Every modern working woman knows that life is a balancing act: a tight rope walk between being confident but not “bossy”, ambitious but not a “neglectful mum”, a social butterfly but also a businesswoman and a great mum.
Becoming a working mother has been the ultimate test for me in a world where I grew up believing I could “have it all”. There are a number of challenges that come with motherhood, especially when your family depends on the success of your own business.
I’ll happily admit it’s taken a good four years to establish what I now feel is a balance. Here’s what I’ve learned.
The G Force
The G Force is something that every mother knows well – guilt. I felt this daily for years. Guilt for working, guilt for not working, guilt for spending more time with one child than the other. Guilt for missing ‘stay and plays’ to make sure my older daughter had provisions for her additional needs.
Guilt was so commonplace until recently, when I adopted a new approach to my life. I follow a simple rule. Decide where you need/want to be and then commit to it 100 per cent. This might sound simple, but it’s been a revelation.
If I commit to taking the kids to the park, I switch off my phone. If I’m working, I always try to go into the office. If I take a day off to catch up on chores/personal errands, I’ll embrace it: I’ll organise a date with my mum or a friend. I might even treat myself to a spot of retail therapy, all so that I feel like I’ve really had a day ‘off’.
Make a Plan, Set Boundaries and Say No
It is really easy to become overwhelmed with fitting everything into one day, week or month. I speak from personal experience: I was overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion for three years after having our second daughter. I was chronically ill with adrenal fatigue.
However, I’ve found that my new approach to life helps me to decide, commit and be present. This includes saying “no” to things when I don’t want to do them – something a people-pleaser like me struggled with in the past.
Just following this one rule has transformed my life by enriching each experience. I fully commit to everything I do, rather than always having one eye on my phone or the kids.
My mornings consist of getting up around 6am. I’ll try and fit in a workout, then get everything prepared for the kids, before getting showered and dressed. I’ll feed everybody and check the diary for any appointments or requirements for school projects. Then the best part: trying to juggle putting on make-up whilst making Play-Doh pizzas or building ceiling-height Lego towers.
Our life at home, with a four-year-old with autism and a two-year-old, is all about routines. When autism entered our life, so did a number of ‘rituals’ – they give our daughter a sense of certainty and security, and if these routines vary too much, or we don’t communicate well enough ahead of time, the morning can easily fall apart.
We used these routines in many ways as part of our therapy with our daughter as it was much easier for her to learn social skills, language, independence and self-care through repetition. This is still the way we approach her development, as repetition is the mother of skill (as Tony Robbins says).
For a long time, I struggled with these routines. They felt restrictive and repetitive. That was until one day we started to notice progress – increased language, more independence and confidence in our daughter. She was growing and developing, and the routines started to expand, change and progress. I started to realise that I could create routines to make positive changes for all of us.
That’s the thing with daily rituals and routines – they can serve you or simply be bad habits that feel like they are controlling us. If you do the same thing every day in a way that harms you, it becomes a bad habit.
However, creating routines for your morning and evening can really help you to become more organised. After a while, they become habit, and feel less like work and more like auto-pilot.
Over the last year I’ve used routines to create new positive habits for the whole family. I pack bags the night before. I get up at least 30 minutes before the kids to get my head in the game. Instead of starting the day with caffeine, I now start it with warm water and lemon. I plan our family meals every Saturday for the week ahead, write a list of ingredients, and do my food shopping for the week. This saves the pain of having to think “what do I want for dinner?” and also works well for a family of fussy eaters!
I’ve since taken these routines into my business. We have a staff meeting at the same time every week. I have a list of tasks I need to do daily/weekly/monthly, which ensures I don’t miss anything.
Of course, with kids, things often don’t go as planned. However, I think it’s important to show our kids that whilst it’s always good to have a plan, it’s not the end of the world if the plan changes.
About the author
Nicola Fulstow is Managing Director of a luxury home technology company, SONA Technology.
Established in 2012, SONA are leading luxury interior and technology suppliers, specialising in the design, project management and installation of infrastructure, networking, lighting, audio and video, home cinema, integration and developer packages.