How To Do It All & How to Do It Well!
Do you know a woman, or are you that woman who wakes up every day wishing that she had about 3 extra pairs of hands, a body double, and about an extra 24 hours in a day? Women have always had to juggle multiple responsibilities, including household, child rearing, and professional. Oftentimes women make this juggling act look easy, and for some women it is. However for most women, having to manage all of these competing responsibilities can feel overwhelming, burdensome, and exhausting.
Some have questioned whether it is possible to have a fulfilling professional career while also being a present mother and partner. Some people choose one over the other and are happy with their decision, which is great for them. However, some women don't want to give up one or other, and find themselves wondering how they will gracefully manage it all. It is possible!
Five Tips for How to Navigate All the Rotating Pieces
1. Accept That You Cannot Do Everything at 100%, 100% of the Time:
A common concern of professional women who are contemplating having children is that either their work will interfere with their childrearing or that their childrearing responsibilities will interfere with their work. The truth is that it is inevitable that one will impact on the other. However, this does not mean that one cannot be good-enough at both.
The idea of being good-enough is highly undervalued and oftentimes completely ignored. Becoming comfortable with being good-enough can ease a lot of anticipatory anxiety about whether or not you will be able to carry out your responsibilities. Comfort with being good-enough may entail becoming comfortable with the reality that your work day may be interrupted by needing to pick up your child from school due to illness, and not berating yourself for then not being able to complete your report by the deadline anticipated but rather having it done by that evening. It may also include accepting that you have to go on a few days work trip but acknowledging that you are still an extremely present mother when you are with your child.
The form that being comfortable with being good-enough will take, and what types of mistakes are acceptable, will greatly depend on what kind of parent you would like to be and what kind of job you have. However the common denominator for all, is the letting go of the expectation that you can perform 100% at all of your responsibilities all of the time, and that you can find compassion for yourself when you are performing less well than you would have expected of yourself. Once you have come to peace with this, you may find that your anxiety about getting everything done may loosen up a bit, and negative thoughts about your performance may decrease.
2. Be Clear About What Is the Priority:
Oftentimes people can feel pulled in multiple directions at the same time because they have not made it clear to themselves what their priority is at that particular moment. If a woman finds herself in this situation where two competing responsibilities feel equality important, it can be helpful to pause and take a moment to ask herself what truly is the priority right now. For example, a woman may be in the middle of cooking dinner, responding to a work email, filling the dishwasher, and feeding her baby all at the same time. As chaotic as this image may seem, this is an extremely common scenario for many women.
It may feel like all of these tasks need to get done in this moment because there is only so much time in a day. The truth is that there really may not be enough time in the day. However, do all of these responsibilities equally matter? Is feeding one's child equivalent to filling the dishwasher? I should hope not. Is responding to the email something that must happen in this moment? Maybe or maybe not.
One must ask themselves in this type of scenario, "Is getting it all done worth it, if I cannot be present in it or enjoy any of it?" Maybe one's priority is to get it all done in order feel content later, despite the consequence of being frazzled in the moment. Or maybe someone else would rather be calmer and more present doing one or two of these tasks at a time, all the while knowing that eventually everything will get done. The most important thing is that the individual woman be honest with herself about what is her priority in that moment, and act accordingly. Being clear about one's priorities in thought and in action can follow with a sense of increased confidence in how one is managing their multiple balls in the air.
3. Recognize That Eliciting Help Does Not Equate with Failure:
If you want to do it all without greatly suffering, you cannot do it alone! There are many women around the world who do it all and who do it alone, but that does not mean that because it can be done it should be done. People have a tendency to compare themselves to others and expect that if someone else can do something they should be able to as well. Unfortunately some women do not have a choice, whether it be due to an absence of a partner, family, or financial means. And these women are incredible. However, these situations often come with terrible stress, and mental and physical consequences.
Know that it is a great misconception to believe that asking for help means one is weak or a failure. Part of attending to all of your responsibilities is knowing when, in order to get something done, you will need to bring in reinforcements. This can take the form of additional childcare, asking a family member or partner to pick up some of the chores, or getting an extra assistant at work. This is related to the concept of being "good-enough" and accepting your limitations, which when you can come to accept, truly makes you a superwoman! When you can recognize that you need to bring in help in order to manage a responsibility, you are really demonstrating that you do know what you need to do to make sure the responsibility is properly handled. This is the opposite of failure or weakness.
4. Maintaining Clear Boundaries Between Roles: There is a Time and a Place:
Staying present in whatever role you are addressing in the moment can help alleviate the feeling of juggling 10 balls at once. Of course this can be extremely challenging when you find yourself thinking about work when you are with your child, or thinking about your child when at work, or thinking about work when you are with your partner, or thinking about your partner when you are at work. And I am sure the list goes on. Sometimes, we can control our thoughts (but not always), so it becomes very important to try and manage what we can, such as our environment.
Keep a separate space in your home if you can. A different room, ideally, but if not possible, a different space in one room for professional/work related objects. Similarly, toys should remain outside of this work space, as well as outside of your bedroom. This may seem impossible for some and may be difficult to implement at first. However, once in place it will feel a bit easier to be present with the responsibility at hand. These concrete boundaries between roles should be carried outside of the home as well. For example, when you are at work, try not to research preschools or summer camps. Reserve mommy-related duties for when you are back in your mommy space. If you can avoid making work-related phone calls when at the playground this would be ideal as well.
For some women creating boundaries in this way may not always be possible depending on one's career. However, there will always be little tweaks a person can make to create some boundaries and exercise a bit of control over one's situation. Maybe you have to take work calls when you're with your child, but perhaps calls during story time with your child are off limits. The boundaries you determine must come from you and fit your specific situation, and most importantly be the product of your exercising control over your multiple responsibilities. It can feel great to have some sense of control when you're living the life of a superwoman juggling act.
5. Not Neglecting Self-Care and Rest:
Most important when it comes to managing all of your responsibilities with grace is taking care of yourself! This cannot be stressed enough. If you're not making time to rest and feed yourself with social outings, nourishing food and pleasure in a good-enough manner, then how can you expect yourself to give to your child, your work, your partner, your home, or your community in a good-enough manner. Whether it be a weekly yoga class, massage, dinner date...it doesn't matter what it is as long as its a gift to yourself. Self-care for the superwoman is a whole topic in and of itself so this is all I will say for now. Bottom line is that it is necessary if one wishes to do it all and do it well!
If you find yourself struggling to manage all of your many competing responsibilities then it might be best to reach out for some professional help. If you have general questions about therapy, you may find the FAQ page on GreenTPsychology.com useful.