By Lauren Gonzalez/for MISSOULA CURRENT
What is this “free time” people talk about? Although I can somewhat grasp the concept, and I carry vague memories of having this precious thing at one time in my life, I seem to have misplaced it. The last time I saw it, I squandered it, baking three caramel cakes (which I promptly devoured) and catching up on Lost as I waited for my first child to get the heck out of me. The last time I used it in a sentence, it sounded something like, “I’m planning to really jump start my coaching business when my baby is born, since I’ll have more free time at home.” Are you laughing yet?
No surprise here: from the moment my first child arrived, he helped himself to my energy, my focus, and all of my TIME. “Work progress” became nonexistent, and in truth, my entire career took a backseat for a very long while. I just wasn’t able to muster the courage to “Care Bear Stare” my guilt away enough to focus on work tasks. But one day, I woke up and realized that I have just this one life. I want to make the most of it. I want to have it all. For me, that means being a wife, a mom, and building a career. I believe I can be, do, and have all of it, and I believe you can, too.
What this looks like for most of us working moms is a breakneck-paced, constantly multi-tasking, crossing-our-fingers-that-nothing-falls-through-the-cracks kind of lifestyle. We feel stressed out, run-down, empty, and disconnected. Sure, there are good days, when we feel like we’ve checked off all of our to-do’s and kissed everyone’s boo-boo’s. But more often than not, we feel like a success in one area of our lives at the expense of another. How many of us feel like great moms, but sh*tty employees? Or like superstar employees, but awful moms and partners? It feels like you cannot enjoy success in all areas at once, that something has to give. But it’s just not true. Life does not have to be this way.
My dear friend and talented Work-Life Integration Consultant, Megan Leatherman, MS, and I recently tackled the beast of work-life balance in an hour-long webinar (head over to LaurenCRS.com and sign up for my monthly update to get your free copy of the replay). We talked about many challenges that arise for working moms – the guilt, the self-doubt, the stress, the imbalance of responsibilities at home – and about ways to move closer toward a truly balanced life. The tendency for most moms is to “just keep swimming,” to kill ourselves trying to stay afloat and meet everyone’s needs, pining for the day that we finally have more free time, more energy, and more focus. The problem with this approach is all of the wonderful magic we miss right now, today, as we scurry toward achieving “perfection.” Here, I want to offer three additional steps to help you achieve balance, and make the most of this one glorious life.
First, DREAM BIG. Don’t let life with kids stop you from imagining a BIG life for yourself. What are your dreams? Your ambitions? Where do you want to go in your career, and what do you want to achieve? Your goals do not evaporate when kids enter the picture, it may just require a lot of extra time and creativity to get you there. And that’s why you must…
GET HELP. You think men are the only ones who have trouble asking for assistance? Think again. While women tend to be gifted relationship-builders, we are just as awful at leaning on our friends, family, and partners when we need it. Blame it on a fierce need for independence, personal achievement, or insanity, I would rather fight and claw my way through all of my tasks alone (and then feel immensely angry and self-righteous about it), than ask for aid. I don’t want to “inconvenience” anyone. But if I’m going to accomplish all that needs done, and establish deep, loving connections with my family and friends while building an empire, I’m not going to do it alone. I will burn out. I will flail. And paradoxically, relationships are actually built stronger and run deeper when you choose to “inconvenience” someone by enlisting their help. Try it, I dare you.
Finally, you’ll need to GET MENTAL. I often compare motherhood to running a marathon – 90% of it is purely mental. It isn’t the kids, or the housework, our partner’s needs, or our work tasks that defeat us, it’s the tapes that play in our heads. The voice that says, “You’re not enough. You’re really failing at this. You’re the worst mom. You’re a crappy coworker/ boss/ employee. You need to TRY HARDER.” Our minds are where the real battle happens. You need to know, you aren’t alone. You also need to embrace the reality that you are just one person, and that doing your best is all that is required. Be brave, and define your own success. At the end of the day, did you feel joyful, fulfilled, and connected? Let that be your measure of success, rather than allowing your to-do list to rule your time.
Deep breaths, mama. Today is a new day, filled with new opportunities to thrive, and we’re in this together.
Lauren Gonzalez is a Missoula mother and parenting lifestyle coach. For honest mom empowerment, sign up for Lauren’s monthly newsletter at www.LaurenCRS.com and check out her services offering connection and support. You can also follow Lauren on Twitter @TheRealGonzie and find her on Facebook.