Most parents will agree it is a very real struggle balancing work and family life commitments, let alone self care and "me" time. A good leader will know that filling up your own cup first is essential for doing anything in life, well.
Being mindful you have enough time, energy and ability to attend to the needs, obligations and desires of yourself and others is challenging at the best of times. I find I can not do justice to one aspect without the other and the balance is always in flux. While my family relationships are my top priority I am also committed to a purposeful career pathway of growth.
I want my daughters to know they too can have successful careers but at the same time help them understand the challenges they will face as women who choose this lifestyle. When you're juggling all these roles it can be stressful especially if you hold yourself to high standards. At times you can find yourself exhausted, your health can suffer and you might feel like giving up entirely. To help women avoid burn out I have created a program that helps them navigate career and life with more awareness, wellness and ease. I wanted to share some of the key insights that have come from working with many successful women in leadership and my own struggle with maintaining that elusive work/life balance.
For a long time when my children were young I was a single mum and worked part time, during school hours and only a few times a week. During this time my main focus was raising the children. I have always been a hands on mum who really prioritised my kids before anything else, having four daughters tips the scales in their favour and leaves little time for much else and I learned early on to just surrender and accept that. My work was more of a hobby for a bit of pocket money and a new learning experience. I was lucky enough to have savings to help us get through my children's younger years with minimal financial support. I struggled with the guilt of wanting my own career and the lack of free time I had available day to day for a conventional job.
I used art and writing as a way to ensure some creative time for myself. It was healthy for me to pursue these hobbies that helped me express myself and they were fruitful. I eventually published my first book The Mindfulness Workbook and received my first pay cheque from Amazon which inspired me to continue to build on my coaching aspirations and passive income. Eventually I turned my passion for coaching and mindfulness into a real business but it was difficult maintaining growth early on when I could only do a small number of clients and had very few business skills apart from coaching. A business mentor showed me how to do a costing analysis and how to manage the financials and this was a turning point that gave me the know how and growth mindset to become a better money manager. Not to mention the necessary cash flow to fuel business growth.
I patiently persisted, returned to study to refresh and learn new skills and have gradually increased my knowledge and workload as the girls are getting older. Now, I have a supportive and loving partner which is a blessing for our family life and helps me balance my career not to mention someone to share the ups and downs that come with all this. At times the slow and steady pace of career growth has been frustrating when we live in a world of instant gratification. One of the great things about a steady approach to building a career is you get to set flexible hours and can work around the children's needs first and foremost, especially while they are still young. This semester I dropped my Uni subject knowing the workload was going to be higher and while I miss the study I am looking forward to next years subjects and feeling more adapted to the current work/life climate. The girls are still my first priority but I have less mother guilt about wanting to have a successful career too. With them all in school I have more time and have taken on workplace projects that give me on-going opportunity to serve larger communities and looking forward to creating more online opportunities in 2020.
Self-compassion is a valuable skill I learned in mindfulness training and it has taught me not to be too hard on myself when I make mistakes or struggle with it all. It actually gives me a way to find my balance and take care of myself when I am feeling overwhelmed. Women are natural born caregivers and we are constantly taking care of everyone else's needs but our own and it's a pattern that can become reactive and problematic. Sometimes we can feel the guilts when we make ourselves a priority or take time to do something important for ourselves. Self-compassion is a practice of being kinder to yourself during these times and it helps your body soften and rest. Often I will get it right and feel on top of my career and fulfilled in my relationships with my children and other times I'll be worn out, anxious and out of control and that's ok because life is journey and we're all here to learn and grow from the experience. We wouldn't need mindfulness and self-compassion if we didn't know what it was like not to experience it. Contrast is a valuable function of learning.
Having a daily mindfulness practice has certainly helped me manage the emotional rollercoaster of living with teenage girls and some days that's the most challenging part and business is easy street. When boundaries are being tested and taking care of my own needs and my relationships brings new challenges and I'm continuously learning not to react to new content. I remember a mindfulness teacher of mine asking what is the size of the cloth? Meaning how much are you willing to be aware of and accept in the tapestry of life. Mindfulness has also helped me be able to shift context when I leave the home and focus on the needs of my clients and vice versa at the end of the day. I notice when I have a lot going on and need to pull back and allow some space in my schedule to either catch up on sleep, have some downtime, do a detox, go to yoga, schedule an appointment for some support or head off on retreat and fill up my cup completely.
I try to do retreat once a year and found it beneficial for my whole life balance and as a reset. As I write this blog I look forward to an up and coming four day eco dharma retreat at camp Echuca next weekend where I will go inward and immerse myself in nature and the mindfulness teachings so I can return resourced for 2020. This is one of my yearly life balance strategies and I highly recommend it. Keep an eye out for my next blog where I will share with you insights from retreat. If you're in need of some skills and strategies to balance your career growth and family life don't hesitate to get in touch and make some space for yourself too.