Or being all things to all people…
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice:
“You can’t have it all at once. Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time, things were rough.”
As a mother, a wife and a business woman, I have thought a great deal about this. My article about #OutsideWork generated some personal mail that asked me, inter alia:
“What do I need to do to satisfy everybody that needs my full attention when I am with them?” My children, my boss, my partner – they all need me to be the best that I can be, and I am barely keeping my head above water.”
“I don’t want to be selfish, but there is no time for me.”
And a poignant comment:
“This article made me remember that there must be time for “self” but I am not finding it. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted and nobody seems to care”
There is no one answer. It’s different for those in a committed partnership, compared to single parents and, without question, financial independence allows for more options, too.
So I looked back at the last few decades, and asked myself what I got right, and what I would change..
Neither you, your partner, nor your children can have it all and do it all, and stay sane.
So I would sit down and discuss the end goals with my husband and children, and then create a daily strategy that is moving in that direction, accepting that life happens and any targets will move.
- Today’s enthusiastic guitarist will be tomorrow’s passionate horse rider
I would definitely accept that there were negotiables and non negotiables with all the things we were trying to fit in a day.
I would listen more to what my children wanted to do after school and what they needed to do.
I would ask my children which are their favourite activities - soccer, rugby, squash, art, chess, piano, dance or swimming? I am pretty sure they did some things just because I was over compensating for being a working mother.
Meals were draining, too. I thought I had to force feed vegetables to my reluctant son. I have a particularly horrifying story about courgettes, a carpet and a vacuum cleaner! In desperation, I went to my wonderful GP and he asked me which vegetable my son ate without fuss. “Peas” I responded. “Let him eat peas”, he said. We all ate a lot of peas.
When he went to university, I took him shopping for groceries. He put broccoli and cauliflower into the trolley and I had to be lifted off the floor.
Working mothers do have a lot on their plates, no question. Some of the stuff can be redistributed, but we feel guilty. We constantly compare ourselves to other people, and find ourselves wanting, not realising that even those with the calmest exteriors are struggling with the sheer volume of things to do.
What else did I do and would I do now?
- Lift clubs – the lift club ladies are still among my dearest friends
- Au Pair – if it fits into your budget, it can make a real difference
- WhatsApp Groups – they can lift your spirits, and help organise your life
- Uber – sometimes it is the only option – a last minute meeting or a deadline that has moved up and all the support systems are unavailable...
It is also true that a supportive partner makes all the difference, I have been blessed with one. It's always important to remember that many fathers face similar challenges.
Looking back we made a lot of mistakes, just ask my daughter, the self-designated crash test dummy. She maintains we practiced parenthood on her, and then did it all correctly with her brother. Needless to say, he doesn’t agree…
No second chances, though.
So as a closing thought, if I could go back 30 years, I would find a whole group of working mother role models, across the age groups, form a support group, and get loads and loads of practical advice.
Links, References and Notes
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We run both on premise and in the cloud, as well as mobile options for ESS. Recruitment, online education and Outsourcing are part of our offering, too.
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