‘The Possibility Mom’: A Conversation With Lisa Canning

August 20, 2019 Updated: January 30, 2020

You may know Lisa Canning from HGTV’s “Marriage Under Construction,” where she offered design advice.

Since then, she has worked behind the scenes for the cable network, launched her own design company, encouraged other moms through her website, and written a book. What’s more, she has a thriving family. Canning and her husband are expecting their eighth child.

To say her plate is full would be an understatement. How does she do it all? I recently asked her that and more.

The Epoch Times: You’re a business owner, author, and mom of seven, with a new little one on the way. How’s it all going? Is this the life you’d always pictured for yourself?

Lisa Canning: This life is more amazing and abundant that I ever could have imagined.

This is where I think the magic is—if everything in our lives was within our realm of imagining, there would be no stretching, or growth, or surprises, right? There are many aspects of having a large family, and being an entrepreneur, that requires a lot of faith.

I would say I am grateful that, despite not knowing exact outcomes of things, I had faith and moved forward through the doubt, and that has made all the difference. So to answer your question, things are better, and more entertaining, and more exciting, and more exhilarating than I ever could have dreamed.

The Epoch Times: Your new book, “The Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time,” sounds like the opposite of that popular saying, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.” What have you discovered that led you to see this differently?

Ms. Canning: I used to believe this statement 100 percent. I remember the first time I heard [author] James Clear share the Four Burners theory, where it’s posited that if health, work, family, and friends are like four burners on a stove, “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful, you have to cut off two.” [from an article by David Sedaris in The New Yorker]

I held this to be true for a long time. But as the number of children we had grew, and career opportunities grew, I became more and more dissatisfied with this line of thinking. Why can’t a modern mom have it all? And have it all at the same time?

Here is what I have discovered to be true. When a mom can be strategic, and understand what activities only she can do both at work and home, and what activities she can delegate both at work and home, and can create intentional appointments in her calendar to accomplish the things that are essential and important and based around her measurement of success, she can have it all.

Let’s unpack this a bit further. In my calendar, I schedule the things that only I can do first.

Only I can take care of my health, so what this looks like for me is regular exercise, a prioritization of rest, and prayer time in the morning.

Only I can date my spouse, so this has a regular appointment on my calendar on Wednesday afternoon.

Only I can nurture the relationships with my kids, so this looks like hanging out with them phone-free every afternoon.

Only I can create content for certain aspects of my business—and this happens during specific times during the day.

In order for this to happen, I delegate a lot of things. We have an incredible nanny who cooks meals, helps with laundry, and provides loving care to my kids when I am working or on a date with my husband. My dad helps out around the house with small maintenance jobs to the point where I don’t even think about them anymore. We automate grocery shopping and have three meals delivered per week via a subscription service.

The point I am trying to make here is that I believe a mom can have it all—but she can’t do it all herself.

The Epoch Times: At the beginning of your book, this line stuck out to me: “In no other period of history has there been as many ways for a mother to fail.” Pressures seem to come from everywhere. How do you avoid overwhelm in the face of these kinds of pressures?

Ms. Canning: I believe the secret to this is defining success inwardly. I used to define success based on what my peers or other moms in the schoolyard were doing. When I finally had the courage to break the mold and chart a new course, life all of a sudden got so much freer.

Even in the midst of what I am doing now at this unique time of launching a book, where the demands on my time are quite atypical from my regular schedule, I have had to ensure I keep checking in with myself, and my husband, to ensure that I’m not responding to pressure. For me, that has looked like ensuring the standards I live by and have claimed to be my definition of success—which includes a weekly date night and phone-free time with my kids daily—do not get thrown out the window. This has hugely helped me reduce overwhelm, because the act of spending time with the people I love naturally makes me feel happy and whole.

The Epoch Times: In your book, you also say, “I believe all mothers can find balance, fulfillment, and extreme joy when they measure success by looking inward—not by looking sideways.” Many mothers struggle with the perceived opinions of others and the comparison trap. How did you overcome that? What advice would you give a mom struggling in that regard?

Ms. Canning: For so many years, I lived my life based on someone else’s measurement of success. I wanted to be a fancy interior designer for many years, because that is what I thought success was, regardless of the fact that it was quite literally killing me, both physically and emotionally.

Everything changed when I finally started listening to the nagging voice inside of me, begging me to slow down and spend more time at home. I think our bodies have an interesting way of telling us when we’re not living our best life. Our bodies can literally force us to stop, and we really need to listen when we get those signals!

The other aspect I think is important here is to remember that our external accomplishments do not make up our self-worth. This was another lie I believed for a long time—that somehow, the more I could succeed, the more I could accomplish, the more love and acceptance I was due.

What is so challenging about equating our self-worth with our external accomplishments, is that we can’t ever really be satisfied. There is always more money to be made. There is always another title to get. And if we cannot feel fulfilled where we are today with what we have, how can we be assured that the next thing we obtain will make us happy and content?

It’s not easy, but this stuff requires work. It requires looking inward, and it requires examining if we like the person that we are, and if we don’t, why not?

The Epoch Times: You talk about designing a life around what matters most to you. Do you have any practical tips that a busy mom can put into practice to begin to uncover what matters most to her?

Ms. Canning: I like to recommend people get brave by casting vision, and imagining how they want to be remembered at the end of their life. At the end of your life, how do you want to be remembered? And in order for that to happen, what do you need to do today?

If you want to be remembered as a great wife, you’ve got to act like that today. If you want to be remembered as a present mom, you’ve got to be a present mom right now! So for me, the quickest way to uncover what matters most is to begin with looking ahead at how you want to be remembered for how you lived your life, and then mapping out what you need to do today in order to be that person.

The Epoch Times: What motivates you to keep doing the work you’re doing?

Ms. Canning: I want to change a generation of motherhood. I want to help moms understand that it doesn’t have to be so hard, and that they have a say in how they live and the quality of their life, and the quality of their family’s life. And I want moms all over the world to understand that motherhood does not have to be the death of your dreams, and the pursuit of your dreams does not have to produce overwhelming amounts of mom guilt all the time! it does not make you a bad mom to pursue your dreams! Your dreams have been given to you for a specific reason, because the world needs them! And you need them.

This might sound like a humble brag but I honestly don’t think I am a remarkable person, or I have superhuman abilities. I simply just developed, through so much trial and error, a strategic approach to time and energy management, that I believe all moms have the ability to do, whether you’re raising your first child, or you’re raising multiple.

You can be a great mom and pursue your dreams at the same time, and it’s my mission to share this with as many people that will listen.

The Epoch Times: With baby number eight on the way, are you making any changes to your life’s design?

Ms. Canning: I have a chapter in the book where I encourage my readers to dream big and describe what their most ideal life would look like—and I encourage the reader to think of everything: location, work, how much they vacation, how often they are able to enjoy leisure, and exercise, what their marriage looks like, etc

I wrote the first drafts of this book, and what I wanted my ideal life to look like, about 2.5 years ago. And one of the most exhilarating things about the timing of publication for “The Possibility Mom” has been that the way I describe my ideal life, that vision I cast 2.5 years ago, is now almost 100 percent reality. At the time of responding to this question, we are about to pack up our family of soon-to-be eight kids, and moving from Toronto, Canada, to sunny southwest Florida, to a home we designed and built!

So moving to a climate where we can wear flip-flops all year is a pretty exciting life design change.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza