Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time

Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time

by Lisa Canning
Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time

Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time

by Lisa Canning


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The Possibility Mom helps moms be less stressed, feel less guilt, and get more done while chasing their dreams.

Balancing the demands of modern motherhood is a tough job. Between kids, work obligations, social commitments, and household duties, trying to fit in a little me time (let alone a date night), balance can seem practically impossible. When moms do well at work, they feel like they’re failing at home, and when they focus on their family, they feel like they’re falling behind at work. The Possibility Mom provides readers solutions to trim the to-do list, clarify their priorities, get more done in less time, and ensure they are living a life they love—one that they design. Interior designer and lifestyle expert Lisa Canning shows moms not only what is possible, but how to design those possibilities themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781642792645
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication date: 07/16/2019
Pages: 184
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Lisa Canning is an interior designer and lifestyle expert who helps moms design their lives and their homes around what matters most. Lisa has become a recognizable face in the interior design and entertainment industry, as the designer on HGTV’s Marriage Under Construction, working on the design team of The Property Brothers, and hosting regular live lifestyle segments on shows like The Marilyn Denis Show. Lisa lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and seven young children, where people will find the coffee pot is always on.

Read an Excerpt


Running on the Hamster Wheel

I never thought I would have seven children. If you had told me in 2007, when Josh and I were newly married, that in eleven years we would have seven children ages nine and under, I would have thought you were nuts.

It's not that I didn't like kids. I have always loved kids. But in my head, having a large family was for someone else, not me. I had big dreams. I wanted to work hard; be financially solid; have a life full of adventure, spontaneity, and freedom; and pursue the many dreams I had in my heart. Back then I just could not see how my personal ambitions and lofty goals could work with the demands of a large family.

I was twenty-two years old when I started my television career. Fresh out of university, I was offered the unbelievable opportunity (thanks to a casting-agent mom at my high school who watched me speak at school assemblies) to host a show on HGTV called Marriage Under Construction. It was a pretty hilarious undertaking as I had practically no television experience, zero interior design training, and had never designed or renovated a house before. But I was up for the challenge! I never thought in my wildest dreams that the experience would lead me to launch a career and start a business.

After that first show, I sat in meetings with many television executives about the future of my career. There was talk of new programs, national campaigns, and opportunities for product development. I was completely dazzled with the possibility of success, stardom, and fame.

But at the same time, I was also preparing to marry the love of my life, Josh. While shooting Marriage Under Construction, I was also planning our wedding. In between takes, I was calling vendors and tearing countless pages out of wedding magazines. So while I was getting ready to launch a television career and my interior design business, I was also getting ready to start my life as a new wife and, someday, a mom. And combining all these roles seemed really daunting to me.

While it was never exactly said this harshly, it was communicated to me by lots of people in the industry that it would be career suicide to start a family so early in my career. In fact, the external pressure was so great that while filming the pilot for a brand-new show, I felt the need to keep my first pregnancy a secret for as long as I could, out of fear that it would ruin my chances for further television opportunities and career advancement.

The worry of what having children will do to a mom's career is a real thing. In 2014, The New York Times published the article "The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus," citing statistics on how children boost your career — but only if you're a man. The opening sentence of the article reads, "One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children." That's scary stuff for a woman who has ambition, drive, and a mind set on success.

But here's some fun news: I had one child, and success still came. I had two kids, and success still came. I had a bunch more kids, and success still came. While it certainly isn't easy to attend to both kids and personal goals, it certainly is possible.

But How Is It Possible to Juggle Kids and Career?

Over the years, I have spoken to hundreds of moms at all kinds of events, and after listening to the very real struggles of moms with one, two, or more kids, I have come to this conclusion: mothers today experience too much pressure.

The world wide web offers so many ways to fail, so many ways to get confused, so many opportunities to compare yourself to others and feel totally inadequate — all without leaving your house. While I love the internet, it poses challenges other generations of mothers never faced. Never before have the intimate details about the lives of other women — how they eat, how they dress, and how they parent — been so easily accessible with one scroll, one swipe, or one click. A mom can spend hours and hours getting lost in the lives of others while her own life passes her by. As a result, comparison is inevitable. Even the most self-aware of mothers can fall into the trap of comparison when access to the lives of others is so gosh darn easy.

Another stressor for mothers today is an illusion that has developed over the past few decades. Current culture tells us we can, and maybe even should, "do it all." We can look fashionable and fit; crush our goals at work; cook elaborate, organic meals; and make adorable, handmade crafts with the kids. As unrealistic as this myth truly is, mothers jump out of bed each morning on the quest to do it all. But here's the problem: we haven't been given the tools to actually succeed at it.

Sheryl Sandberg has convinced us to "lean in," and we believe women belong in the boardroom. We are determined not to let our gender or any other personal obstacle hold us back from success. I absolutely agree with this attitude. But executing successfully and making these goals a reality is more complicated than most women admit.

So how do you stay on track for a great promotion when you want to be home for a family dinner every night? How do you manage multiple clients and multiple projects when you have multiple kids to take care of? How do you know you're still a "good mom" when you are overseeing so many responsibilities at once? The struggle is real. My hope is that this book will encourage you to think through your current personal demands and also provide practical tools to help you answer the questions you might have about life and purpose.

But first I need to tell you a story about some drapes.

My First Attempt to "Do It All"

While my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Costa Rica in 2007, HGTV aired a marathon of Marriage Under Construction. When we returned, my inbox was full of people asking, "Can you come decorate my house? I love your accessible approach to design. We really, really want you to help us." The ambitious entrepreneur in me said, "Sure! I can do that!" and, voilà, Lisa Canning Interiors was born.

Building your own business is trial and error, and I would say the beginning years were pretty terrible. I didn't make any money. I was really stressed and really challenged. I felt intense pressure to prove myself. But as time went on, I grew into the craft of interior design. I invested in business coaching along the way, and now, ten years later, my business is a profitable one that brings me a ton of joy and creative fulfillment while allowing me to provide financially for my family.

But when our first child came, my business was still brand new. I was taking on whatever work I could get and navigating how to run a business with a newborn. My husband was working at a church, in a position that could barely cover the cost of living in Toronto. So I was determined to figure out how to run a business, make money, bring a child along for the ride, and be a happy mom — all at the same time.

I would say I failed at it pretty epically that first year.

On the outside, I projected happiness and fulfillment. I would bring baby John with me while he was still nursing and cover him with a stylish, patterned nursing cover while I discussed paint samples with clients. I would push him in a beautiful, navy-blue Bugaboo stroller along the aisles of luxury design stores. I wore lipstick and carried beautiful handbags and was always in heels. I definitely looked the part of a young, successful, up-and-coming, hip designer. My baby was like an accessory.

People often told me how easy I made motherhood look. And if I had looked at myself with an outsider's perspective, I would have agreed. But when I was alone, I was a mess. I felt like I was failing at everything. I was anxious, insecure, and generally felt like I was letting everyone down: my clients, my husband, my baby, my friends, and myself. I wanted so badly to prove I could do it all, yet I failed the ones I cared about the most, in the worst of ways.

I remember one challenging situation when John was about four months old. I was working on a downtown condo. Typically, my amazing mother would come with me downtown and take the baby on walks so I could work. She would bring the baby back to me when he needed to nurse. That day, my mom wasn't available and John was particularly fussy after just receiving his four-month vaccination shots. I was feeling the pressure to get this job completed and was guilty about running behind schedule due to some challenges with trades. So even though the baby wasn't feeling well and I wasn't sure how I would do anything without my mom's help, I ventured downtown, fueled by stubborn determination and a need to prove that I could manage it all.

It did not go well.

I was alone in the house, trying to hang drapery by myself, doing on my own what should have been a two-person job. Because of the weight of the fabric, I was having a hard time lifting the drapes and climbing the ladder at the same time. Every time I climbed the ladder, the little rings that attach the curtain to the rod would fall off, and I would have to jump down to grab them again. It was a bit of a comedy routine, as I just kept going up and down and up and down, making no progress. (Side note: I would learn later that when you hang ring-top drapes, you put the rings on the rod first and then hang the drapes on the rings #facepalm #experienceisagoodteacher.)

All the while, infant John was in his car seat beside me. Our frustration levels were climbing at the same time as I struggled with the drapes and he struggled with not feeling well. His complaint started out as a little whimper, followed by a whine. When it was a cry, I got down from the ladder and tried to nurse him. But that was not comforting him, so then I tried to rock him. But that didn't work. I tried to sing to him, burp him, and nurse him again — nothing. I bounced him up and down until I was in a full-on sweat. Sadly, all those efforts failed.

I now had a red-in-the-face, crying infant and a crumpled mess of drapes in front of me. In that moment, I felt such an overwhelming sense of failure: I could not comfort my child, and I could not hang the drapes. I felt like I was failing as a mom and as a business owner. I could not keep it all together.

And in a moment I chalk up to total sleep deprivation and sheer desperation, I looked my baby in the eyes, and in a way louder voice than was appropriate, I shrieked, "Just tell me what you want and I will do it! I will do anything!!!!"

And then it was my turn to cry.

This was not an isolated event. No, I have hundreds of stories like the drape story from my early years of being a mom. I felt immense pressure to perform and was pulled in so many directions. I was sure I was failing everybody and felt so inadequate. I wasn't sure I could go on. Many times I questioned my existence, exhausted by mom guilt and desperate for a solution to an overstretched life. And it took me five years to realize what I was doing wrong.

The Hamster-Wheel Period

For the first five years of being a mom, the growth of my business was huge on my list of priorities. After Marriage Under Construction aired, along with designing spaces for private clients, I also started working behind the scenes in production design for television shows. The production designer on a show is the person who designs the set, brings it to life, and is responsible for making spaces look amazing for the camera. I've designed spaces for numerous shows on HGTV, including For Rent, The Expandables, and Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers (and, yes, the brothers are as nice as they seem on TV).

Production design is an involved job, with a lot of moving parts. And as I came to learn very quickly, it's not the most forgiving job — meaning the camera waits for no one. Insider secret: while many things in "reality TV" are not real at all, the incredibly short timeline for these renovation shows is. We would pull off in three to six weeks a renovation that would typically take three to six months to accomplish in the real world. And it often took around-the-clock effort to complete the design in that time.

As you can imagine, when I was working in television, I missed a lot of evenings with my family, including bedtime stories and tuck-ins. It certainly required a lot of sacrifice. My kids had less of me for long periods of time, and it increased demands on my husband, who had his plate full with a busy career as well.

Now don't get me wrong. Working in television was probably the best thing to happen to me career-wise as it gave me a ton of experience, with contacts and connections that have gotten me to where I am today. And, to be honest, it may have been manageable if it was the only thing I did. But the problem was I was saying yes to everything.

As a hungry young business owner, I said yes to tons of press opportunities, writing opportunities, television projects, and private client projects. While at times I exercised strong time-management strategies, more often than not I would say yes to something, telling myself "I'll figure something out," only to be faced with the conundrum of how the new project would actually fit into an already packed schedule. But I was stubborn, and I was determined to make it all work.

Even so, time and energy have their limits. During the busy periods, when I was out there hustling hard as a creative entrepreneur, I would tell my husband to hang on just a bit longer, that this season in our lives was almost over. But time and again, the "season" would expand and stretch until he gave up hope of us having any sane time together. In actuality saying yes to everything meant I was saying no to lots of things too. And unfortunately I was saying no to the things that mattered most.

Ultimately it did not matter how much money I made or how much prestige, press, or acclaim I received. Being able to reward myself with a new handbag or a trip for my family was temporary relief. It would be temporary relief until I would overextend myself once more and find myself in that same frustrated place of feeling like a failure. There was never a finish line. Heck, I never even reached a rest stop.

And that is why I call the first five years of my parenting life the "hamster-wheel period." I spun my wheels and worked really hard, investing long hours and wearing many hats. And while sometimes I was strategic in the way I spent my time, other times I acted without thinking of the consequences.

And why did I keep making the same mistakes with work/life balance? Because this was my mission those first five years: to prove people wrong and to feel a sense of belonging. And I went about that mission without much self-reflection. While you're running on the hamster wheel, you just keep moving and keep trying, with no time to slow down. I just kept hoping I'd reach the place where I felt complete and whole, like I was enough.

Where Do I Belong?

For those first years of motherhood, I felt like I did not belong anywhere. Some of the faith-filled, stay-at-home moms I associated with did not understand my love for my business and my drive. In not so subtle ways, some even suggested that my place was at home and home was where I should stay.

But at the same time, I did not exactly fit in with the working moms who were climbing the corporate ladder, wearing fashionable clothes, and dining in glamorous places. Just as stay-at-home moms rejected the idea of career, these working moms expressed skepticism toward my openness to more kids and my acceptance of playgroups, spit up, and working through nap time.

I was measuring my success by the standards of other people, not by my own standards.

I was getting mixed messages from both motherhood camps, and unconsciously it fueled my desire to prove I was doing something important in both areas of my life. I wanted to prove to the career women that you could have kids and not let your work commitments slide. I wanted to prove that motherhood was attractive and awesome. To the stay-at-home camp, I wanted to prove it was entirely possible to be happy at work and home at the same time.

As a result, I worked excruciatingly hard to build an interior design business that looked successful on the outside, regardless of the personal toll on my family. I dressed to play the part of a successful designer, regardless of whether I could afford the clothes or not. I was constantly looking sideways, to what my colleagues were doing, what my friends were doing, and what the influencers on Instagram were doing. I was never brave enough to look inward at what would make me and my family truly happy. For the first five years of motherhood, I was measuring my success by the standards of other people, not by my own standards.

And you know what? It was exhausting to work so hard to fit the mold of success. The saddest part is that I had very little idea I was doing it. I was so caught up with chasing a dream that wasn't entirely my own that I could not see the forest for the trees. And I had no idea how radically different my life would look or how radically joy-filled my life would be when I stopped measuring success by the standards of others and started designing life on my own terms.


Excerpted from "The Possibility Mom"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Lisa Canning.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 Running on the Hamster Wheel 1

Chapter 2 Charting a New Course 15

Chapter 3 Believing Change Is Possible 21

Chapter 4 Identify Priorities by Looking Forward 35

Chapter 5 Identify Your Why 43

Chapter 6 Your Ideal Life 53

Chapter 7 Making This Work: The Importance of Your Schedule 65

Chapter 8 Should a Mom Work? 89

Chapter 9 Courage to Be Vulnerable 107

Chapter 10 Courage to Change 115

Chapter 11 Habits and How to Make Change Stick 121

Chapter 12 Permission to Fail 145

Chapter 13 It's Time to Push 155

Acknowledgments 161

About the Author 165

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