Women spend so much of their lives feeling guilty.
Guilty about working outside the house, guilty about not working outside the house. Over scheduling, under scheduling. It just doesn’t matter: we feel guilty.
But Debbie Travis, star and creator of The Painted House, a 14-season, 200- episode, world-wide phenomenon has a new book that advises women to cut out the guilt.
Not Guilty - My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos is part memoir and part how to succeed in business, but mostly just Travis relaying how she made it through with lots of chutzpah, tantrums (hers) and laughter.
Travis tells how, as a bored young mother, she started decorative painting, a trend that was popular in the UK but hadn’t yet hit North American soil. Her home became her canvas and clients start to ask for her services. Travis loved it but her husband wasn’t so sure. “Can’t you just buy wall paper like some normal person?” he pleads in frustration.
But continue she did. Painting led to workshops, then to video and, her biggest leap, to television. Working with her husband she created The Painted House and spun off books, newspaper columns and eventually, a product line.
Not Guilty is full of self-depreciating stories about Travis, her husband and two boys. Full of sage advice and always told for maximum humour, Travis is like your hilarious best friend regaling you with stories, such as the time she came home from work and found her boys sending their two miniature rabbits down the stairs in frying pans as if they were going down a toboggan run.
Never one to mince words, even with her kids, she screams, “What the hell are you doing!?”
“Mom, they’re happy, look at their little mouths,” they replied.
“That’s not a smile, that’s gravity!”
After declaring her sons will never, ever have another pet, Travis puts the miniature rabbits on the deck in a laundry basket.
Within five minutes, raccoons had eaten them.
Stories about her kids and her business ventures are woven together throughout the book. One of my favourites involves her sitting on the edge of a boardroom table with her team discussing a successful design event the previous night, only to look down and see a bulge in her right pant leg.
As she talks, she reaches down and pulls out the offending lump, which turns out to be her “knickers” from the last time she wore the pants. She laughs, but recalls her style interns could barely contain their absolute horror.
Unfortunately I can relate!
I was heading into a fancy restaurant to meet a client once when a sock somehow worked its way out of my pant leg. Just as I approached the table to shake hands with my client, the host came running up to me and handed me the dirty sock.
Great! I laughed (sort of) and tucked the offender in my purse as the client eyed me with suspicion and chose to wave hello instead of shake my hand. Opps. Guilty. Again.
I also enjoyed reading about the time Travis finds out her son has paid someone in his class to do his homework. When busted, her son declares, “But you said, “Hire the best.” So I hired Charles Wong, He’s the best. He even goes to school on weekends.”
Although she gave her son a stern glare Travis reveals that she and her husband privately laughed their heads off later that night.
If you have kids and are trying desperately to achieve that elusive life/work balance, thumbing through Not Guilty is a welcome respite. Travis ends the book with a top ten list for avoiding guilt. Number one is to treat you kids like a paint job. It’s all in the preparation. Take the time to sand and prime well and results will be as good as perfect. Don’t worry about the cracks or blotches-they will just add character.
These days the only thing that Travis feels guilty about is the amount of energy she spent feeling free-floating maternal guilt.
And I couldn’t agree more: what a waste of time.
Don Mills Diva is giving away a copy of Debbie Travis’s Not Guilty-My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos to three lucky Canadian (only, sorry!) readers. Leave a comment below to win. Comments will be closed Friday January 23rd at midnight and the winners announced shortly thereafter.