Work/life balance is always tricky, but I feel it may be even more so for people in our industry. Because we are such a passionate bunch, is there really a time when we can fully unplug from our passion for concrete?
I’m not sure about you, but I know it’s a challenge for me. Even on vacation I’m studying the ground either in awe or disgust. But honestly, I don’t think we have to worry about turning one part of our life off to activate another part.
Why should we struggle to shut off a part of ourselves that motivates us? I’m no expert in balancing my life inside and outside of work, but I have seen and tried things that work as well as fail. My conclusion so far isn’t to separate elements of my life into compartments but to embrace and celebrate it all.
All in the family
I was fortunate to grow up in the decorative concrete industry. Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my father’s work. My most memorable family vacations were when we traveled to other states to work on miniature golf courses. We would stay in a new place, work on a fun project and see a new part of the country. When near Washington, D.C., we even took a sightseeing daytrip with the crew to visit our nation’s capital.
I also loved attending Bomanite conferences and International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions conventions as a child. Admittedly, I spent more time playing by the hotel pool at conferences as a kid than anything work related, but what mattered to me is that my dad wanted us all there with him. Maybe I’m slightly biased toward the industry because of my upbringing, but I certainly don’t think I’m scarred for life because of the choices my father made to involve us at an early age.
Now that I have a family of my own, I see similar challenges and am making similar choices, just like my father. I’ve taken my family on some business trips and share my work with them. Yes, there are moments when I wish I was networking with my concrete friends instead of trying to calm a screaming baby at dinner, but in the grand scheme of things, it all works.
My concrete friends get to know me and my family as real people. I get to enjoy time with my family, and my family gets to see my work side that powers me through each day. This past year, my husband joined me at the World of Concrete, and it was one of the best times I ever had there. The time we got to share together and the ability to share my love for the industry and the people involved in it were priceless.
Things worth sharing
But it’s not just about the business trips. Not everything about work is as fun and exciting as traveling to Orlando or Vegas, but there are day-to-day events and thrills worth sharing nonetheless.
My 9-year-old daughter visited my office recently and ran up to me so excited. She exclaimed, “Mom! The model you were working on is on display! That is so cool!” I smiled to myself because I was the one who put it in our showroom. But she was so proud of this accomplishment that it made me beam inside as well.
Who doesn’t want their own little fan club? When we’re driving around town, my daughter also points out new construction sites and every Bobcat she sees. My father taught her how to drive one (the very basics) years ago, and she is still taken by them and that time with Grandpa.
As I juggle my time, I choose what work activities I can do in a traditional day and what I can do outside of work. For example, I shoot most of our company’s photography. If a project is completed and safe for children to visit, I like to take my family along. They get to see my work and I get to photograph it. It’s an extra bonus for the kiddos when it happens to be a park.
The kids tend to have a great sense of pride in my work; even more than me. I’m not implying that every day should be “take your kid to work” day, but I believe integrating your personal life with your work life can make you stronger… and saner.
Concrete ‘R’ Us
For my family and me, decorative concrete is an integral part of our lives, and always will be. We may be odd, but we generally enjoy talking about work and looking at concrete. Of course, there are times when I don’t want to talk about work, even though that may be rare. And when the discussion of something work related comes up, I simply state that I’d rather not talk about work at the moment.
Is my life perfectly balanced? Absolutely not. Sometimes I work too much and sometimes my family has more appointments in a week than seems feasible. But in the end, I share my life passions alongside my family’s passions. They help support me so I can help support them.
Work and family are all part of our lives and both should be celebrated. Work should never be so serious that it completely takes you away from your family. My grandpa (who just so happened to initiate my family’s passion for concrete) reminded me several times when I was focusing on work too much: “You don’t need to be the richest person in the grave,” he’d say.
Karen Keyes wears many hats at Denver-based Colorado Hardscapes Inc., including business development, marketing, sales, estimating and project management, with an emphasis on specialty rock construction. She can be reached at [email protected].