Paige is a whip smart dynamo who has three children under age three, including unruly twin boys nick-named ‘Des’ and ‘Troy’ by great grandma.
Paige was in control before motherhood took her by surprise. She was the go-to-person who, along with her husband, managed the family businesses. Now she can’t accept the smallest compliment. Everything is chaos, things aren’t clean enough, the house is too untidy, and she looks a mess. Instead of feeling in control of things, she feels things are in control of her.
Over a cup of coffee she told me about improvements she’d like to make to the business. ‘They’re great ideas you’ve got, not that I’m surprised coming from a smart lady like you,’ I said. Quicker than Des and Troy can crash through a child-proof barrier, she replied, ‘No I’m not! I’m dumb. I can’t get anything done.’ She then shared her frustration at being unable to do what she sees as necessary to get the business systems and processes in ship-shape to support future growth.
I bit my tongue. Perhaps I’d missed something. How could it be that given all she had going on in her life, she still expected more of herself? From my perspective it looked like her bucket was full, perhaps even over full.
I’m glad I bit my tongue because as we talked some more I realised that whilst her physical time and energy was fully occupied, she still had mental energy to spare. This excess energy was looking for an outlet, but because her physical energy budget was in the red her mind was directing itself in counterproductive ways.
Fatigue and negative thought patterns go together like a chicken and an egg; fatigue feeds negative thinking and negative thinking feeds fatigue.
Paige’s dilemma is faced by many women trying to balance what’s right for them with what’s right for others. It’s not easy to do – otherwise we’d all be doing it. She could just give up and wait until later when the kids are older, when they’re going to school, or maybe when they’ve got jobs, or are married. There’s always going to be something to contend with or to wait for.
Yes, but how in dickens can she do anything else?
My recommendation to her, and to you, is to take a reality check, and write down what’s important at this moment – the stuff you have to do. When you’re done, take a short break. Make a cuppa or have a stretch. Then look over what you wrote. Take a moment to acknowledge what’s taking your time and your energy. It’s amazing how many of us plough on and only see the mountain before us. Rarely do we look back at the trail we’ve blazed.
Look closely now you’ve got your reality check. Look for a crack of light, a glimmer of space, somewhere you can do something that’s just for you. Choose something energising you can do in that gap and do it every chance you get. Encourage yourself as you would a small child and forgive yourself when you lapse – you’re human.
Then do for yourself what you do for everyone else: get up tomorrow and do the best you can.
Jacqui Alder is a respected HR executive, writer, and mentor to women.
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