The Doing it all Myth
I always knew I would be a working mom. Long before I understood what that really meant, or even found someone to share the journey with. Reality has proven to be more wonderful, and challenging, than I ever imagined.
Managing both means being present, making progress, and knowing my priorities. It means making trade-offs every day that allow me to be the best I can at both, but falling short of perfection at either.
Years into this exciting journey, I sometimes dismay when I hear people talk about how much I seem to get done. The “how does she do it all?” question is easy to answer. I don’t. And neither does anyone else.
Let’s dispel the “do it all” myth and talk about how we can best manage whatever it is that we commit to doing.
Reject Perfection and Obligation
First off, I’m fundamentally missing the domestic gene. It’s no secret. I even wrote it into our vows – I will love my husband, but housework just isn’t happening.
Home-related stuff can be a full-time job on top of work. I have no expectation that I can or need to do it all.
Talking with a friend recently, she mentioned feeling obligated to do something she didn’t sign up for. That is a reminder to all of us – we cannot do it all, and should not feel burdened by a sense of obligation that pushes us to try.
I’m not domestic, and that doesn’t make me less of a woman. I’m a good mom, and I’m not perfect. I don’t obsess about where I might be falling short, instead I focus on what I want to do well.
In order to life a relatively guilt-free life, and feel good about our ability to parent, work, befriend and self-care, that’s where we must begin.
For the first 10 years of my career, I had the good fortune of aligning my need for change with the type of work I did.
As a military brat, I’m used to moving around a lot, which can be problematic if that spills over into the work environment. Unless you get into project management, which I did. There was always something new around every corner, and it played right into my need for constant change.
Or at least, that’s what I thought. When I joined my current company and started managing systems development projects, I quickly found myself on multi-year initiatives, where my next “accomplishment” might be months or years out.
As leaders, we try to be supportive and transparent with high integrity. Even with the best intentions, however, we can easily fall into the hypocrisy trap when it comes to work life balance.
We have all heard that happy, well-balanced employees are more engaged and productive.
So why are we the first ones to work late, send emails at 3am or check in while on vacation?
Recently, based on a recommendation at a conference, I read The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn. I’m skeptical enough (about most things in life) to question books that claim to have the secret sauce to much of anything, but I thought I’d give it a try. I was surprised to find I enjoyed it.
Of particular interest to me was a section on men’s ability to compartmentalize. According to Shaunti’s research, men have a very well-developed ability to segregate their thinking between work and home. Or to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others.
Having experienced the frustration of trying to talk to my husband when he’s deeply focused on something, I’ll have to admit that the description resonated.
For the last several years, I have been angsting over my son’s inability to consistently socialize with his peers at school. Birthday parties, sporting events, play dates and random encounters with new children all seem to go well. School, however, has been a challenge off and on for years.
Recently, we were encouraged to visit an occupational therapist to see if maybe he has some sensory integration challenges. Sure enough, with just a few tests it looks like we’ve found the (treatable) culprit.
Sometimes I think the universe knows what we need, even before we do. Our family ended up taking an unexpected vacation this week. The time off has been great and it reminded me that I need to replenish my energy regularly, even if I can’t take time off to do it.
Since this is the last vacation I’ll have for several months, I thought I’d look back on what I enjoyed most this week. My goal was to find activities I could repeat without taking time off. I came up with a list of 10 things any of us can do with little time and no investment to cure what ails us.