The trouble with juggling is that you will inevitably end up dropping one or maybe ALL the balls, it’s just a question of when and which one.
When you’re a parent and have a career, it can feel like constantly dropping the balls one after the other or all at the same time. Either you’re not able to give as much as you want to or you find yourself explaining that you can’t do the early morning networking or the late night meetings at work.
Maybe you’re succeeding at work, but feeling like a parenting failure, exhausted, shouting at the kids, and shoving iPads in their hands, crisps in the other, while you try to give the semblance of calm control, desperately muting the Zoom call and disguising the background so no-one can see your tip of a house.
If this is familiar to you, don’t despair, it’s familiar to me too! When I was a single mother working as a senior lawyer, I spent much of my time being exhausted, pretending to be in control and hating myself for not being a better mother. I was caught in a loop of having to be everything to everyone, while staying up late to bake cakes for the school sale, and then pretending that I was competing on the same field as the other lawyers who weren’t solo parenting too.
The old myth was that people should not ‘juggle’ too much. But you can be successful and an awesome parent.
There are some things that will help if you are caught in this spiral and not coping. First look at the word ‘success’ and think about what it actually means to you. Many of us are in a trap where we think success means money, status and buying more stuff. We are allowing our wish to have more stuff, to define what success is for us. And yet we can’t win that game. There will always be someone richer, with more stuff and there will always be things you can’t afford to buy.
You can change this view by changing your attitude to what ‘success’ is. If, instead, it meant, happiness, contentment, balanced healthy life, you can notice whether you are doing what you need to do to be successful in that definition.
Second, take some time to decide what your personal goals are, your life priorities and write them somewhere that you will see them often and then decide whether each thing you do fits into those priorities.
When I did this, something incredible to me came to light. Although I thought that my priorities were my children and my work, in fact my top priority needed to be my own health and wellbeing. It’s the same principle as putting your own oxygen mask on before you put on those of your children or elderly people around you. If my health and wellness wasn’t prioritised, I couldn’t then be supporting and looking after my children, or smashing targets at work. I love my family, but my first goal had to be to put my health first.
So now I make it important in my life that I’m exercising, going to the gym, getting outdoors into nature and I start work later, I prioritise rest, going to bed earlier and taking a duvet day if I need to reset. I put healthy food high on the list of things to focus on, because it’s aligned with my goals. Second was family, and third was work. So to follow this and make my life align, I realised that I needed to take steps to make my goals and my actions match. I would stop resenting the time with the family, and start reminding myself that this will all too soon be over, the children will one day be leaving home, and my work would still be there. It was a fundamental shift from the career, success and ambition that I had been driving with in my 20’s and 30’s, to a more balanced lifestyle in my 40’s. And guess what, once I had aligned my life with my goals, I was happier and healthier, and I had more to give to both family and work.
Thirdly, a great way to bring balance AND be great at achieving all the goals you set, is to learn to love your calendar and begin to timetable in all the things that you want to do in your life. Including the aspects which will align with your goals. So, if you are going to start a new journal, block out time in your calendar for when you will be journaling. Or meditating. Or walking outside in nature. If you are going to commit to reading to your child, block out time in your calendar which is reading/quiet/non-sceen time. Block out exercise, meal times, alongside meetings, work, family get togethers, basically everything that you do and want to do in your week. Then you can see what time you have available, and you can stop feeling guilty for reading a story to your child, you have scheduled and allocated time for this.
For more help with this try the Nir Eyal postcast on the Good Life Project.
Also the Miracle Morning by Hal Elron is a gamechanger for anyone who really wants to supercharge their life without compromising on what is important to them.
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