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Some of you may have noticed my absence in the past month, some may have been too busy with summer plans to realize that much time had passed, and some probably chalked it up to my own summer vacation. Sadly, it wasn’t really summer vacation but more about me calling for a moment of pause, inadvertently at first, and intentionally after I realized what had happened.

I, like so many of you, spend my days running from one thing to the next. Our work, our kids, our homes, our commitments run into one big blur. I’m a big proponent of “if you want something done right, ask a busy person,” but we busy people sometimes are our worst enemies because we can’t always figure out when and how to slow down.

For me, I tried my best to keep up because, as someone who preaches for others to “lean in,” I felt I’d be letting someone down if I “leaned out.” But guess what … some major family health issues (thankfully, everyone is ok), three funerals in three weeks, and a stomach bug required me to hit “pause.”

And I’m going to say “pause” because that’s what it was. I reached out to my editor, and said “I’m trying but I just can’t” and, as an equally busy woman, she totally got it (thanks, Mary). I didn’t throw my hands up in the air and say “I can’t do it all.” I instead said, “I can’t do it all right now with these extra things on my plate.” And I did because I realized, if I didn’t, I was really letting down the people who depended on me.

My need for a pause (not a stop) became clearer with the last two funerals. Both were for passionate, energetic, dedicated public servants who were in the second or third acts of their lives. They had lived full lives but were nowhere near done. When seeing friends have their lives cut short, the first instinct is to hug your loved ones and keep them close. As I celebrated and reflected on their lives, I marveled at how meaningful their work had been, not just to them, but to the community and their family. I saw how their work did not challenge their dedication to their family but enhanced it, that their passion for their work helped develop their families’ passion for community and service.

So, rather than say “I can’t do it all,” I needed to ask, “What can’t I do for now while I handle these other things?” And I need to not feel guilty about it. It’s that last part that I think so many of us moms get hung up on. We worry that we are the only one able to do everything, that we let someone down when we skip a step or say no to a task we always do.  If we looked around, we would discover that each of us has had those moments and would happily help shift the weight for each other. We need to be able to identify those times first to ourselves and then be able to say it out loud, and we should realize as a village, if we all help out, when it’s our turn, someone will have our back.

When we talk about “leaning in,” we have to recognize that priorities shift minute to minute and month by month. Too often, we think that juggling is about catching all the balls all the time, but we have to remember some of the balls we juggle are rubber balls and some are bowling balls. If we drop a rubber ball every, so often, it’s because we need to focus our energy on the bowling ball and that’s okay. So I’m unhitting pause now, although it’s the end of summer, so maybe I can move into slow-mo?

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Cathleen Lewis
Cathleen, the Mayor of Lawrence Township & a full-time Public Affairs professional, counts her best job as being Mommy to Abigail (3 years) and Bridget (6 months ). A New Yorker originally, but Boston raised, Cathleen enjoys the challenge of raising the girls in a mixed household with her Yankee-fan husband Paul. She hopes to make up for the confusion by encouraging the family’s love of Rutgers football. She dreams of sharing her love of beaches, margaritas, music and adventure but is happy to squeeze in a family walk with the dog and a back yard BBQ these days. Formerly an avid reader and writer before work, life and children; Cathleen hopes she hasn’t lost her ability to capture thoughts through the written word but often can’t remember where the grocery list is.

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