Chrysula Winegar is a graduate of the University of London, UK, with a Masters in Organizational Behavior focused on the relationship between organizations (work) and families. Her undergraduate degree was a Bachelors of Economics, from the University of Queensland, in her hometown of Brisbane, Australia. In late 2004, she left the Estee Lauder Companies, where she was International Marketing Director with the Aveda Corporation for 5 years, to be a full-time mother — and take over what was formerly her husband Warren Winegar's art consultancy business. Chrysula is the mother of two irascible and brilliant daughters and two witty and zen sons who make all the rest of the things she has done with her life look like she was slacking.
I hunger to be understood. I think it is a very human desire, perhaps even need. Once the food, shelter, clothing and love requirements have been met, it’s pretty much up there for me. I define this in the context of dialogue: listening, receiving, speaking – an interaction of understanding and being understood.
Perhaps one of the reasons I struggle in my mothering is that my children are too young to give thought as to who I am. They (there are four of them, from 8 months to almost seven yrs) have little awareness of anyone but themselves. It is a times and seasons thing. I know that. It does not make it any easier.
Courtesy: Andi Pitcher
I wanted to stay home full-time with my children. My mother sometimes was not able to and sometimes did not want to: both are reasons I respect. My husband and I discussed it at length. He was home for a time with our eldest two children whilst growing his business and I took on the role of primary bread-winner. For some families it works. It did not for us.
It's not that I don't enjoy corporate life. I do. And I am good at it. However, particularly in the USA, I find it a limiting framework when you want to do anything out of the ordinary: have a family; extensively travel; care for a parent; dip in and out of the workforce for any old reason just to experience life. There is a rigidness, both culturally and legislatively, that makes truly flexible work-life balance in corporate settings difficult in this country. In fact, the day after I was offered my dream job (in another city) I resigned.
Most days, being at home is enough. I have amazing children. I know you do too. Or your nieces and nephews or friends’ children are incredible. I was never this smart at these ages. Never this spiritually connected. Certainly never this interesting. I love being my children's mother. A few years into being at home full-time however, I realized something. I did not feel heard.
Partnering with my husband for eight years in his private art consultancy and now running that business fully on my own has helped me feel heard. I love beautiful things and I love sharing them with others. Art has the capacity to speak without language, to fill voids of which we are not aware. I am privileged to have access to so much visual conversation. But, it's behavior, people, words that make me feel alive — that haven't somehow left my voice, disembodied, on a bus aimlessly trolling the streets of New York.
A few years ago I had a letter to the editor published in the New York Times. It was an incredible moment. In just a few sentences, I was able to express things that had been on my mind for over a year. The act of publishing connected me to thousands of others thinking the same thoughts; and even better, to thousands more to whom those thoughts had not occurred. I felt like I had begun a conversation with New York.
From my early twenties, I have been intrigued by the relationship between organizations and families. There is a consultancy business in the works eventually and a PhD thesis being constructed in my mind. I recently realized though, that I do not need the fully-fledged second business and the prefix Dr. just yet. What I need is to be part of the conversation. What I hunger for is to participate, even at the fringes, in the topics I feel passionate about. In Whitney Johnson’s words, “no major commitment of time or capital, but on the periphery — disruptive.” Love that. In other words, putting myself ‘out there’.
Blogging and social networking allow me to do just that. I started a blog titled Work. Life. Balance. On my blog, I can give free reign to the thoughts that have been bubbling away for years. On Twitter I can participate by sound bite. And get access to all the data and discussion I need. I can read/listen as much or as little as my other responsibilities allow. These tools provide that sense of engagement, of participation, of dialogue – especially when both friends and strangers give back through their often profound and intimate comments. I am part of a rich conversation. I am listening, plugged in to the research, the debate, the buzz. And I have things to say. Oh boy, do I ever.
In the meantime, my older two children are becoming more interesting. It is part of the development curve. Their awareness of the thoughts of others is beginning to develop. As they expand their capacity for social interaction, I am able to engage with them on richer levels. We all benefit. I loved them as babies and toddlers and pre-schoolers. When we are not fighting (!), I truly adore them as they learn and grow through these next stages. As I have listened and tried to understand their emerging voices, their attempts to listen and understand me, enable my own voice. The first inklings of their wanting to understand me are a gift: a recognition that we are starting to develop real two-way relationships.
And, in the convergence of reading, writing, speaking, listening, I am finding a flow of authenticity and personal truth. My family life and professional interests are merging. As they integrate, I feel heard.
I have my voice back.
Have you left your voice on the bus? Are you ready to get it back?
Have you ever considered that voice is much more than speaking, but listening, responding, speaking, being heard as well — a conversation?
Chrysula speaks of blogging and twittering as a means of finding her voice. Several years ago I went to a BlogHer conference, and came home and wrote What If? So many women discovering their voice. It was compelling.
A disruptive innovation is an innovation that takes root at the low-end of a market or where there is no market, and therefore little competition. That is the beauty of blogging/twittering. Low cost. No major commitment of capital or time — affording us the luxury of patiently dis-covering our voice.
Work. Life. Balance.