We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Shannon O’Brien and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Shannon, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Sometimes I think we as a society have unnatural and unrealistic expectations of what work-life balance is supposed to look like throughout our lives. I think there’s this notion that work-life balance means we have this very delicate and fragile equation to our lives, where we’re juggling all the balls and wearing all the hats, and that balance has to mean 50/50. And that the balance must remain at 50/50 for it to be true. And that how I’ve balanced my life has to look anything like how you’ve balanced yours. And that’s just not the case. There are seasons to the wok-life balance. I’ve lived through several already.
When I was pregnant 11 years ago with my first child, I was working full-time as a research molecular biologist at the CDC in Atlanta. Even after I had my first child, I went back to work and managed my new role of motherhood and parenthood with my husband as we navigated daycare and long commutes and maintaining our own sanity. When I had my second child, I think things began to shift for me. I experienced a break though in health and wellness through chiropractic care, and I began to question my true calling in life. As I re-entered the work scene (now with two kids), there was a new balance formed.
Looking back on it now, it probably appeared to the outside world, that I had this work-life balance thing figured out but returning to the work I was doing was no longer fulfilling. It didn’t spark joy for me anymore. I began to question what it means to be healthy, what is truly important to my family and me, and what do I want to spend my time doing. I completely rocked the boat when I told my husband that I wanted to go back to school for my Doctorate in Chiropractic in the hopes of giving back what I had been blessed with. At 30, with a 3-year-old and a 10 month old, I went back to school. This again tipped the balance of our lives.
Looking back on it, I’m not sure how we survived (or if I could muster up the energy to do it again!) The new balance we had looked a lot like me passing along to others the familial responsibilities I had taken care of for years. Sometimes it looked a lot like I was constantly busy, hustling, and all over the place. But there was balance within it, and I found comfort in what the balance of my future would look like once my schooling was complete.
Now, as I approach 38, the balance stage I’m at looks like parenting through a pandemic and being a one-woman-show as the owner and chiropractor at Sunrise Chiropractic and Wellness. I’ve learned to say yes to things that align with me and no to the things that don’t. I’ve learned that figuring out what is important for my family and me is a way that I can find balance in the activities I choose to do. Nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset, and an optimally functioning nervous system are my pillars of health, and so I strive to make sure that I find balance within in my day and the season of life that I’m in to take care of those pillars. And even though I strive for this allusive and ever-changing work-life balance, I try to remember one of the mantras from one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements: always do your best, knowing that your best changes moment to moment, day to day. My balance doesn’t look like your balance, and that’s ok. Brené Brown, the researcher and author who writes about shame, vulnerability, and guilt, mentions in a podcast she did, that some days she’s at a 10 out of 100. She’s given it her all, and a 10 is all she’s got. She communicates that to her husband, as a “hey – I’m going to need 90 from you today”.
Work-life balance to me means a partnership with our tribe. That some days we have 80 to give, and our family and friends and spouse and community can help with the remaining 20. Balance means communication. It means asking for help. It means giving help. It means receiving help. It means listening to others. It means being listened to. It means being graceful with yourself and others. It means not comparing your journey or balance to anyone else, and not letting others do the same. It means looking at all the stages of your life and finding what’s truly important. It means saying yes to things and no to others, and then letting go of the judgement you have concerning your decision. I think one important aspect to the balance of work-life dynamics is the flow there is to it. Just as there’s a balance within our society and our families, there’s a physiological balance within each of us, within our nervous system, and within nature. We have the ability to make small changes in our lives that can have huge results. I know that I will continue to develop my relationship with the concept of work-life balance, as I move into the next stages of life, motherhood, and parenthood. I hope that I can embrace those changes with grace and fluidity and remember that my work-life balance doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
What should our readers know about your business?
My journey wasn’t necessarily easy, but everything I’ve been through has made me who I am and has given me unique perspectives as it pertains to women’s health, raising a family, and honoring and trusting the intuition we have. I grew up loving science, and I do feel that I was destined to be in the healthcare field. I spent 7 years working in various environments from microbiology laboratories to molecular biology work as part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. It wasn’t until I experienced the benefits of chiropractic care first-hand that I began to explore the idea of a way that I could be in the science field and have a direct impact in the health and wellness of my community. I always tell my patients, I haven’t always been adjusted. I had a very traumatic emergency c-section with my first child, and so at 36 weeks pregnant -from the advice of friends and family – with my second child, I so desperately sought a VBAC and started under chiropractic care. Now can adjustments guarantee a VBAC – no, but I saw and experienced what proper pelvis and sacral alignment and a properly functioning nervous system can do for obtaining the labor and birth I desired. I take my life experience to my office. I talk with moms about how to support yourself in this journey into motherhood (whether it’s their first child or their third). My office is a no judgement zone. You could be trying for a homebirth or a hospital birth, a natural birth or a medicated birth, but no matter what, you deserve to be listened to, respected, and supported.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I absolutely love the outdoors, and I’m fortunate enough to live near lots of wonderful and unique small town locations such as downtown Kennesaw and downtown Acworth. As someone who runs and hikes a lot, we would definitely be catching up while hiking local trails like Red Top Mountain or Kennesaw Mountain. We’d also probably end up taking a yoga class from one of my favorite yoga instructors, Backbends and Brews.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband has been so supportive and encouraging of all of my hopes as dreams. His unwavering belief in me and my abilities gives me the strength to take risks and go for what sets my soul on fire. Telling your spouse that you want to quit your job and go back to school for your doctorate is no laughing matter, and he embraced the chaos that ensued for four years so gracefully, and I’m so very thankful to have him in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am in my life if it hadn’t been for my chiropractor, Dr. Pam Stone. She opened my eyes to what is possible not only related to what it means to be healthy, but also the impact that a strong female chiropractor can have on her community. She’s touched many lives both directly and indirectly, now through me and the work that I get do.
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