When you’re a working parent, caring for your child can often feel like another chore; you have lunch boxes to make, school runs to do, after school clubs to co-ordinate, homework to supervise, internet usage to monitor, dentist appointments to remember, playdates to arrange, dinners to cook, clothes to wash and iron, rooms to tidy… The list is never-ending.
Offhand comments about being a working mother can leave you feeling on the defensive and make you feel the need to justify your choices. Particularly coupled with the challenges of aligning home schooling and home working during lockdown.
This is a sponsored guest post.
You constantly question yourself and your decisions, and you worry endlessly if you’re doing the right thing. Will your career affect your child in a detrimental way? Will they grow to hate you? Will you have enough time with them or become an absent parent?
And never mind taking time out for yourself! That’s a guilt inducer if ever there was one. Even worse, you can’t receive a compliment that recognises the work you’ve done without making an excuse saying “you were lucky”, or “it was nothing”.
It’s important to remember that this happens to all of us. Even the most (seemingly) successful mothers. We are our own harshest critic and are far harder on ourselves than anyone else will ever be.
Today, we have a guest blogger, Jackie Booth, to help some of us to understand a little more about how we can be kinder to ourselves as a working parent. This lady is just spot on, so sit back and listen…!
I know how you feel
I was a working parent throughout my daughter’s childhood and adolescence, and I frequently felt all of these things. I worried that I was the only one thinking this way too. And even though she’s now a grown woman, these thoughts and beliefs can still creep in. Whatever she’s doing, or the challenges she’s facing, I want to be the best mum for her.
Over the years, however, I’ve come to realise that just by being myself, whatever that looks like, I am being the best mum for her.
She didn’t want perfection. She was more than happy to go to school with a crumpled uniform, scruffy hair or in trainers. It was me who viewed these things as a failing. All she wanted was quality time with me, something that she still cherishes now.
I learned to ignore the other mothers at the school gate who didn’t work and who I felt judged me. I mastered leaving the dishes or the ironing until later, and instead we would watch a film or a soap, so she could express her views and explore her values.
I acquired the skill of turning a blind eye to the mess in her bedroom when she was a teenager and just handed her the hoover and let her get on with it.
How a working parent can learn to balance
Of course I didn’t acquire all this knowledge overnight. We had plenty of heated discussions until we worked out what we both needed to live as harmoniously as possible. What did help was building and creating habits that worked for her as a working parent, for me and my business and for our family as a whole.
Here are my top seven strategies that I want to share with you. If they resonate, think about if you could start implementing them today. I’d also love to know what strategies you have yourself and what has worked for you?
1. Don’t be so hard on yourself
Sometimes we are our own worst critic so make sure you’re not judging yourself harshly either.
When you think something negative about yourself, ask yourself, would you say that to your best friend? If not, then don’t say it to yourself. It’s a difficult habit to break so when you notice you’re being negative about yourself, immediately think of something positive to say to redress the balance. When my daughter was an adolescent and I noticed her being negative towards herself, I encouraged her to tell me three positive things about herself. In the end it became a game and she’d make me do it too.
2. Write things down
Its stressful remembering everything, and women in the home tend to be the ones who have to keep tabs on who is at the dentist, who has afterschool piano lessons, who is coming over for a sleepover, what equipment they need for the next school project, who needs a present for a friend’s birthday party etc.
Have a big calendar or wall planner where everyone can see it, and let everyone know they can add to it. Have a shopping list on the fridge, not only for when they use the last of something, but to make a note of something they really fancy eating or making. I spent time baking with my daughter when she was growing up and we’d pore through recipe books looking for the next thing we thought looked fun.
Make a big to do list, either for the family or just for you; get a nice notebook and coloured pens for it. Any excuse for a new notebook is a win for me.
In the long run it’s easier to share the load and it means you don’t have to keep all of those small details in your head.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s easy these days to be sucked into comparing yourself to other women, particularly if you spend any time on social media. Everyone appears to be living the perfect life and looking fabulous while they’re doing it. This can make you feel that you’re not good enough, or that others are smarter, prettier, cleverer.
Remember that people only show the best of themselves online; there is a whole other life offline that might not be as glamorous.
Instead, focus on yourself and what you have to offer. Make a list of 20 things that are great in your life, things you like about yourself, things you’ve achieved, the people you enjoy spending time with etc.
4. Stay connected
It’s all too easy to get bogged down with family and work commitments and not allocate anytime for yourself. Connection is about sharing, and feeling seen, valued and heard, especially outside of the workplace. With the technology we have at our fingertips it’s easy to find spaces to have those informal chitchats where you can talk about anything and everything that interests you.
Make a list of your interests and find online groups that are talking about those things; somewhere you can be yourself and talk about things that you’re passionate about with people who feel the same. Or join Twitter and do the same.
Reach out to people and talk to someone 121 everyday, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. It can be a work colleague, a friend or a close family member. Keep building your relationships; they are the most important thing, especially during lockdowns and pandemics.
5. Ask for help and support
No one can do it alone. Successful women know they need the support of family and friends, whatever their endeavours, and that’s especially true when it comes to being a working parent.
However, it seems we are unwilling to ask for help because we think it makes us look weak. Yet the opposite is true. Knowing where you need support and asking for help shows great strength. And people like helping others.
Think about when people have genuinely asked for your help, I’d imagine you’re only too pleased to be asked and offer whatever assistance you can. It’s the same for the people you ask. It not only empowers you but them as well, and makes them feel good about themselves.
It doesn’t have to be anything major and it can start either at home or in the workplace. Make a list of the people who are in your life who have helped you in the past. What sort of help did they provide? Was it practical like childcare support, or more like workplace advice from a colleague or mentor? Start to reach out, you’ll be surprised at how amazingly helpful people can be.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff
The image of perfection that we have of ourselves is a myth. Being a working parent is hard work and sometimes you’re going to make mistakes. You know what though? You’re not alone. Every working mother feels they aren’t good enough in some way or another and that voice of doubt will undermine your confidence.
Believe me, when your child is grown up neither of you will be able to remember the mistakes you thought you were making along the way. Instead they’ll recall the times you helped them set up forts in the living room, when they stayed up to watch a late film with you and made popcorn from scratch, or the fact that you always had something positive to say about the work they produced. Untidy bedrooms, occasionally unhealthy lunchboxes and un-ironed uniforms will be a thing of the past. In the end what’s important are the memories you’ve made and the relationship you’ve build with your children along the way.
7. Be yourself
We all have our own ways of doing things and for the most part there isn’t a right or wrong way to get organised and get ahead. You find what works for you, your family and your life and that’s what you go with.
As women we doubt ourselves and don’t recognise the skills and strengths we have. I’m a coach who supports women to become successful leaders; ultimately every day we are the leaders of our own lives. For me leadership is about staying true to yourself, owning who you are and not apologising for it, whether you’re at work or at home.
The next time you doubt yourself, don’t forget to acknowledge the hard work, skills and experience you have that are playing an intrinsic part in your life and your success. The challenging stuff you accomplish whether at home or in the workplace can help build inner confidence in your abilities.
If you want to find out more about tapping into your confidence, I have a free e-book that will give you five confidence techniques to get noticed and get ahead, all without losing your authenticity. Download it today:
Thanks so much to Jackie for this incredibly wise works, if you are looking for more articles for working parents, do check these out on the site.
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Take care, and we hope to see you around again.