Being a working mum has never been more challenging than it is right now.
As I’m writing, we’re in the midst of another national lockdown in the UK and working mums across the nation are trying to survive the ‘juggle-extraordinaire’. We’re being pushed to our limits in every possible way. And we’re feeling it.
Today, I want to share 3 things that have helped me feel a little more in control and better able to manage the chaos and uncertainty we’re living in. These have brought me some calm and peace and I hope they will for you too.
1. Name what’s most important to you
I’m talking about your values. The things that have importance, worth or usefulness to you. They may be words, concepts, principles or people.
The beauty of naming your values is they then act like a guiding light in your life. For example, if you’re having a day when decisions feel hard you can think about each decision in light of your values. Often, there’ll be one option, which is better aligned to what’s intuitively important to you than all the others. By tuning into our values, we can choose the option that’s best for us.
Equally, when something doesn’t feel right, it’s often because it’s out of sync with our values. When we recognise this, it gives us a new level of understanding of what’s going on. It can help us to accept what’s out of our control and when we have the opportunity, it can help us to make changes.
I recommend putting together a short list - I have 5 core values – and once you have them, create a definition for each one. This will help you get really clear about what each one means to you and it will also help you be sure you’ve picked the right ones for you.
2. Create some boundaries for you
I know ‘boundaries’ might sound a bit officious but I think they’re important and helpful. I see boundaries as a malleable framework that protects you and what matters to you. And they’re particularly useful to set around your work and around your wellbeing.
Thinking about you. There’s a lovely quote by Dr William Cole. He says, ‘taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of others. The healthier the tree, the better the fruit it can offer.’ For me, this sums it up.
It’s really helpful to identify what you need each day to enable you to be your best. For me, I like to sit on my own, in silence, for 10 minutes at some point during the day and take a 10 of Zen and I always take 5 minutes before I go to sleep each night to write out celebrations from my day or things that are playing on my mind and might keep me awake.
And once you know what it is you need, make the active choice to take the time to do it and I promise you, you’ll reap the benefits.
At work, it’s about how you protect yourself and what matters to you, whilst also being able to do your job and do it well. And this is as important as ever with everyone at home.
I’d start by thinking about what is achievable for you right now given your current personal circumstances. And specifically, think about your output and your availability. Having clarity on these means you can better manage others expectations of you. It means you’re more likely to succeed and deliver what you need to. And less likely to feel guilty when you’re torn away to homeschool.
3. Talk, talk and talk some more
I know this is easier said than done, however, regular open and honest communication with the people I live with and work with has made a really positive difference for me, especially during these crazy days.
You can get ahead of the game by sharing your boundaries. For example, if you live with someone else, if you tell them you want 10 minutes each morning to yourself, they can help you to make it happen. Or if you need to be available every Wednesday to cover lunchtime at home, if you tell your team, everyone can actively avoid meetings at this time.
And whenever things are feeling too much, I encourage you to talk. I know that all too often, us mums are good at bottling things up. Perhaps we don’t want to burden another, or we’re embarrassed about how we’re feeling or we feel we ‘should’ be able to manage. Or whatever it is.
However, the truth is that everyone struggles. And it’s only by sharing what’s going on for you, can others offer you support, compassion and comfort.
Being a working mum is a fine balance at the best of times, let alone when we’re trying to navigate the uncertainty and loneliness of a global pandemic. Perhaps take some time this week to pause and notice what’s important to you and what you need, right now. And then take the time to share it. I bet you’ll feel a little better.
About the author
Alice is an NLP coach who specialises in enabling women to enjoy a thriving career alongside motherhood; a mission born from her experiences as a mum of two, a senior HR leader and a trained coach.
She works directly with women through one to one coaching and her online course – "Return to work with confidence and calm", which is designed to support women returning to work from maternity or adoption leave.
She also works with businesses, consulting on how to support parents and leading group workshops and one-to-one coaching for managers and leaders.
Find out more at www.alicedarbyshire.com.
And follow her on Instagram at @alicedarbyshire.