For the last four or five decades, women have taken on more roles in society. We can work outside the home in fields other than secretarial and nursing. There are female CEOs and upper managers, doctors, lawyers and sanitation workers. All of this is well and good, but it gave birth to the whole issue of “juggling” in our lives. Can we be excellent women, wives/partners, mothers, employees/bosses and homemakers all at the same time? Of course, this gives rise to a bigger question: why do we feel the need to strive to “master” this juggling act?
I’ll be honest here; I’m a bit of a rogue. I haven’t watched a news program in over ten years or a full commercial in over two. I don’t vote (no need to comment on this; I’ve heard the lecture hundreds of times) and I dislike organized religion. Basically, anything that society tells me I need to have, think or do, I usually do the opposite (with the exception of watching Breaking Bad and The Blacklist [recorded on DVR so I can skip the commercials], if I’m to strive for full disclosure). However, there was a time not so long ago when I was totally into the circus routine.
I experienced severe postpartum depression and panic disorder after my daughter was born. I had always been pretty “Type A” and a baby just blew away any predictability, structure and routine that I had for myself. It was a dark time, but I got better with treatment. I went straight back to the routine: I got up at 5:00am to get ready for work, get the baby up, fed and dressed. I’d drop her off at day care and then drive to the gym. I’d work out for an hour, shower, dress, and put make-up on and get to work by 8:00am. I’d work until 5 or 5:30pm, drive home, pick up the baby, make dinner, tidy up the house (unless it was Thursday; on Thursday I cleaned the entire house because I didn’t want to give up a weekend day to do it) and swap out baby care with my husband until I fell into bed, exhausted, somewhere between 10 and 11:00pm. I did this every day for over a year.
I think back on that time now and wonder how the heck I did it. I don’t feel particularly proud of that juggling act; it’s more like a feeling of disbelief. Not only how did I do it, but why? Now that I am older and have gotten in touch with my genuine self, that time in my life seems so shallow. In an attempt to please everyone, I was basically committing slow suicide by adrenaline. I was irritable all the time! Yet, the idea of “having it all” continuously played over and over in my head, and I believed I was doing it.
What I was doing was living for everyone else except me. Young children do need fairly constant attention, but I found that annoying. As a result, I didn’t really enjoy being a mother. I have mourned that time and have let it go, but that was really tough to accept. My daughter is a teenager now, but we’re pretty close. Thankfully, my lack of enthusiasm didn’t prevent her from loving her mommy anyway. I guess I was good enough.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and if I could do it all over again, I would make some changes. For all of you young mothers out there trying to conquer the world, here’s some advice from a seasoned one. Please don’t make the same mistakes I made!
- Excellence isn’t perfection. If you’re doing the best you can at the time, even if your best sucks, then you’re achieving excellence.
- Take care of yourself first. Believe it or not, the housework, dishes, etc. will be there tomorrow (unless you have an awesome partner or a maid).
- A cluttered house is indicative that children live there. It’s okay.
- If at all possible, find meaningful work in an area that you’re passionate about. Whether that means volunteering or outside employment, make sure that you love what you’re doing.
- Quit comparing yourself to other women. You’ll always lose. Plus, many women are great actors and are thinking that you’re more awesome than they are!
- Stop caring what other people think. You’ll never catch up to those “Joneses” because they do not exist. If someone doesn’t approve of what you’re wearing, how you act or how dirty your house is, then they don’t need to be in your life.
- Be honest with yourself. If you are resentful toward your kids or your spouse, work through it with a professional. It not only hurts your relationships, but it slowly erodes your self-esteem.
Of course, all this is easier said than done. However, I am living proof that it is achievable. It took time, honesty about myself, accepting some unpleasant facts about my childhood and rebuilding my esteem to fit my genuine self. There are so many wonderful Life Coaches and therapists out there that would be honored to help you find insight into your life!
Personal growth is a life-long process. However, it is very nice to be content with this phase of my life. It is my wish that you find your peace, realize how important you are, and jump off of that merry-go-round if you’re on it. You’re already excellent, my friend!