…Hear Me Roar Pass Out
In point number one in this series on balancing work and single motherhood, we spoke about the importance of understanding what your boss/institution/company needs from you. Then, in point number two, we discussed the importance of understanding what you need from your job – and communicating those needs to relevant parties. Realistically, there’s probably some compromise from both sides; but honestly, just doing these two steps has worked for me about 85% of the time.
And then there’s the other 15%…what can I say? I am a work in process…here’s what happened once upon a time…
I took a new role at a company thinking, “Of course I can do that role.” And I was right, I could – so I jumped right in and I was off to a stellar start. After all, I had flexibility – and that was my #1 “must-have” as a single mother. But eighteen months in, I ended up completely burnt out, kaput, drained of all sunshine and sparkle. I sat on my couch thinking, “Oh crap…what happened?” I mean I was able to take my daughter to school three times a week and pick her up once or twice a week like I wanted; on the nights when she was with her father, I got to see my friends and be social; my career was hot, hot, hot and I continued to be promoted every one to two years; and, most importantly, my daughter was doing so well! I made sure we had some kind of fun activity to do each evening followed by a healthy, home cooked meal. Oh, and then we had play dates at least twice a week. Plus I had signed up for adult art classes. And I had finally started to work out again. And I had done a great job staying in touch with out of town family and friends by having them stay with us or going to see them – which was also important to me. “Hmmm,“ I said to myself, “I haven’t left anything off of my checklist and I’ve done everything perfectly, so what could be wrong?” Well, as you may have guessed, the problem was I hadn’t left anything off my list and I had done all of it perfectly. Anything could be added to my list at any moment in time and I would just plow through it!
I had to learn the hard way that I got to have 24 hours each day, just like anybody else; lots of flexibility at work did not give me a 30 hour day. I hadn’t thought about my new job in the context of my role as a single mom in the context of my role as a friend, in the context of my role as a sister, in the context of… and I hadn’t cut anything I did out once I took my new job.
Putting all of my roles together painted a totally different picture of what was reasonable. So, I could in fact do that new job (stated again, in case my ego is still listening), but not in a sustainable fashion as a single mom who had no family nearby, who wanted to see her child in daylight hours, who wanted a healthy lifestyle, who didn’t want to ignore friends and family, who really did need to sleep at night, who… I just needed to stop trying to Supermom, Super-career-lady, Super-everything.
The words of another terrific boss and mentor came back to me: “Your mental capability is far greater than your physical capability. Be judicious in what you take on.” It hit home as I sat on my couch, on a medical leave due to stress.
My advice: stop trying to do everything you did exactly how you used to do it before you became a single mom (or before you became a mom). It’s not going to work (we can have an intervention with your ego if you want to). And that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. In fact, the faster you can come to terms with it, the happier you’ll be…which makes for higher quality mommy-service-delivery…which means success! Trust me, you don’t want to be kaput.
In Secret #4, we’ll talk about self-imposed guilt (argh!)….see you soon!