Lauren may have downshifted but she is still on the move - she is in the process of setting up a new company and founding a nonprofit.
Lauren's 'entrepreneur' schedule allows her much more time to do the things she enjoys most; playing with her children, visiting with friends and sleeping! "I am one of those people who really needs 9 hours of sleep at night in order to function well and I think I got that much sleep maybe two nights in the last ten years!"
Lauren relishes the time she now has with her three children - time she wasn't able to dedicate when she was, as she says, "running and gunning in the corporate world." She can now schedule time in-between meetings to play in the sandbox with her two year old daughter, Samantha, and to explore Washington D.C. with her 10 year old son, Jack (which they did in their pajamas one night last Spring when he was stuck on a homework question about the role of the legislative branch). Lauren giggles when she reveals that she and her 6-year old daughter Juliette enjoy impromptu "dance parties" where they blast Lady Gaga and The Black Eyed Peas.
In addition to her family, she has a closeknit group of friends who keep her laughing. "Our families travel together, we exercise together and we host dinner parties for each other,” she says. “I call these women my 'deathbed friends' because they are the people I want standing around me when I die - cracking me up to the end." The group of (high-profile) women even make time for a monthly poker night. "We had a book club but no one was reading the books so we switched to poker," she confesses. The group plays Texas Hold'Em ($5 ante) and drinks martinis. When asked if the game was competitive, she replied, "We are a bunch of executives, ambassadors' wives and lawyers so we definitely talk a lot of smack. Though we do sometimes get confused by the rules and realize half-way through that we aren't playing right!"
The Ashburn's home isn't all fun and games - there are house rules that all family members must follow. "I teach the kids that their siblings are their best friends,” she says. “If someone hurts someone's feelings, they must apologize and the other person must say, 'you are forgiven.' It's important for my children to learn not to hold a grudge." Lauren is also finding it challenging to teach the children that the dinner table is not a place for goofing around (especially now that she is eating dinner with her family on a regular basis). "I ask them each to come to the table with a topic they would like to discuss because otherwise I would spend the entire meal correcting their table manners," she laughs. Sometimes it's the kids who correct their mom. "My kids know that I'm trying to break my bad habit of swearing but they'll overhear me talking to a friend on the phone and they bust me!"
Now that she has experienced life on her own terms, Lauren wants to encourage other women to redefine the way they work so they, too, can enjoy all that life has to offer. "Work/life balance isn't possible," she says, "and trying to achieve it can take a real toll on your health." Seems like we can all benefit from a ‘healing year’—a time to reconnect with friends and family. And as for Lauren’s fantasy dinner party guest list? Put us down as a ‘yes, we’ll be attending.’
Chris Croll is a freelance writer and mother of two. To see what she is working on, and to suggest topics for future articles, visit chriscroll.com.