archimoms to help us know what it takes to balance life as an archimom, and document our experiences. As each generation progresses, and the world around us takes one step closer to an equal opportunity experience for parents of all genders, it is important that we document lives of everyday architects to reflect upon one day, and determine the extent of change our contributions brought to the profession.
I am an archimom to two wonderful daughters, one a Senior in High School and other a sixth grader. Both are accomplished pianists, which means many of my weekends (as well as my husband’s) are gone in driving them to recitals all over Los Angeles. Both have other interests in schools that they pursue, which means there are concerts/ open houses and other events that they require their parents to attend. One of them plays chess, and secretly I am glad she doesn’t want to attend more than a few tournaments a year. I am enroute licensure. I came very close to finishing all my tests, but after failing Structures recently, transitioned to ARE 5.0 leaving me with two more tests to take. Right now I am on a break, but for the past three years, I have consistently tested at least twice a year, which means many of my weekends have scheduled study time. I am the Chair for the Women in Architecture Committee for AIA Orange County, Communications Committee member for AIAOC/ AIACC, peer reviewer for AIA Conference material which warrants some of my after-hours and weekends worth of attention.
If that’s the “life”, there is an equally strong work part that requires my physical, intellectual and emotional attention. Of late, I have transitioned to a full-time Construction Administration role with two of my projects in Construction. My days are defined as OAC days, conference call days, and redlining days when I help other teams refine their drawings by redlining them with my CA experience. I travel, and I drive a lot, and there are times when I am “unavailable” working in low cellular reception areas, and there are times when I am home on the couch, blanked out and wiped out. But I love every moment of making the renderings a reality. I wouldn’t have it any other way at this moment. “Crestavilla” – the Resort-style Senior Housing project that I am working is my joy, and my pride, and if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know it’s an integral part of my life at this moment.
So, do I have it all?
Absolutely not. I don’t have it all, I don’t aspire to have it all, but I do want to have everything I wish for, and within my reach. There is a quote by Margaret Thatcher (The Iron lady) “One’s life must matter, beyond all the cooking and the cleaning and the children. One’s life must mean more than that. I cannot die washing up a teacup”. I live my life by this quote. My life has to matter. I am Meghana the Architect, Meghana the Archimom, Meghana the Wife, Meghana the Daughter, Meghana the Pekimom, and I am Meghana who has finally rejected the idea of having it all per someone else’s definition and checklist. I am Meghana who has embraced the fine imbalance of work and life, and a thousand things I love between work and life. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. Set a goal, make a plan, and break it into doable steps everyday with a reasonable deadline and timeline. Prioritize life as it comes, and do the best you can.
My advice to new archimoms:
When I was young, and naive, and became a mother before I graduated officially, I was told that I had two options. I could raise my child as a stay-at-home parent and enjoy life as an engineer’s wife, or I could go to work and struggle with childcare and time management while earning just enough to cover my commute and expensive child care. I didn’t know I had a third option until much later, to further my career working part-time, and staying current and well networked by being a member of local AIA chapter. Being a new immigrant without her network, the options I was given were black or white, but there is a whole gray area in between where new archimoms can define their own work-life balance and prioritize as it suits their lives. Chart your own path, and define your own “all”. All work and life decisions become tradeoffs eventually, so make a tradeoff that will matter to you.
While you do what you want to do, develop a thick skin, and a deaf ear to those will be subject you to implicit and explicit mom-bias. Sometimes it’s friends, sometimes it’s family and sometimes it’s complete strangers. Educate them when you can, and walk-away when you don’t have time to engage. Stay focused on what you want…and then have it all…
Read other archimom blogs here:
1. Equity by Design (2014) An Archimom’s Everyday Moments of Truth
Archimom is an alter ego, a new state of mind. You don’t need to literally be an “architect and mother” to identify with the mindset. Despite the challenges of time allocation, implicit bias, and constant guilt, we can learn many valuable lessons of finding satisfaction, meaningful work, prioritizing, and work/life flexibility from these Archimoms. Their “real life” truths are the beginning of storytelling as a means to inspire and motivate underrepresented talent to stay in the profession.
2. Laura Thomas (2018)
However, I do know that through the 38 years since I received my diploma, I have done all that I could. At the end of the day, I have been married for 36 years, raised two wonderful and independant sons, and weathered a major life changing medical diagnosis with my youngest. And somehow, somehow, I have kept my business open, practiced my profession diligently and with care towards both employees and clients, and given jobs and experience to many young women. I have many clients that I consider friends and many, many finished projects. I still paint and sketch, and try to run or swim every day.
Link: #Havingitall #archimom
3. Laura Wheaton (2018) architect, wife, mother, history-lover
4. Michele Grace Hottel
Someone asked me recently, “how are you doing it all?”
And i said, “Well, life is just like any other architecture project, you get the problem statement, you design something, the instructor or client says that they want it a little different and you work with it, and what you wanted in the beginning isn’t exactly what it turned out to be but it still is a pretty good project, because it works and that is life..
5. Cherise Lakeside
Throw in the guilt about not feeling like you are there enough for everybody, the worry about your employer being upset if a family responsibility takes you away and the stress of trying to get everything done and it can be absolutely overwhelming.