I was on a day out walking with my family at the weekend, and something my 7 year old said struck a chord with me. As we were walking along, my husband and eldest child started striding ahead and quite quickly were a fair way ahead of us. I was at the back with the 2 younger ones, and I turned to them and said, “come on, we need to keep up.” Well, my 7 year old son who was quite happy at the back picking up sticks and finding unusual shaped rocks looked up at me and said, “why?” It immediately dawned on me that he was right. Why should we keep up with those out in front? Why don’t we all just go at our own pace and enjoy what we are doing? He was quite happy where he was, and as a result, so was everyone else around him. If I had made him walk quicker and stop what he was doing, he would not have enjoyed the walk and it would have become difficult and hard work for everyone.
By going at his pace and allowing him time to do what he needed to enjoy the walk, we were all happier. I realised that this is the same for everything we are doing in life. I know I have said many times, “I should be doing something”, or “others have done something quicker or better than me,” but what am I judging those standards by? We all need to go at our own pace and find our own way of enjoying what is going on around us as we navigate our life. Just because someone else has achieved something quicker or seems to be doing “better,” have a think as to the standards you are basing this on. What are you gaining for doing what you are doing and at the pace that you are doing it at? If it isn’t working for you, then yes you need to do something about it, but if it is, enjoy what is going on around you and take the time to appreciate what it is that you are gaining for going at a different pace to others.
There were times on the walk where we stopped to paddle in a stream, and there was a time when we went quickly to get past some cows that started to get a bit too curious, but ultimately we went at our own pace. The ones in front waited for the slower ones at a convenient time to them, and no one felt out of sync as we all enjoyed the walk for the journey that it was. This happens in life too, there are times when we have to stop or slow down, and there are times when it seems that things are moving too quickly, however, we need to consider if the pace is right for us as an individual to deal effectively with what is going on around us. I know that I could push harder in my career when I didn’t have children, but now I do, I need to adjust the pace at which I can develop at work. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to, but if I push on regardless, it is not only me who suffers, but those around me too. There will be times when I can dedicate more to work rather than my home life, but just because someone else seems further ahead than me, doesn’t mean that I should try to keep up. The difficulty is knowing when we are trying to keep up, and when we are ready to challenge our own self. The only advice I can give is to take time to pause and reflect, take time to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Ask yourself the question, is this for my benefit or someone else’s?
So often we get preoccupied with what we are doing and that we forget about everything else going on around us. The worst part of this though, it the fact that we are often preoccupied with the things that are going wrong that we can’t see anything else.
I was watching tv with my son the other day and someone said the saying “you can’t see past the end of your nose,’ and he asked what that meant. I explained that it was when you are so caught up doing something, you can’t see anything else that is going on around you, and that when this happens you often miss other things around you. He instantly put his hand up to his nose and said that he wouldn’t be able to see very much, which I said proved the saying. He then however held his hand up against my nose and declared that I would be able to see much more someone else could as I had a big nose!
My initial reaction was to say how rude he was being, as although he doesn’t know it, I have a ‘hang up’ about the size of my nose and I didn’t appreciate it being pointed out to me! The thought then crossed my mind that what I see as a bad point of me, in this case, it is actually a benefit. I may see having a larger than average nose as a bad thing, but according to him, I was doing better as I would be able to see further.
Now I’m not saying that people with big noses are better than people with smaller ones, but I have only ever seen having a big nose as a downfall rather than an asset, but by looking at a completely different view point in certain situations this could be to my advantage.
It made me think, how often do we get so preoccupied with something that we miss the benefits?
It often doesn’t take a lot to see past the issue and once you have clarity in what you are thinking and doing, decisions are so much easier, and it also frees you up to get on with so many other things. Questioning and talking through what is going on can make a huge difference to how we see things, so my question to you today is…”what is going on in your life at the moment that is clouding judgement of everything else?”
We are all aware of the benefit of gratitude and being positive. I am fully aware that if I look at the glass as half empty, then that is how my attitude for the day is going to be, and to be honest, it usually ends in disaster. By being positive and by practising gratitude on a regular basis it enables us to be happy and appreciate the good in life, but at times, what I really need, is for the glass to be half empty to make me actually do something about it. Now I’m not saying that everyone needs to be miserable and look at the dark side of everything, but if you ignore how you really feel and what you are thinking then you are doing yourself a disservice as it prevents change and suppresses any motivation you have to make things work for you.
As a human, we have the ability the feel, think and react emotionally to our environment. We can control this with positivity and our attitude, but we do need to acknowledge how we are feeling and what this is ultimately doing to us. If we blindly keep looking at the positive and ignoring something that isn’t working, then we waste a lot of energy and time.
During the 1st lockdown, I tried to carry on working in exactly the same way than I did previously. I tried to give as much energy and time to my job as if I didn’t have 3 children at home. I tried to home-school my children and give them the same opportunities as if they were in school. I tried to carry on as if nothing had changed. I tried to remain positive. I knew that if I sat and cried it wouldn’t change the situation so I carried on pretending. I became snappy, irritable and burnt out. I didn’t concentrate at work, I didn’t have fun time with my children and quality time at anything was non-existent. I didn’t really succeed at anything. I felt miserable, stressed and anxious. My attitude of remaining positive didn’t work. By pretending that everything was normal, it meant that nothing actually worked effectively. This time around, I am listening to my feelings, and I am taking time to review the situation.
To really think about what works for me and my family isn’t just about doing a tick box exercise of completing work, completing school work and making sure that everyone is fed and survives the day. It’s about thinking about the purpose and value of everything that I am doing, and why I am wanting things to happen. What do I really need to achieve and fit in to a day, and what actually isn’t important now. It doesn’t mean that it won’t ever be important again, but at this moment in time, what can drop down the to do list? Am I actually happy about what I am doing, or is there another way?
By getting my children to do their school work what do I want them to learn? Time with my family is important, but the value of that time is lessened if it is full of tension and anxiety. Putting some thought into what is happening, and why I am wanting to do something, can really change my attitude. I can take something that is difficult and negative, and by acknowledging its purpose I can make it work. Take the time to pause and work out what you want. What is really working, and what are you pretending is working? Be positive and grateful, but be realistic. It is only then that you can make a life that works.
I have learnt that reflection and taking time to acknowledge my thoughts and feelings can really benefit my attitude. There may be times that it is painful to acknowledge feelings and thoughts and it can be harder work than just going along with what is already happening, but I can promise you that it is worth it! If you would like any help in understanding and reviewing your situation please get in touch. Life isn’t normal at the moment, but by pretending that you can do it all, you may be denying yourself the opportunity to do the important things well. Take control over what you can control, and accept the things that you can’t.
In my usual day to day life I am happy being a mother, a wife and a business owner. But not now. At the moment I want to be a daughter. But how do I do that when I can’t just ignore the fact that I am the other things too? My dad is dying. I want to be there for him, for my mum and for my brother. But if I am trying to be a daughter 100%, then how can I be a mother, a wife and business owner at the same time? Everyone is telling me to take time for me, take a break from the business and do what is important to me, and that is the advice that I would say to others, but it is all important to me. If I wasn’t a business owner what would I do? If I wasn’t a mother how would I feel? But what I am struggling with is how do I give 100% of me to all of these different parts of me? The obvious answer is “I don’t…I can’t”. It is unrealistic to think that I could, but that is what makes me me. I started out in this world as a daughter and a sister. They were labels given to me that I had no choice over, they are fundamentally me. I had a choice in becoming a wife, a mother and a business owner, but it doesn’t make any of them less or more important than the other. And just because I chose them, it doesn’t mean that I should choose to ignore them. The biggest question is how do I keep being me, when I can’t be all aspects of me? When I was younger it was simple. I was a daughter and a sister. But as I have gone through life I have added in different elements. These all make me me, but it is a different me to the one that started out all those years ago. A richer and more interesting me. We become the stories that we live. We become the way we interact with what is going on around us. We don’t live in our own little bubble. This is all part of my story. It will shape my future and my interactions with others. But right now, how do I keep being the me that I have become? Do I have enough resources to keep on going?
My promise to my dad is that I will try. He has never expected me to be perfect, and in actual fact I think that he would be disappointed if I was, as that would mean that I would stop trying. Once he has made the perfect pudding, or the perfect meal he doesn’t make it again. The same would be true with me, if I was perfect, I wouldn’t need to try anymore. I wouldn’t need to keep evolving, keep trying new things or to see what happens if I tried an alternative. This situation is all new. None of us know how to behave or what we should be doing, but I know that I need to try. I can’t give 100% to everything at the same time, but I can give 100% of myself to one thing at a time.
I will continue to work in my business. I will not give up. I may not be able to give the same amount of energy as I was previously, but I know that my drive and passion is still as strong. I will still give 100% of me to my business, but not 100% of the time. Kindness, reflection and time is what I need to be able to keep going.
I feel guilt and sadness that I am not able to give my children everything that I want to give them at the moment as I am just not capable. My biggest and most important role at the moment is to be a daughter, but I know that as a result my children will learn empathy. They will learn that their mummy cries too. That their mummy isn’t perfect, but that she will try. I will treat them with the dignity of being able to grieve, laugh and cry without being shut out, however hard it will be. And when the time comes that I can again be the mummy that I truly want to be, I will know that we will have grown together, another layer of glue between us. They will grow up, live their own lives and I will inevitably live mine, but knowing that a family works together is another step towards us being able to stay together in the future. I can’t hold their hand the whole time. I can’t work in my business 24/7, but I can be me 100% of the time. The me who is human. The me who falls apart but picks herself back up again. The me who makes mistakes, occasionally drinks too much wine and quite often eats too much chocolate. And the me who loves and who tries whether that is as a mum, a wife, a business owner or a daughter. The resources are within me to live through this with grace and dignity, love and kindness, as these are all the stories that I have been part of. I am learning that I can keep being me 100% of the time, just not all at the same time.
Before children, I was a hard working, dedicated and loyal employee. I enjoyed my job and thrived on the challenges it provided. I kept my professional knowledge up to date and I actively looked for more courses that would develop my skill set. I knew that I wanted to climb the career ladder and be important and respected within my chosen profession. Then I had children. I returned to work and very quickly learned that what I had previously thought about my work ethic and aspirations had to change. I felt like a nuisance employee, one who relied heavily on others as they had to pick up my workload when I had to leave early due to childcare issues, I couldn’t take on the big projects as I now worked part time and therefore I wasn’t dedicated to the company, my priorities lay elsewhere and I just wasn’t part of the team anymore. I no longer dreamt about making it to the top, if I actually ever had time to dream it was to just get through the day, week, year and survive. My view of work changed, I changed, and ultimately, I was miserable. I was cross at myself for being miserable as I had always wanted children and that having to sacrifice my career was something that happened when you had children. I just had to get through this time and then when the kids were grown up I would have my time again.
Time did just carry on and I went on to have my second child. During my maternity leave however I got made redundant which filled me with fear and anxiety as who would take on a mother of 2 when they didn’t know me. I used to be dedicated and reliable, full of ambition, but I was now inexperienced, flaky and incapable of learning new skills as I was permanently exhausted. I surprised myself by managing to secure a new position but I felt respondent to the fact that I would start in my new role as the nuisance employee. When I started however the response was completely different. I felt welcomed and part of a team, I provided worth to the team and the new skills I had learnt since being a mum were valuable to my new found responsibility. As a result, I thrived and got promoted quickly. I learnt that I had been miserable previously, not because I had become a mum, but because I couldn’t be the working mum that I wanted to be. I was interested in what I was doing, and therefore I was enthusiastic and dedicated to my role. All the characteristics I thought I had lost or had to change were still there. I hadn’t changed at all, in fact, I was much more enthusiastic, I was fiercely loyal and dedicated and I learnt that it was the environment that I had been in previously that had altered my perception and I had just moulded myself into the expectations of that workplace. Yes there were still times that I had to leave early to pick the children up, or I couldn’t come into work as they were poorly, but I more than made up the time I had lost by working in my own time, longer hours when I could and taking work home, but I also knew how to be me and be part of my family which made me a much more rounded employee as I wasn’t working myself into the ground. I became more creative with my time as I knew that I couldn’t continue to be the 9-5 employee, I was focused on the project that I had to complete as I didn’t have time to get involved in the office politics or to have long chats over the water cooler. I was still involved and part of the team, but the dedication that I was providing to myself to be able to work and be a mum shone through. I managed my time to be able to be the employee and mother that I truly wanted.
The difference that the culture of a workplace made to me was huge, by working for someone who valued me, I then valued them and tried hard to succeed as this is what they expected of me. Yes I had children who were my priority, but that didn’t need to change me and my work ethic. My focus as a working parent intensified as I knew that I had limited time in the workplace so my efficiency improved, my assertiveness improved and my confidence improved. Even with children, I hadn’t changed, I was still a hardworking, dedicated and loyal employee.
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