Never in your life, do you appreciate the value of sleep more than when you have a newborn baby. I haven’t had a straight night sleep for the last 14 weeks and I still wonder from time to time why I feel lethargic, unmotivated or why I can only see the glass half empty despite my normal positive outlook. The answer is so simple, I miss it every time: sleep! When you are recharged and rested, the world looks differently and what’s more you are able to make better decisions. There are millions of formulas to achieve more and better, but to improve your health and have success: get more sleep. Better still, really unwind prior to going to sleep by reading or perhaps lsitening to music and you will find that your sleep quality improves. It may seem that you are taking valuable hours out of your busy day, but instead you will improve your productivity immensely. Doing more is defintely not always better. Press that pause button, rest and see things with fresh eyes in the morning.
If -like me- you have a newborn to attend to then the only solution may be to go to bed a little earlier or simply catch some sleep whenever you can. If you have trouble sleeping, try stretching (yoga) or meditation before going to bed and play some relaxing music. Have some definite “switching off time” before you consider going to bed and make the place where you sleep a “a sanctuary”, a nice place away from clutter, work and commitments. People tend to show off about how little sleep they got to demonstrate how busy they are, but ultimately you will always be more productive, motivated and effective when you have had more sleep rather than less.
Have a look at the 4 minute talk of Arianna Huffington on www.ted.com which puts it in great perspective.
It was 1973 when my mother went back to work after bringing my sister and me into the world. She didn’t go back full-time. As a teacher she benefitted from the opportunity of being able to ease back into the system by standing in for others and working with children who needed extra assistance. At the time, she belonged to the 6% of mothers in Holland who had decided to go back to work. Unfortunately it took me becoming a working mother myself, to understand the enormity of her decision. Something that is almost considered totally normal in 2012, was in the early 70s a hot topic of conversation and most people were appalled at the idea of women working whilst their children were still young. My mum took the brunt of being called a bad mother and was accused of depriving others of work whilst she selfishly fulfilled her needs. This blog piece is all about the working mum and how to break the cycle of guilt.
The working mother issue is still widely debated today. Times have changed so dramatically that you are almost frowned upon now when you are not working. The issues of shall I/shan’t I and how to juggle family and work life and childcare costs with the never ending cycle of guilt, still remain. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t and it has pushed many women into a conundrum of wanting to be and do it all and with outstanding results in every area. Although we may have wonderful husbands and helpful partners, the juggling act of family versus work and the responsibility of sorting it, in addition to the tug of war between ambition and earth mothering, still largely is mum’s struggle.
I am 35 weeks pregnant and besides from sharing my body with a brand new life that’s no doubt bursting to come out, I am also –in myself- split in two. On the one hand there is the 3rd time mum who is ferociously making her nest, washing clothes, sorting out wardrobes, ordering baby stuff online and planning family life a whole summer ahead. The other person inside me is preparing for an exam (in 3 days time!), has just published her long awaited book, writes and coaches for a living and is planning a working life that could somehow be juggled with a newborn and 2 young boys. When you hear each of them speak, you could be mistaken they are 2 different people, but they are actually 2 different expressions of the same person.
In my coaching practice “guilt” is a regular visiting guest. I work and listen to working mums often who experience the same 2 expression and desires, but few seem to be able to marry them successfully. Guilt ends up ruling their world and after everyone in their lives –both personally and professionally- has been taken care of, they seem to miss out in the end, become run down, exhausted and generally wonder what the point is of it all.
I was interviewed not long ago about this very topic and it appeared that the stress and guilt felt by working women was so evident and real it threatened to destroy their happiness. Whether you have choice to work or not, it rarely seems to work out as an enjoyable experience. Somehow women end up in the lose-lose trap forever chasing their own tail and putting out day to day fires.
So are you up for breaking the cycle? It may seem inconceivable, but how about creating a working mum’s life that is both rewarding and fulfilling, one that fills you with energy? It can be done! Read tomorrow’s Blog piece for tips and advice and in the meantime, give yourself a well deserved pat on the back. Whatever your circumstances, don’t forget that being a mother is a very special job!