Raising children whilst managing a career, running a house and trying to enjoy life means that us working mums are often left with our sanity hanging in the balance.
We want to try and do it all but, unless we have clear strategies to support us in the juggle, we can lose ourselves and our sanity along the way.
The reason I started Wisdom For Working Mums was from my own experience of being a working mum. I was exhausted and overwhelmed trying to juggle it all. I was feeling depleted and was fed up with just surviving.
It wasn’t until I found a way to combine my work and motherhood in a sustainable way that I could enjoy my life. I now get the great privilege of supporting other women to to do the same.
Here are you my top seven strategies that I use to support my clients (and myself) on how to really thrive as a working mum. They’re tried and tested and proven to pull you back from the brink of burnout.
Value of vision
Sometimes we are so in the trenches of our lives that we lose sight of how we’d like things to be. It’s like we can’t see the wood for the trees. And we lose the ability to navigate ourselves towards that vision. We get caught up in the day-to-day treadmill and survive each week. Getting clear on how we would like our life to be and where we might not be living up to that vision can be really powerful. It’s also a great sense check of how realistic our vision is. Whilst it’s important to be aspirational we also need to check our perfectionist tendencies at the door.
Know your mothering style
We’re led to believe that we should be perfect at every aspect of parenting, and when we can’t live up to this impossible standard, we feel inadequate and guilty. As the famous quote by Jill Churchill goes “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
It’s about doing our own version of mothering which is based on being the best possible version of ourselves with all our strengths. And being more realistic and accepting of our struggles – as we all have them. By doing this we can reduce the guilt of not measuring up to the unhelpful ideal of being a perfect mum.
Getting clear on what we really need to function well as a working mum is important. Most of us are not great at acknowledging our needs. We tend to see them as ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’. We can tell ourselves that it’s just something we desire rather than something we actually need to thrive or protect our sanity. Our non-negotiables will be unique to us based on our own preferences, values and strengths. Knowing them, owning them and living them can be really empowering.
Many of the women I work with have got caught up in the trap of trying to be everything to everyone at some point in their lives. We can run ourselves ragged working hard in the week and trying to be there for everyone at the weekend. It’s only by setting boundaries that we’re able to protect ourselves from the risk of burnout and exhaustion. Setting boundaries can feel uncomfortable. But getting clear on what your boundaries are and how to communicate them clearly and with compassion can be transformational.
Let it go
Many of the women I work with are over achievers who pride themselves on being able to do it all and do it all really well. Part of thriving as a working mum is realising that we can’t do it all. In order to thrive we have to get clear on what we need to let go off. What we can either delegate or delete from our to do list. Or as one of my good friends says, what we can press the ‘f*ck it’ button on.
Manage energy not time
For many working mums our relationship with time can be a challenging one. There never seems to be enough time. Too many of us are sleeping poorly, don’t have time to exercise and grab a bite to eat on the run. When we can make the shift to focus on our energy we can transform our experience of time. In my podcast interview with James Glover from the Energy Project (not sure if you can include external links but you can find the podcast here) he brilliantly explains:
“The great thing about energy, unlike time, is it can be expanded, renewed and used more efficiently.”
When we can develop micro-initiatives (small and achievable habits) that we can put in place to expand our energy, it can really help our experience of a busy day.
Ask for help
We’re strong, independent women who have built our success in life on being able to do it all. The truth is though that having it all and doing it all are two very different things. If we live our lives trying to do it all, it’s a recipe for burnout. In order to have it all we need to build a team around us. That team might be made up of friends and family that we ask for help. Or they might be people who we pay to help us.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, a study by Ashley Williams and her team found that “people who are willing to give up money to gain more free time — by, say, working fewer hours or paying to outsource disliked tasks — experience more fulfilling social relationships, more satisfying careers, and more joy, and overall, live happier lives.” So who do you need on your team to thrive?
These are the strategies that I know work for many women, but I’m interested in what would work for you? What strategies help you to thrive as a working mum? What do you know might help you that you’re not yet doing?
Like most working mums I’ve learnt to grab hold of my sanity and protect it for all it’s worth. But if my experience as an executive coach over the last 14 years has taught me anything, it’s that most of us know what we should do but don’t always do what we know.
There’s something about taking the strategies that we know might help us and move them from our head, to our heart, to our hands. That’s to say, we need to move these strategies from knowing they’ll be useful, to really wanting to do them and then to actually doing them.
That’s where Wisdom For Working Mums can help. I help women like you make these strategies work in their own life. Head over and join me and a community of likeminded working mums if you’d like to learn more, click here.