Recently I read a fantastic quote from Quentin Bryce, the former Governor General: “I did that Superwoman thing……. it’s totally ridiculous! Attempting to be the perfect wife, worker, host and mother is just not sustainable.” (Business Chicks Latte magazine)
And she’s absolutely right of course! So why is it that so many of us get caught up in this expectation of ourselves?
“Liberated to be our fathers”
In her book, Unfinished Business, this is how author Anne-Marie Slaughter describes the wave of feminism which first opened up the possibility of equality in the workplace. We wanted the same opportunities as our brothers and yet there was very little discussion of how the rest of domestic life would get looked after so we tried to be our mother and our father and take on both roles. Then we berated ourselves for not doing either of them well enough!!
I believe it is because we were raised to believe we could have it all, and I still believe we can in so many ways but perhaps not all at the same time, and maybe we just don’t need to be perfect at everything?
In my coaching work I often talk with clients about work / life integration, because although I don’t think about this as something which needs to be evenly balanced at all times, you do need to be able to incorporate all those elements which make you a healthy well-rounded individual. We cannot completely compartmentalise each part of our life, and say that box is where my personal life lives and that box is where my career goes.
I see this with friends and clients, women trying to please everyone all the time and ending up sad, frustrated or burnt out. I certainly wanted to be all things to all people and it is exhausting!!!
So how do you shift your expectations?
1. Know your priorities
Now that I am older and wiser (a little!) I can see that the key to managing your life is to know where your priorities lie, and then spend time on those and outsource all the rest. What are the most important things for me to spend my time on? What are my values and how can I live by them?
2. Ask for help
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, in fact I see it as a sign of strength because it means you are sufficiently self-aware to know where your own strengths are best utilised and where you should call on another person’s strengths to support you.
It really does take a village to raise a child and given that we no longer live in extended family units we need to build relationships with family, friends and professionals so that we have somewhere to turn.
When my kids want time with me they want to really know that I am present, and after all isn’t one of the reasons I work so that I can pay someone else to help do the domestic chores?
When we are giving to others all the time sometimes we forget to look after ourselves. There is a very good reason why airlines ask you to put on your own oxygen mask before attending to children: we cannot look after others unless we are healthy and well ourselves. And I mean that beyond a simple lack of health problems but in terms of seeking optimal well-being by looking after all aspects of our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy levels.
We all need time out and I know that can be hard to find when you have children but it is crucial to enabling you to be at your best at both work and home, so again ask for help!
Isn’t it crazy that we beat ourselves up over things we did or didn’t do, or things we said or how we behaved? Listen to that voice in your head, would you ever speak to a loved one in the same way you talk to yourself? Most of us are good at using kindness on other but not so much on ourselves. Talk to yourself as you would to a good friend: comforting, supporting, encouraging, motivating.
I am “enough”
I am also learning to accept that I am “enough” as I am, I don’t have to be a domestic goddess or a super-mum or a corporate high-flyer, I can just be me, a woman who is fulfilling all those roles in her own way, and to best of her ability and without the need to be “perfect”. And that will have to be enough for everyone else too.
If you are interested in re-balancing your own life or supporting your staff to re-balance theirs then please get in touch to discuss either one-on-one coaching or a workshop designed to improve the well-being and performance of your whole team, contact me at email@example.com
Sue runs sue rosen executive coaching and specialises in helping people unleash the power of their potential.