#19 Recharging



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Paul McAleer: Hi. You’re listening to Designing Yourself. This is Paul McAleer.

Whitney Hess: And this is Whitney Hess.

Paul: Here is the thing. We were chatting a little before we hit the Record button, and we actually don’t know how to describe our topic this week. So, I’m sure it will come to us. I’m sure it will.

Whitney: I know it will.

Paul: Or we will come up with something. There’ll be something, right?

Whitney: Yes, but it feels so vulnerable not knowing.

Paul: Yeah, because for reference, with every other episode, before we’ve started recording we had the topic in mind, and we generally boiled it down to one word as well. This one, not so much. So, let’s describe what we want to tackle this week.

So, when we were chatting, you were telling me a story about just kind of your work and kind of how it leaves you feel at the end of the day. So, why don’t you reiterate that and tell me a little more about that?

Whitney: Well, what I was trying to get at is that my work has changed so dramatically over the last few months, shifting away from consulting to coaching, and what is required of me is very different. Before, a lot of focus was on the deliverables, the product. Of course, my work involves working with other people, but it’s not really about those other people. It’s about the thing we’re designing together.

And, it was actually because of that that I wanted to switch my focus into coaching because I know that it really is all about the people, and I personally don’t think it has much to do with the thing that we’re designing together. I feel like that’s just a device for all of us to interact together and make the world a better place. But it’s really the interactions with one another and the development of ourselves that catalyzes that. Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent.

Because of the fact that my work is now primarily one on one, working with individuals who are at a crossroads in their career, in other areas of their life, and trying to make a shift, and they’ve come to me for guidance and support through that transition, the content of my conversations with people has changed dramatically.

It’s not about the design or the flow or the product or the technology to any great extent anymore. It’s about the individual and what they’re experiencing. And being an empathetic person and being in a position to truly listen to what this person is going through and to get to be the person that is there for them wholly, it requires, like, my whole being in a new way.

And so, even though it is so much more fulfilling for me than what led up to this, and I’m so glad that this is the direction I’m moving in, it’s very new for me to feel this drained at the end of each day. You could probably hear it in my voice. I am tired, and not tired out of not loving the work, and not tired out of having too much work. But I have been so deeply invested in each person that I’ve met with today and given them everything I have to give that now I’m, like, half-here.

Paul: Wow. So, the good half is here?

Whitney: Aw, thank you.

Paul: Hey, thanks. So, when we’re - yeah, I mean, when you’re saying that, the thing that I hear from that is the idea of it being emotionally draining. And I think - this is not the topic because it’s two words, but there’s this - you know, the thing that really I’m hearing is that it’s - the work is more rewarding, and you are more invested in it. You are putting more of yourself into this work.

So, when your day is done, you’re empty, in a sense, right? You’re still you, but it sounds like taking on additional projects, writing a bunch of stuff, what have you, that’s something that’s going to - that would take a lot more effort than it ordinarily would just because all this has kind of drained - drains you.

Whitney: I think that it’s a muscle that is weak in me because I haven’t been strengthening it, exercising it over the course of my whole career. My product muscle, my, you know, user experience muscle, my design/teamwork/collaboration muscle, that’s very strong. I’ve been exercising that. Even when I’m pulling a 60-hour week, even at the point in my career when I was doing decks of wireframes and I was pulling all-nighters to get them done, I was tired.

And at the time I felt that I was putting everything I had into it. But it was still, like, several steps removed from a human being and their life experiences. I was always drawn to the human side of it, which is why I’m in user experience, because I cared so much about what the user was experiencing and I wanted to internalize that so that they were a part of me and a part of our process, so that we would design things that would move them. That was why I got into this field in the first place.

But it is still different to conduct a user interview and, you know, create some personas, and then have those personas up on a wall and you think about them periodically through the process, than it is to have a one-on-one conversation with someone who is going through something right now and needs support getting through it.

It is like, it’s amazing. I love it. And I know I’m going to get better at it. It’s just the beginning for me. But it’s like, whoa. At the end of the day I’m tired in a very different way than I’ve ever been before.

Paul: So, one of the things that came up for me was IA Summit once again. When we were there this year we were chatting about how it is interacting with a bunch of people. And, I start by saying that, not to say that my experience is the same as yours, of course. But what I find is that when I go to conferences and when I talk, you know, getting on stage and doing all that takes a certain amount of energy and, I guess, chutzpah, too. But that feels pretty natural to me, in a way.

For me, some of the harder stuff is lots of social interaction before and afterwards. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, because I do. But I find that to be something that calls on that muscle, to borrow your excellent terminology. And for me that muscle is just not as strong as my going up and speaking in front of a crowd muscle, which is still relatively small but is being worked on. And it’s just not as strong.

So, I need downtime when - you know, I might need a couple of minutes to just kind of be by myself or be isolated with my phone and distract myself from the current situation or take a walk around the block or what have you. But, I - you know, it’s funny because I didn’t really feel like I could easily articulate why that was. I just felt like I needed it, like it was instinctual, in a way.

It was like, I really need to get away from all these awesome people for a few minutes because, you know, it’s like a crowd full of people that either I know and/or respect and/or think are great - you know, all this stuff rolled into one - or I don’t know yet. And there’s the whole, wow, I need just a few minutes.

And that is coupled, frankly, with some of the anxiety over just meeting new people, which is a separate but notable thing here, too. But I just needed that downtime. And when I was at South by Southwest this year, too, a similar thing, right? South by Southwest - giant, loud, tons of people, all of downtown Austin. And, for me, just being able to have quiet moments on my own was very valuable to me.

So, for me that was where it was just obviously not the same as coaching, but just that intensity of a very social interaction and social situation and needing to be able to pull back a little bit and recharge and then get back in.

Whitney: Yeah. Well, at the IA Summit in particular, because South by is a totally different kind of energy - but to what extent was the intensity about all the content that you had to take in, all the UX talk? Or was it more interpersonal? I mean, and from what you’re saying it sounded like the latter.

Paul: Yeah, because the content - you know, the content is engaging different parts of me, right? So, I’m getting - my brain’s getting a lot out of it, for one. And then there are the talks that are highly emotional and/or entertaining and all this good stuff. And I - you know, I think honestly it was just kind of all the stuff that was happening at that same time. It was kind of all of it.

And it wasn’t quite a sensory overload situation for me. But it was a lot to take in. Yeah, you know, I’m not certain if it was any one thing. I really do think it was kind of a little combination of both. And thanks for asking that, too, because I kind of - it’s funny because I of course think about the social interactions first. But of course the talks there were phenomenal, too, and that’s the reason I went. So, you know, there’s that. Oh, there’s that aspect, too. There’s an amazing conference here, too.

Whitney: No, but I think that you’re touching on something that’s kind of inherent to IA Summit and what makes it so special, is that even if you removed all the people, which of course there would be no talks. But if you took the social aspect out of it, the content is still incredible.

Paul: Yeah, totally.

Whitney: And then you layer on top of it this sort of family reunion kind of atmosphere where the conversation extends far beyond user experience and information architecture.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that’s where both years that I’ve attended I’ve had just incredibly deep and meaningful and amazing conversations. And that stuff is - it’s nourishing. But it also does call on those muscles, as you put it. It really does.

And so, when it comes to kind of the one-on-one situation, though, I’m really curious what that’s like for you. I mean, obviously you’re not going to go into any client details or anything like that. But what do you do to kind of get prepared for that type of high level of tight contact and really intense talk? And then how do you kind of move on from that?

Whitney: It is - I am learning, you know? It’s a work in progress. So, multiple times I was told this is not something you can just do back to back to back, you know? If I’m just doing straight-up UX projects, I could have meetings back to back all day. It’s not something I enjoy. I try very hard to manage my schedule so that that doesn’t happen. But it’s quite common.

It’s like, oh, OK. Let’s switch gear. Now what project are we talking about? OK, now what project are we talking about? I’m exhausted at the end of the day. But it’s possible. You know, I can get on a phone call one minute after I get off of a previous one, and I can have a productive conversation.

When you’re having these intense one-on-one conversations in a coaching relationship, it is not possible to get off of one call and get on another. It’s just not possible because you aren’t talking about boxes on a Web page. You're talking about the person’s life. And they deserve your full attention.

So, if you’re still processing what you just heard and you’re bringing that into a conversation with the next person, it’s just wrong on such a deeper level than it is when you're talking about a product.

Now, ideally, the people who design products are as present and as deeply involved in what they’re doing. So I’m not in any way suggesting that less effort is involved. But there’s something several degrees removed when you’re all looking at a common object being the work you’re doing together versus when you’re looking at each other being the work that you’re doing together.

Paul: Well, that makes sense.

Whitney: It’s just shifting quite a bit. So, there’s only so many coaching sessions I can have in a day, and I have to schedule breaks after each one. Sometimes they go a little long, and sometimes I just need to come down and process what I just heard and synthesize it and jot down some thoughts about where we’re going to go next or a resource that I’ve thought of for the person or questions that I want to ask in the next session or whatever I’m, you know, thinking about or grappling with.

I need that reflection time in between those sessions. I can’t just go-go-go-go-go, because then by the end of the day they’ll have all bled together. And that’s the exact opposite intention, you know, for the whole relationship.

And then, there are practices that I need to be engaging in that allow me to be fully present in the moment with my client. That means my yoga and my meditation. That means eating well. That means sleeping well. That means removing other distractions from my environment. So, a lot of times I’ll close my computer when I’m on calls, unless of course it’s a Google Hangout.

But if it’s something like a Google Hangout or a Skype call, then I have to remove other distractions from the computer because when I am with that person I’m with that person. And, whether it’s a car passing by out my window or a bird flying by or a to-do item that I have on my desk, I really can’t even let myself go there, you know? I can’t look at the bird, or I can’t try to hear the conversation downstairs. Or I can’t start thinking about the thing on my desk, because then my mind’s going to drive somewhere else. And I need to be 100% there with my client.

And, it just - it’s so fulfilling because I feel like I’m seeing this person so clearly. I feel like they’re seeing me. It’s an incredible bond that we form. And yet, it requires a lot of exercise to continue with this muscle analogy. And so, one word that you keep using that I think is dead-on is intensity. It’s so intense.

And, in order to withstand that intensity, and in order to be there in the moment with them for the full hour - hour and a half, depending - of our session, I have to be able to withstand, you know, the intensity kind of in practice so that when I’m in the moment with them I’m ready and able to do it. Does that make sense?

Paul: Yes. So, one of the things that I’m really hearing is this whole idea of, you know, the self-care that we’ve talked about and how, really, that is important, and how that really contributes to you being able to kind of give 100% of yourself. And I was not going to say 110%, because that is not possible. But give - 

Whitney: Agreed.

Paul: But basically be present and be there with that other person and for that other person. And if you - you know, it kind of leads back to the idea of how important self-care is, again, because without that, then you might not be able to be as aware of what’s going on.

And, that may be - that may cause the situation to just be a little more difficult. You might not be able to pay as close attention, what have you.

Whitney: Right. I won’t be able to really serve them or serve myself.

Paul: Right.

Whitney: And I’m hearing you say something very similar with the IA Summit, that you just knew, whatever that mechanism was, that you needed a break. And you gave yourself that break. And I’m curious to know, did that help you have better one-on-one, more fulfilling interactions with people throughout the conference because you took care of yourself in that way?

Paul: I think it did because on the one hand, you know, when I had those moments of needing rest I was able to do so, right? And, I was able to come back and just honestly just feel kind of fresh and a little more relaxed, because part of it for me is just that situation just ramps me up a lot. Like, it’s exciting and it’s - it’s exciting and it makes me anxious and it makes me nervous and it makes me excited again, like all those things just kind of there. And those, for me, are all very intense emotions. So, being able to have moments without those being as prevalent is important to me.

And then I was able to go back and have some really good, intense conversations with people. And it wasn’t like it was without effort, but it was just - it felt like it was a little easier overall. And to me, I mean, that’s what’s important, is being able to be in a place where you can have those conversations even if, you know, for me that technique of getting out of there for a few minutes was something different.

You know, if I needed to find a place to meditate, for instance, or what have you, just being able to identify what it is that you need in order to continue in that intense situation is pretty important. And sometimes - you know, I think one thing worth noting, too, is that sometimes, as you’d mentioned, if a session goes long or what have you, you might not be able to do it when you need it most.

So, then it’s very - it’s careful negotiation and patience with yourself to say that, hey, if I can’t do this now I will do this later, and making sure you do do that later, too.

Whitney: Absolutely. And I’m hearing that a lot of things happen for you in that break you gave yourself, that it was time to reflect, that it was time to just empty your mind, that it was time to have some kind of release from the very intense situation of a conference. And then it allowed you to kind of - I don’t know what the turn of phrase is, but like get your energy back or, you know, fill your reservoir again so that you were then able to bring your full self back to the next situation you were in, whatever that was. But if we don’t take that time to take care of ourselves, then we’re at max. And then there’s nothing more that we can take.

Paul: Mm-hmm. That’s exactly right.

Whitney: It actually reminds me of - I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this one before, but I know in the past I’ve told you that as a part of my program with New Ventures West we had these slogan cards, these slogans written on index cards.

Paul: Yeah.

Whitney: Well, I don’t know if I ever shared this one with you, but I think it’s fitting. Empty so you can fill.

Paul: Nice. I like that.

Whitney: And, we came up with that because every time we had a break in class, our instructor would always say, “OK, it’s an empty-and-fill break, empty-and-fill break,” meaning, as you can imagine, go to the bathroom, have a drink, whatever. Empty and fill, empty and fill.

And so then, when we were creating these slogan cards, someone says, “Empty so you can fill,” because you cannot fill if you’re already full. And I think that you sensed that about yourself and you were able to decompress. And it sounds like that really paid off.

Paul: It did. It did. I needed to do that. And I think that’s a really important point, is that if you - so, I consider myself an introvert, by the way. And I think we’ve talked about that before. And, you know, there was a company function I was at at a previous company. And, we did the Myers-Briggs stuff, right? And everybody came in the same room and we did the Myers-Briggs.

And I totally forget what mine was now, but I remember I was definitely an introvert. And the reaction from people around me was like, “Paul’s an introvert?” Like, they were totally stunned because they never saw me as an introvert. They saw me only as an extrovert and that is all. They saw me as this really - you know, kind of the parts of me that aspire to be out there - you know, the very outgoing and friendly and funny as hell kind of guy, is very nice and kind and all those good things.

Whitney: You are all of those things.

Paul: Well, thank you. But they also say that with extroversion, right? So they were stunned. But my point I’m mentioning in that is that I am an introvert still. I still align with that even though Myers-Briggs is doubtful and all that good stuff, etc. I still feel like I am an introvert because, in part, I need those times to be empty for a moment before I can refill.

And, you know, when we talk about that introversion and what that is, is that for me, then, I take, I wouldn’t say necessarily a pleasure, but I like those moments where I’m by myself, too. Like, those are really - those are energizing for me in a very different way because it is, as you say, kind of refilling me up versus those moments when I’m with a bunch of other people, or heck, even with one person doing one-on-one stuff. In any capacity, it’s a very exciting thing in a different way. It’s engaging various different parts of me in those moments.

Whitney: Isn’t it funny how in the beginning of this you were saying that it sounded like I was emotionally drained?

Paul: Yeah.

Whitney: It’s that draining, right? It’s the being empty. And yet I’m kind of flipping it a little bit. And I think we’re saying the same thing. It’s just two different metaphors, that sometimes you’re so full you have to empty so that you can fill up again. And so, there is something that we’re talking about here about recharging. And whether it’s, you know, getting to 100% again or allowing yourself to be at 0% for a while before you get back to 100, I think that there is a cycle to that.

Paul: Yeah, there is. And I guess part of it is also how do you - you know, the first part is identifying that cycle, kind of getting that sense of, OK, I need this. Like, for me it’s pretty obvious that I needed time. And you’ve been able to get to a point where you kind of plan it out and schedule it to correspond with your coaching sessions because you know you’re going to need that time.

So, how do you build that up? How do you not necessarily make the cycle longer, but maybe? But, how do you strengthen that muscle? Like, what are you finding is working well for you?

Whitney: Well, like all the things we’ve discussed it comes down to awareness. So, it’s paying attention to what’s going on. For instance, at the end of my day today, before you and I got on our call, I just noticed a sluggishness in my body. I noticed that I was starting to get the littlest, faintest headache. It’s not a real headache, but there’s like that little intense kind of throb going on that’s just the beginning of one. And it’s actually going away since we’ve had this conversation. So, that’s good.

Paul: Oh, hey, that’s good.

Whitney: I’m very warm because it’s end of July in San Diego, which is really the only time of year that it’s warm, too warm at all. And we don’t have A/C. So, it’s hot in my office, and I’ve been in here most of the day, and so I’m noticing that my skin is getting kind of sticky and it’s a little uncomfortable.

I’m noticing that my voice is lower. I’m noticing that, you know, my energy is lower just because I’m paying attention to those things. And so, those things are cues for me that I’m coming to a point of needing rest. And so, I think the second step is, once you’re noticing what’s going on with your body is to identify what led to that.

And so, I can look back at my day and see that I had some really deeply meaningful conversations. I did take the lunch break that I had planned for myself. But this morning I didn’t go to yoga the way I had planned because Frederick had the morning off and I wanted to spend that time with him. And that was really important to me, and I’m glad that I did it.

But because I didn’t have my practice in the morning, I’m now at the end, in the evening, noticing that I’m more drained than normal. So then it’s that reinforcement of the yoga helps. When I do it in the morning I feel different at night. So, I have to pay attention. I have to constantly be observing myself and exploring why I feel a certain way, why my body is a certain way, and then reflect back on what led to this and be more conscious of it.

That doesn’t mean in any way that I would have not chosen to stay home with Frederick this morning and would have instead gone to yoga. I don’t think I ever would have made a different decision. But at least now I know, you know what? The yoga really does have an impact. So, when I choose to skip it, I should be prepared for the intensity of the day. I should be prepared for how that’s going to impact me physically and emotionally in a different way than when I have done yoga in the morning.

Paul: Totally. And, on the physical activity front I can relate with running in that, you know, I’m slipping into obligatory “If you run, you have to have to talk about it all the time” mode, so forgive me.

Whitney: You have hit a big milestone. Tell everyone.

Paul: Well, I did. So, I ran the most miles I’ve ever run in one month. And I did that all outdoors, which was all new for me because I’ve run so much indoors on a treadmill. And I only switched to running outdoors last year. And, the first time I did it was really damn hard, and it hurt. And I did it in Denver, which was not the best idea, because it’s high up there.

But anyway, yeah, so I did that. And I ran just shy of a 5k outside, which was - I stopped at three miles instead of doing the full five because I was just damn tired at the end of it. But I mention that not to go after the great applause, but I appreciate you bringing it up because I am proud of that.

Whitney: It’s thrilling, and as somebody that can hardly run across a street I find it very impressive.

Paul: Well, thank you. And I have also definitely had many times in life where I could not run across the street, you know what I mean? So, this is very different for me. But, I mention it - obligatory runner reference - but then also because I know how that makes me feel now when I run in the mornings because I get up early and run early when I do run.

And I know, like, then that means from, like, 8:00 until about 10:00 in the morning I’m going to be on fire. Like, I’m just going to be so full of energy. And, you know, that’s the best time for me then to sit at a desk at work and do work. But I just have - then I have so much energy, and I’m just feeling like, yeah, I can tackle everything. And then I know that in the evening, like at nighttime, I am going to be tired at 8:00 at night. I’m just going to be tired, really physically tired and not emotionally tired in that case.

Now, if I also, on top of that, have a day where I am emotionally drained or work with any kind of intensity with people, then that - then I know, based on that, that if I do both those things, if I do some sort of physical activity early in the morning and then also work with people, the risk is that I may be really, really tired at the end of the day and might just have to go to bed early or just have a night where I’m just, you know, zoning out to Star Trek reruns or whatever and just not - or browsing the Web or whatever, but doing something that’s very low-key, doesn’t require much investment. I can sleep through it. I can walk through it, whatever I need, but a very calm thing.

And it’s funny because as I’m talking my left hand is kind of rotating. I have it kind of flat rotating in a circle. I’m like noticing it’s just like I’m making a calming motion with my hand. So, I’m noticing that, too. But so that’s the point I can get to if I do both of those things.

And then, there are definitely times when I wake up and I’m like, I don’t feel like running today. And I won’t, you know? I really look at why that is, and sometimes I’m just too - I’m tired in the morning or I didn’t get enough sleep or I just want to be lazy, frankly.

And I’ve gotten to a place where I’m OK with that because that may be something that I need to recharge in that moment for reasons that I have to explore, just as you were mentioning, just kind of tracing it back and understanding why am I feeling this now and being aware of where your body is now and where your parts are now and getting a sense of that. That’s pretty important stuff. So, that means, you know, there are tradeoffs in all this stuff, really.

Whitney: You’re showing so well this connection between the mind, the heart and the body. I mean, it’s impossible, really, for us to keep ourselves going mentally and emotionally when we’re not giving our body what it needs. And, for me, yoga is something that’s nourishing physically and emotionally and spiritually and mentally, and it just gives me a sense of calm and of satisfaction and connectedness, groundedness. I mean, it gives me so much that I have to do it.

I couldn’t do it without using my body. I couldn’t just conjure it in thinking about it, in meditation alone. The movement of my body connected to the meditation is essential for me. And I’m hearing the same for you with the running, that it’s a moving meditation and that it’s through that movement that you’re able to give yourself what you need in so many other ways as well.

And I wonder, for the people listening, if they too find that it’s a physical activity of sorts whether it’s slow and methodical and low-impact as yoga is or whether it’s like really quite intense as running is or something else altogether. I’m curious to know if, in fact, it’s something physical that gives people that rest and that recharge to enable them to handle what the day requires.

Paul: Maybe other than sleep or in addition to sleep, because I think - I feel that’s kind of a given, you know?

Whitney: Yes. And how many people just avoid that altogether?

Paul: Oh, so many, so many. There was a really good series of episodes of Back to Work about sleep, and those are great podcasts to listen to. But some of what it boils down to is just this whole - you know, just to talk about sleep for just a moment - is the whole idea of, you know, well, I can stay up late and I’m an adult and I can do what I want.

But if you’re tired at 10:00 you're tired at 10:00, or if you’re tired at 11 or 12 or what have you. But it’s pretty important. And I know that back when we talked with Leslie Jensen-Inman about her work, you know, we talked a little bit about sleep. And her schedule is very much an early-bird schedule, kind of like mine. And, she gets a lot of sleep. That’s a pretty important facet of all this stuff, too. And that’s self-care.

It’s not - you know, it’s funny because sleep almost ends up being this other thing for a lot of people. But I see it in that umbrella as well.

Whitney: I totally agree, absolutely.

Paul: So, one thing I wanted to talk about, one more thing, about this whole intensity thing. As we were talking earlier, I made the note about parenting. Parenting is both physically and emotionally intense. And, it’s funny because it just changes over time, the level of intensity. But it’s almost always intense in some way, right, because there are days where it is - where it’s easier, and some days where it’s hard.

And, there’s - it’s hard to describe how much is going on at any one time and how much you feel and how much you experience physically and just the amount of effort and work that goes into it. It is tremendous. And I - and in my family I am not the parent staying at home. And right now we’re in a position where my wife is the stay-at-home parent.

And I am just - I mean, I am so in awe of the fact that she has been able to do it because it is a full-time job for anybody. And the thing that happens with that, of course, is that - I mean, if you think about it, if you have daycare or anything like that, then basically that one - the kid is out of the house in some capacity, right?

But if not, then you’ve got one-on-one time with a person all day. And that person needs care all day because it’s a kid. I mean, she or he, you know, is going to need help with things left and right. And also there’s the entire, you know, raising the child thing, right, on top of all that. And so, that is a very special intensity. That is a very different one.

But that is something where if you’re with a kid all day, it’s draining. And at the end, you know, it’s very much a let’s relax and just chill. And it’s not a really good time to talk about, you know, finances or anything. It’s like, OK, now let’s balance the budget. No, this isn’t a good time to do it at 8:00 at night or whenever bedtime is.

Because, if you spend - and I think this is kind of true in general. Like, if you spend a whole day with somebody, well, that could be a very intense thing in general. It’s just added on then if it’s a child because that person needs care. Or I suppose that would be true if you were taking care of an adult or a grown child in some way as well.

Like, that would just be - that’s another one of those things where it’s a situation that is driven by love, right? Because, goodness knows, like, if it wasn’t there, then wow, that’s a lot of intense work. And being passionate about it and putting yourself into it - if the love is not there, then it’s really hard to keep that going.

But if it is there, if you have the love, you have the passion, even when it’s really freaking hard, it still ends up somehow being worth it because it is worth it.

Whitney: I don’t even know how anyone does it. I’m in such awe of parents. I’m in awe of your wife and stay-at-home parents who spend their whole day interacting with their child, making meaningful experiences for them and working on their child’s development and nurturing them and caring for them.

And I’m equally in awe of parents who work a full day in an office or on their own work and then in the evenings give even more of themselves to their child. I do not know how anyone does it. It is amazing to me. And yet, we manage to get older each year and grow up minute by minute. And, for the most part we turn out OK.

Paul: Yeah.

Whitney: And it’s all because of this devotion of the people who raise us. It is incredible to me. And parents don’t get any time off. And that discharge that we were talking about, that recharge, reflection and just time to empty, I don’t think parents really get it at all, do they?

Paul: No. And, you know, when you have a newborn in your home, I mean, that’s like - that’s 24-hour, around-the-clock stuff, right? And, you know, for when you finally get to refill, that tends to be around age 3 or 4. So, like, that’s when it starts to be like, OK. Now you’re in a different phase. I exaggerate a little bit but, you know, it’s just the different phases of parenthood just tax you in very different ways. That’s what it boils down to.

And, there isn’t really a true refilling in that same sense. I mean, it’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job, always. But, it’s totally worth it. I mean, for me and our family, I mean, it’s been tremendous. And, yes, sometimes it is very emotionally draining, and sometimes it is very intense. But, you know, my son’s getting really good at jokes, and that makes me very happy.

Whitney: Oh my goodness. Well, you people are heroes. Parents are heroes. And the people who may not have children in the traditional sense but who play a parenting role for the various individuals in their lives, whether it be an animal or a loved one that they’re caring for or a friend or all the ways in which people give of themselves to others, it is so remarkable.

And I am just, as I said earlier, in awe of how people do it because I know that it’s hard, and it’s hard for me. Even when it is the most rewarding thing you can imagine, it’s still hard. And maybe that’s what makes it so rewarding, that it is this draining. It’s part of the reward, in a weird way.

Paul: Yes, because as you know the journey is the exciting part, right?

Whitney: Yep.

Paul: Yeah.

Whitney: Thanks for sharing that about your family. I think it’s really important for other parents to know that they are not alone. And I know that you and your wife have done an incredible job, and I know that there are probably a lot of other people out there that are just ready for a break and not getting one any time soon. And I’m sure it’s going to be really comforting for them to hear what you said.

Paul: It will happen, so thank you.

Whitney: Get a babysitter.

Paul: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. First word of advice for any new parents - find a babysitter. Just have somebody lined up. Enjoy your date nights before your child arrives or is welcomed into your home. Yes.

Whitney: All right, Paul. A pleasure as always.

Paul: Yes, Whitney. Thank you so much. We’ll talk again soon.

Whitney: Bye.

Paul: Bye.

Whitney: Designing Yourself is hosted by Whitney Hess and Paul McAleer and is edited by Aaron Dowd. Our theme music is “All Heroes” by Ardecan Music Productions with some rights reserved via creative commons. You can follow Whitney on Twitter at @whitneyhess. And you can follow Paul at @paulmcaleer.

Paul McAleer: If you like what you heard on this episode, stop by our website at DesigningYourself.net. You can subscribe to the show via your favorite podcasting app or via iTunes. We love to hear your feedback. So if you have an idea for a topic, a guest, or just want to say hello, you can call our listener hotline. Call 1-404-500-SELF. You can always reach us on Twitter at @designingyou, and our super-secret email address is designingyourself@gmail.com. Thank you for listening. We’ll talk again soon.