By Shannon Edwards, CEO of www.styloko.com
In my ideal working mum paradigm, there aren’t working mums and stay-at-home mums but instead ‘by definition’ all mums ‘work’ and some just take on a second job. Because there is no escaping the requirements inherent to the business of being a mother no matter how much support you have to pursue a ‘second’ career.
Just because I’m a CEO doesn’t in any way free me from the constant and relentless to-do list chatter that flows through my psyche like a stock ticker. Pay for gymnastics, cover the nanny while she goes to the GP, send out the dry cleaning, rsvp to this weekend’s birthday party, plan the holiday, put the produce delivery on hold. Regardless of what your own personal to-do list looks like as a mother, it is endless and it’s relentless. It’s also very emotional and overwhelming to sort out the headspace to let it all in. The quiet and space to process how to win at all of these areas is generally non-existent for most of us.
Never-the-less, many people have done it way better than me and here are the lessons I’ve learned from these amazing people. Each day I try to follow their lead and do it all better.
Try to compartmentalize. I know it’s hard. It’s harder than hard. But if you can try to pick a time to think about your kid’s to-do list (commute maybe?) and pick your time to worry about your personal list followed by your work list, then it does help create a little focus. Don’t go at it all on your own. There are some great online tools for list making. I’ve started using Any.do. You can make these distinct lists that represent different strains of thought. It takes discipline to stop yourself from creating a tsunami of unrelated things that you are worrying about all at once and control it with lists.
Recognise the value of focus. This is a different kind of focus than ‘focus on your list’ this is simply the value of putting down your phone, your laptop, your anything and listening to those in your life. I sometimes find it hard to stop and just absorb the ramblings of my preschoolers but its value is immeasurable. The same is true for family, friends and colleagues – anyone who needs your undivided attention. Stop, look and listen isn’t just sensible advice for crossing the road; it’s a prescription for living a successful life as a working parent.
Exercise. Glaringly obvious? Well I’m not going to suggest there is one best, one-size-fits all, glorified way of getting your heart rate up, but I do think that shaking it off; feeling strong; finding something else to focus on in your day can be a powerful way to live and to live best for those you love. To feel healthy is to feel mentally strong and juggling all that you do requires a certain level of physical strength.
Be fair to yourself. The bigger the over-achiever, the higher the level of self-criticism. If you are already the type of person who is taking on the challenge of balancing work and family then you are probably putting your own needs at the bottom the list. When I actually hear people say things like ‘remember your needs’ I do sometimes roll my eyes but really at the simplest level it means giving yourself a break. You may do each think in your life well and none of it well in the aggregate. And that’s okay. But give yourself a break.