Marian Kaanon Balances Career, Life & Family
If you ask Marian Kaanon, there’s no big secret to leading a happy and productive life. In fact, she’ll say, it’s all about mindset.
“I think the key to being successful at balancing work and personal life is being present in the moment,” Kaanon says seriously, leaning forward across her desk before laughing and tossing off one of the incisive, self-deprecating comments that are so typical in any conversation with her. “I’m no one who should be giving advice to other people! It’s something I struggle with every day.”
But it’s these struggles—and the lessons she has learned from them—that make Kaanon such a compelling figure as a leader and as an icon of the new era of the career woman.
Kaanon balances her day job as the CEO of Stanislaus Community Foundation, with the demands of being an incredibly active community member, a Rotarian and (“most importantly,” she adds!) a wife and a mom to two small kids. She knows firsthand just how hard it can be to balance all the interests competing for her time. From her career and community, to faith, happiness, healthy living and her six-year-old daughter Olivia and four year old son Luke, Kaanon—like so many other career-minded parents across the community and the world—is continually working to fit a very full life into limited time. And from the outside, at least, it seems like she’s managing it.
“The Type A person in me wants to make a graph with quadrants,” says Kaanon about her quest to strike a balance. “One for spiritual, one each for personal, family and work, but it’s never that easy. It’s always so much messier. You think about work/life but really it’s just life. The whole thing. It’s a holistic approach and one sphere can really influence the other in really positive ways if you allow it to.”
Part of Kaanon’s holistic approach relies on laser focus on whatever task she’s facing. “I think being truly present in whatever you’re doing is a big part of the balance of life. That means putting away the Blackberry or iPhone and just being present in the moment when you’re with your family. But then also being focused on work when you’re at work. Otherwise, you’re short changing both aspects of your life.”
But she adds that the other side of this is recognizing—and forgiving—the imperfections and sometime failures of balancing a full life. “I often feel like I’m balancing a bunch of those wobbling plates on sticks. I think what I’ve done is taken a step back and learned to forgive myself if one of those plates falls and crashes. I try not to be too hard on myself. To set goals that may or may not be reachable but just wake up each day and start anew with my goals. Like, today I’m going to try to eat a healthy lunch; today I’m going to try to walk a little more.”
Beyond that, Kaanon indicates that it’s all about the people who you surround yourself with. “I’m so lucky to have a good support structure with my husband, my father-in-law and my parents who all chip in and help out. I do think that child rearing takes a village and it’s difficult whether you’re at home or working. The larger support system you have the better, both for your kids and for yourself as a parent.”
Marian would never claim that she’s got it all figured out, but if her past few years of balancing family, career and community are any lesson, she’s definitely getting it. She says she takes some inspiration from Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, the Facebook C.O.O.’s guide and manifesto for increased female leadership, which advocates just the kind of life balancing that Kaanon and her family have made work for them.
“One of the things I know for certain is that your friends and family are there for you,” sums up Kaanon. “So you have to lean on them when you need them and allow yourself to be leaned on in return. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for your family.”