We need this is our lives.
Are you stressed out trying to be the perfect worker, wife, mother and housekeeper? These roles are at once conflicting and impossibly hard to juggle: welcome to the “superwoman syndrome.”
The poor superwoman wannabe will think nothing of sacrificing her own self-care in a bid to perform all these tasks perfectly, completely stressing herself out in the process. Well, I say to hell with that ladies! It’s time to shake off the superwoman myth and outsource, where possible. Repeat after me: outsourcing is the answer!
If you’ve got street smarts and/or are a well-educated businesswoman, you will have most likely learnt to delegate in the corporate world; the same principle applies in your private life.
My high-flying CEO best friend of 20 years recently hired a housekeeper out of sheer necessity; she’s often too busy wheeling and dealing to make a healthy family dinner/dust/clean toilets. And why should she feel guilty about this?
Another good friend hired a nanny when she had her second baby; she needs important back-up to care for her toddler while her fly-in-fly-out husband is away each month for three weeks at a time.
So, instead of rushing through life in a semi-depressed state due to your impossible burdens; hire help if and when you have the means. This might even just be something as simple as outsourcing the bathroom cleaning once a month, as I have done with great relish, to save you both the time and the energy you can otherwise devote to running your business and/or playing in the park with your children or – God forbid – a yoga class, or an hour or two to yourself.
Instead of this impossible, unwinnable “I need to do it all” superwoman syndrome, you’re effectively making an important choice about your top priorities.
And it’s often a hard lesson to learn: you can’t be the perfect wife/mother/worker and housekeeper all at once, nor should you even try to do so.
Learning to say no to tasks you hate, resent and just plain don’t have time for is a good life skill. So, ladies – take off the Superwoman costume and keep it simple: pay more attention to your own well-being and less time on trying to please everyone else.
What do you think… Have you ever sought hired help and/or fallen prey to the superwoman syndrome?
Images via girlsjustwannahavefunds.com, vaishalipatelpsychotherapy.com
“For a very long time now I’ve been saying to young women: ‘You can have it all, but not all at the same time.’ How important it is to take very good care of yourself, of your mental and physical and spiritual wellbeing; it’s hard to do. It’s easier to be a workaholic than to have a truly balanced life.” – Former Governor-General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce.
Can women really have it all, or are we just setting ourselves up for failure in striving to do so? Is a work/life balance merely a fantasy, rather than something that actually exists? And, raise your hand, if – like me – you are exhausting yourself trying to be the perfect mother, wife and employee?
As Australia’s first female Governor-General, now retired from duty, Dame Quentin Bryce (pictured) was a great advocate – still is – for women and children’s rights. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for her and I think her comments on women struggling to “have it all” here are very wise and valid – especially for working mothers.
And Quentin should know – the amazing overachiever is reportedly a mother of five and grandmother of 11! Then there’s the fact that she’s enjoyed a long, rich and distinguished career as an academic, lawyer, community and human rights advocate and former vice-regal representative of Queensland and Australia.
If I had to give myself a grade for motherhood right now – I’d give myself a solid “B”. Some areas definitely need improvement, but overall my two-year-old and three-year-old toddlers know they’re loved and cherished and are very happy, smart and thriving children.
But when it comes to the endless juggling act of motherhood, work and relationships, I’d grade myself a “C–“. I’m struggling to keep all the balls in the air at once and oh, how I long for more time for myself! And I know I’m far from alone in feeling all this.
Women are charged with doing more than ever before; we still largely bear the brunt of both unpaid domestic labour and child rearing and many of us also have to juggle paid employment out of sheer economic necessity and our need/desire to enjoy fulfilling careers. So, how do we working mums be kinder to ourselves, and others – in the face of failure – in trying so hard to have it all?
Dr Karen Phillip (pictured), who’s one of Australia’s leading family therapists and parenting experts, and author of best-selling parenting book – Who Runs Your House – The Kids Or You, says for starters, her advice to young mums is that the “perfect parent” doesn’t exist and women should stop aspiring for this unattainable ideal. And as a mum to six children, which saw her raise three kids aged under four, Dr Phillip knows a thing or two about the giddy highs and lows of motherhood.
“The most important thing, when young mums who are struggling come in to see me, is that I simply remind them that there is no such thing as a perfect person, or a perfect parent. And if they try to be either one or both of those then they’ll feel a little let down because they don’t exist,” she says.
“Parenting is a balance; it’s a balance within our life and sometimes we become so involved in and focused on being that perfect parent and doing the best thing for our children, we actually start to neglect other important areas of our lives and our relationships.
“We neglect our foundations and our foundations is our coupleness, our relationship – even our relationships with our extended family and friends. They’re all part of our family community, but what we seem to do is we seem to negate those and step off our foundations and just go in to being a mum or a dad and things wobble under us and that’s when things fall down.
“And this is often when I see couples; their relationship, their ‘coupleness’ has fallen down because of the children. So, I reinvent their coupleness. We set a schedule of their time alone together, two days a week, it could be – and this is only after we’ve sat down and had a family meeting and the children are involved and made aware of it.
“Date nights are very important! If you’re partnered, go out on date nights. If you’re not partnered, go out on a divergent date night – go meet people. And for so many couples, they become mum and dad, and they forget they’re man and women, husband and wife.”
Feeling like you might lose your mind if you don’t get some time to yourself? Self-care is also vital, as a busy parent/mother/wife/lover/worker, Dr Phillip says. We all must simply stop and take some time out. “We can’t always get a day a week, it may just be one or two hours, but go to the beach, go for a jog, go to the gym; anything like that – even just sit at the hairdressers or go have a facial,” she says.
And when it comes to those hideous days we all have as a busy working mum, when you’re not performing at your best, Dr Phillip says chillax, sister. “It’s not failure; I really don’t believe in failure as a parent, unless of course you’re putting cigarette butts in their lunch,” she quips.
“If you’ve had a really bad day and there’s been stress or an argument with your partner and you’ve dismissed the child or whatever, as soon as you are able to pull yourself back in, and you’re able to recognise the behaviour you’re not happy with, you sit with the children and give them a cuddle, and you say to them: ‘You know what darling? I’m really sorry I didn’t spend time with you’, for example.
“You admit your error and you suck it up, so to speak. You tell them, so in other words: ‘I’m showing you that even your God-like parents [in their eyes] can make mistakes, admit to it, and make amends.’
“You make it up to them, and do better next time, and you tell your kids: ‘You know what? I’m doing the best I can and sometimes I might fall down on my knees, but I’m going to pull it together, stand back up again and keep walking forward’.”
As a busy working mum, you can also become so bogged down with the sheer enormity of the task of child-rearing, you can forget to enjoy your time with the amazingly unique, little people you’ve created. And so while it’s true that the first years of a child’s life are crucial in building their foundations and how they communicate, in our quest to be great parents, we mustn’t lose sight of the simple joy of playing with our kids, Dr Phillip says.
“In becoming parents, we’re so focused on doing it correctly, we often forget to play with our kids. And I don’t mean being friends with them, because that doesn’t really work, but it’s important to play with them, laugh with them and have fun,” she says. “If they do go and splash in their good shoes and socks in a puddle, rather than getting angry, go splash with them!
“Play with them, jump on the trampoline with them, run with them, chase them in the park! And that’s what I think – in our busy life, we’re missing enjoying our children and our family!”
Finally, a word of warning, fellow working mums – be very careful about seeking your answers to parenthood quandaries, questions and concerns via social media.
“A lot of this pressure on parents unfortunately comes from social media – it has escalated women’s concerns about attaining perfection,” Dr Phillip says, “there are so many blog sites out there, often written by women who’ve become a parent, who’ve gone: “Gee, I’m great at this, I’m going to tell everyone how terrific I am and how to do everything’.
“And I’ve read a lot of them and some of these blogs are downright wrong and dangerous. People mistakenly think: ‘Because it’s on the internet, it must be true.’
“It’s one thing to share a story, but it’s a different thing giving advice to people. We’ve gone away from sharing with our immediate loved ones and turned to the internet and most people are fairly judgemental. If you must stick to social media, only look at the more informative, more professional sites.”
With all the convenience and flexibility that a mobile office provides, this time of ultra-connectivity and a global business place can also mean that it’s almost impossible to create a clear separation between work and home.
Long gone are the days that people clocked off at 5pm and left their work at the office. Instead, we respond to emails as they arrive on our smart phones, catch up on work reading on the laptop or Skype with colleagues in other time zones – often late into the night. Stan Gordon, CEO of Franchised Food Company and international businessman offers his tips on how to find the all-important balance between work and home:
Spend just five minutes at the start of each day prioritising your tasks and save yourself valuable time throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, a simple ‘to do’ list is sufficient. Lists are great way to determine what needs to be achieved for the day, and will enable you to work more proactively rather than reactively, highlight the things that are urgent, and reassess the not-so-important tasks. Mark off tasks as you complete them… There’s something extremely satisfying about ticking off the boxes!
In any working day, there’ll be minor interruptions – that’s just life – but you can put methods into place to ensure you stay on top of your workload. Just like any business, sometimes there are bumps in the road, but it’s learning how to overcome these roadblocks that is key. Work out how you can handle these situations whilst keeping on track.
Don’t be afraid to delegate
Once you’re in the routine of prioritising your work, delegate certain tasks to others. Be realistic – you can’t do it all – believe me I’ve tried! By delegating tasks, your immediate workload will be reduced. And whilst your input may be required to oversee some tasks, your focus can be turned to the important projects that need your full attention – the real nitty gritty stuff.
Done well, delegation is a win-win. Your team will feel valued at the opportunity to take on new challenges, while you can move beyond the smaller details of your business, allowing it to grow. Step back from the smaller things and find balance within your projects. Take note of people’s strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly. Be aware of your own abilities (and sometimes inabilities) – don’t waste time on something you’re not good at, especially if there’s someone else who can do a better job! Remember you surround yourself with people for a reason. Give them the tools and freedom to excel; it’ll benefit you and your business in the long run.
Play by the rules
Set yourself some hard and fast rules about what time you’ll leave the office, and how you will use your portable devices when you are at home. Depending on your commitments and values, these rules will vary from person to person. The reality is that sometimes you might have to work late… Just don’t make it a habit. All work and no play isn’t good for anyone. Running a business can be stressful, and everyone needs down time to ensure you’re more productive when you’re actually at work.
Once your rules are set in place, commit to playing by them. If you can’t help yourself, put your phone in a drawer for an hour during dinner – or even better, turn it off. When you are at home, set a time to check your voicemail and reply to emails. Not only will you be more productive, you’ll also be able to focus on enjoying your family time. At the end of the day, they are the ones that count! Never forget, you need to have balance!
Just say no
In an ideal world, we would all love our business’ to grow quickly, our brands to get maximum exposure and our personal brands to be recognised in the right industry. It’s important to remember that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your business’s longevity is to say no to that additional project, that extra piece of work or another networking event. Be smart, assess your workload and ask yourself the question: is this really important? What are the benefits in the long run to me and my business, and what sacrifices will I have to make? It’s simple; do the pros outweigh the cons? If you’re already at capacity and struggling to keep that elusive work/life balance, then taking on another task is probably not the best idea.
Remember that sometimes, it’s perfectly ok to say no. If it’s a project you really want to be a part of, ask for help, shuffle your schedule around and delegate some of your work. Keep in mind that too much on your plate can mean important things fall by the wayside. As the saying goes, many troubles in this life stem from saying yes too quickly, and not saying no soon enough!
Learn to switch off
It’s a hard lesson to learn, but you don’t need to be contactable all the time. It’s ok to switch off every now and then. For me, Friday nights is family time. So, on a Friday night, I leave my phone in my bag – on silent! Voicemail was created for a reason, and if it’s that important, they will call back! Remember most of the time, everything can wait a while (unless you’re a doctor or fireman on call).
Most people don’t expect a response to an email they sent at 10pm on a Friday night, nor should they! Don’t fall into the trap of responding during out-of-office times, it only creates unrealistic expectations. I never answer calls after 9pm, as I said there’s not much that can’t wait for a while! Answer emails during business hours and set a precedent for everyone with which you interact. Be firm with yourself – you have the power to make these decisions – and stick to them!
Get a hobby
It might sound simplistic, but find yourself a hobby – have fun in your own time! Whether it’s playing golf, cooking, joining a special interest club, wining and dining or just spending quality with your family, set aside some ‘me’ time.
I love crazy, cool and fun ‘gimmicks’ and enjoy spending time adding to my collection of toys… anything from a novelty USB to a jet ski. If it’s different and fun – I want it – and am known in my household for driving everyone a little crazy! It’s also really important to me to always allocate down time to spend with my family. After all, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their support.
The benefits of having a hobby means that instead of spending time answering emails, you’ll find yourself focusing on bettering your golf score or branching out to try new things… or even looking for the latest gimmick! Give yourself the time to achieve something non-work related. It’ll benefit your business interactions come Monday morning, and anything that helps you ease into the working week is a plus!
Stan Gordon is the CEO of Franchised Food Company, the umbrella company encompassing the brands Cold Rock, Mr Whippy, Trampoline Gelato, Pretzel World and Nutshack. Ever thought about owning your own business? For info about owning your very own franchise visit http://www.ffco.com.au/buy-a-franchise.html
Feeling stressed is almost a fact of life these days. It’s something most of us deal with on a day-to-day basis and not only does it affect general health and wellbeing, it can affect work productivity as well. As a result, more of us are spending extra time in the office, putting in additional hours of work (often unpaid), when we could be spending more time doing the things we love! This only adds to our stress levels as our balance between work and personal life slowly slips away.
In a 2013 report by the Australian Psychological Society, around 75 per cent of Australian workers reported stress was having some kind of an impact in their lives. While Australians tend to rank highly in most other aspects of living, work/life balance is something we consistently put on the back burner. But if it’s something that seems so important to us, why do we allow this to be the case?
People often talk about finding ‘balance’ only after they have realised there is a strong disconnect between how they are spending their time and how they want to be spending it. There are some very telling signs when our life balance is out of whack and often these present in the form of injury and illness in the body or show up as a feeling of overwhelm or anxiety in the mind. The good news is, after recognising a disconnect, there are a few simple steps that can help get you on track to find a more rewarding work/life balance.
It’s OK to take a break
What are the consequences of leaving work at work vs. not? Ask yourself, if I work 100 hours every week for the next 50 years, what other things am I going to miss out on and how is my body going to handle that? We need to take responsibility and know when to nourish ourselves for sustainability. By increasing your workload and reducing time for the things you enjoy, what could you potentially be missing?
Physical activity increases the production of happy hormones, also known as as endorphins. It decreases the stress hormone, cortisol giving your mood a nice, natural boost. Movement – whether it be hitting the gym, a dance class or walking beside the ocean – can also act as a distraction from anxious thoughts as you give yourself an opportunity to focus on the activity rather than what might be causing you stress. Make time to find something you love and you will discover it helps to clear your mind and give fresh perspective towards managing stressful problems.
Meditation acts as a natural medicine that allows the immune system to build by slowing the production of cortisol. Regular meditators find they can easily return to a calm, relaxed state as stress begins to set in. Meditation is a practice, which takes effort. And like any skill we aim to learn, we must start as a beginner. Don’t expect to be an expert immediately and be gentle on yourself while practicing. Clearing your mind through meditation allows you to let go of both the past and your expectation of the future to stay engaged in your present moment.
Get adequate rest
Sleep is one of the most important natural stress reducers. Lack of sleep can cause an increase in the production of cortisol, which makes it more difficult to tackle daily life stressors. Without adequate sleep, we can easily become agitated and irritable, making stress levels soar. You can promote a better nights sleep by introducing bedtime routines that tell your brain when it’s time to fall asleep. Turning of all technology half an hour before bed, having a warm bath in the evening, or practicing meditation as you lie down can help.
It’s said laughter is the best medicine and for good reason! 98% of Australians agree that laughter can play a huge role in helping to reduce stress, partly due to the release of endorphins when we laugh. Not only does laughter stimulate circulation and muscle relaxation, in doing so it also reduces the production of cortisol. Even better, our muscles don’t know the difference between real laughter and when we are putting it on… so if all else fails, fake it ‘til you make it!
Becoming consumed with anything that takes all or too much time, energy and focus demonstrates an imbalance that can create major stress. These days there are a multitude of illnesses that can be associated back to stress including, anxiety, depression, hypertension, and panic attacks. It’s important to find a balance that works for you and introduce it into your daily routine, whether is be taking in a deep breath of fresh air, finding a new hobby, stepping outside with your shoes off from time to time or laughing with the people you love.
By Jaye Hoelscher, program manager at Golden Door Health Retreat & Spa, Elysia
Renowned for it’s life-changing philosophies of balancing mind, body and spirit, Jaye has been absorbing herself in the Golden Door way of life since 2009. She has discovered the key to managing her own work and personal life, and now she is helping guests of Golden Door get the balance back in their lives. For more information on Golden Door Health Retreat & Spa Elysia visit www.goldendoor.com.au