The Messy Middle
Middle Child Syndrome
Middle of Nowhere
Monkey in the Middle
Stuck in the Middle
The MIDDLE SEAT!
Should I go on?
Apart from being in the middle of a group hug, do we EVER relish being in the middle? (And being in the middle of a group hug might feel torturous to some!)
We deliberately avoid anything and everything that puts us in the middle… hard conversations; fights between mutual friends; certain seats; the natural aging process; and even unintentionally gesturing with our middle finger.
Why does the middle get such a bad rap? Because it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient… it’s murky and muddled…it’s neither here nor there… it’s this ambiguous, undesirable space we reluctantly occupy while looking enviously in another direction.
Recently, I’ve described myself as living in The Messy Middle as I attempt to juggle my part-time leadership coaching practice with raising three young children, one in elementary school and a set of 3-year-old twins who attend a two-day a week preschool program. By working part-time hours aligned to my kids’ school and nap schedules, I am sitting squarely in the middle seat of working motherhood. To my left are the full-time working moms who have aligned daycare/school schedules and hired help with their working hours, ensuring that they can mostly work their usual 40+ hours per week. (I say mostly because we all know how easily our usual work schedules get hijacked when our kids get sick or have a school break.) To my right are the full-time moms who likely had a thriving career before they had children and have realized how ridiculously challenging it is to do both, ESPECIALLY when kids get sick as they so often do. Here I sit in The Messy Middle trying to have the best of both worlds without completely losing my sanity.
Being in The Messy Middle means that I’ve accepted my work happens in at all hours of the day and night:
I am crafting this post in my head while I am folding a giant heap of laundry…and in the car listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the umpteenth time…and in the kitchen when I am packing 3 x lunchboxes.
I am awake at 5 a.m. to migrate all my client forms to Google and fix technical issues on my website before my kids rise, and then, after they go to bed, I am holding a session with a client in Australia or catching up on emails.
I am rushing home from our morning activities to feed my twins and get them down for their afternoon nap so I can jump on a Zoom with a client. Five minutes beforehand, I run a brush through my hair, apply bright pink lipstick, and throw on a blazer over my t-shirt to look less frazzled-twin-mom and more like the professional I used to be. And earrings- don’t forget about the earrings!
I am cramming in back-to-back client sessions, a webinar, and writing time on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I have 5.5 consecutive hours to focus while the twins are in school. I am praying that no one gets sick, which results in me postponing my work for that day and rescheduling all my clients to a future Tuesday or Thursday.
I know I don’t HAVE to do this. I have the privilege of my spouse earning an income which adequately supports our family’s needs. But I WANT to do this. I am purposefully choosing this juggling act and declaring that this Messy Middle is MINE.
In claiming this space, I am presented with the opportunity to embrace the hidden gifts of being in the middle. This ambiguous grey space means that I can lead with heightened intention as I define and manifest what I want in my life. The constant fluctuations in my daily juggling invite me to be flexible, adept, and ever-changing. The reclaiming of my professional identity and reconnecting to my passions results in increased inspiration, energy, and motivation to develop and grow. I have reconnected with a side of me that I have missed dearly, and I am overjoyed to be reunited and feel more like myself.
What may appear to be The Messy Middle at first glance is actually a vibrant, playful space to explore, expand, and excite. Rather than seeing the confines of the Middle, defined by what it is and is not, I am able to see its vast possibilities— those WIDE OPEN SPACES as commemorated in a 90’s girl anthem by The Chicks. Just as I’m picturing myself on an open road, with the windows down, sun low in the sky, and singing along to this song, I realize that I’m not in the Middle… I’ve been in the driver’s seat all along.
- What do you associate with the “Middle?”
- How do you feel about your current stage of life and how you are balancing your different slices of life? Where do you feel flow vs. tension?
- What do you need to recognize as conscious choices you are making right now? In recognizing those choices, what shifts for you?
- What aspects of yourself would you like to reclaim? How will these aspects move you closer to feeling more whole, more authentically YOU?