2019 is an interesting time. Women have choices we’ve never had before – the choice to work; to have kids, to partner; to study; to change careers; to experiment… These choices are blessings. They open doors that our forbearers never had the opportunity to explore or even dream of.
My maternal grandmother’s words are often in my mind – ‘always ensure you make your own money, save some in a separate account as you just never know’, ‘sleep with him and try to live with him before you marry’ – words from a woman born in 1926. A different time. A different generation. A woman limited for choice. Her options predetermined and restricted. Had she been born 50 years later she would be in a completely different reality. A smart, beautiful and courageous woman she was stunted by her time.
Fast forward to me, her granddaughter – and I juggle like all of us do. I am repeatedly asked how I achieve as much as I do to which I always reply – capacity grows through experience. I am completing further study purely because I love it. It’s the one part of my life that I just get a kick out of being around smart people, expanding my brain and feeling a sense of open doors, growth and pure contribution. I don’t get paid for it, I don’t have to do it for my career or job prospects – I do it merely for the joy of it and yet it’s the first thing people suggest I drop when they hear about my juggle.
Capacity grows through experience
I’d like to challenge the misconception that whilst people may or may not be able to ‘have it all’ that that question is irrelevant. I think we should be asking whether people can have meaningful experiences, growth opportunities and fulfilment from whichever way they individually grow and expand. Remember – our capacity grows through experience and those experiences needn’t be limited to only good or only bad.
Before you ask yourself how you can fit it all in, first look at what is in your life and the value you place on it. A simple strategy I have always used is to ascertain if something gives me energy or takes energy away. Things that give me energy are those I keep. Things that take energy away – even at the mere thought of it – are those that I eliminate. Outsource whatever is not important to you (and doesn’t cause stress) and focus on what you enjoy doing as much as possible. I much prefer to pay someone to clean my house for me and reclaim that time to focus on things I love doing that nourish my soul.
Do what makes you happy to fuel other choices
I met with a patient the other week – a successful, smart, talented woman running an International company with offices in 5 countries, working in 5 time zones, managing staff, business growth, business retention etc. She is also married, the primary income earner of the family, has 3 kids under 10 and ailing parents. She tries to maintain her life juggle but had come to see me for a dose of balance and equanimity. Her stress levels were off the charts, she was sleep deprived and her health was clearly suffering. Our primary objective in the initial consultation was to ascertain what parts of her life she gained nourishment from and what parts of her life were draining her. There is no wand I could wave and no simple answer that would miraculously evolve her circumstances, but I could soothe and nourish areas as we began rebuilding her body.
My first question to her was what aspects of your life are you comfortable to outsource happily and what parts of your life are important to you? Luckily for her, she had the budget to expand into this inquiry with depth and opportunity. We established that she hated cooking, cleaning and doing the washing – easily outsourced examples. She loved coming home to her kids being fed and bathed and just wanted cuddle time with them to read stories and catch up on their days. She wanted family time on weekends with no interruptions and was able to carve out self-care time for one hour each day at 11 am for exercise or treatments. She loved walking her dogs at 5 am and agreed to a non-negotiable bedtime of 10:30 pm each night to ensure she slept for 6 hours minimum. I saw these as ‘wins’. Realistic, achievable and immediate wins she could implement before our second appointment. My goals for her were most importantly kindness and self-respect.
If you don’t love yourself, no one else will
The hardest thing I see women consistently perpetuate is self-loathing and guilt. The worst part is that women think other women judge them too.
Let’s get one thing straight – we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to stay buoyant and afloat. From my privileged position as a clinician, the reality is that most women are so caught up in their own negative self-talk they rarely have the space to have ill thoughts about another woman. No one has it all together. No one is perfect. Everyone is juggling just like you.
The ones that seem as though they are winning are those that focus on one key aspect – their self-love and self-care are non-negotiable. The more they eliminate toxic relationships from their lives and reclaim energy from prior toxic exchanges – the kinder they are to themselves and the more energy they have to channel into other areas. It’s that simple.
The gift of our children
If we actually looked at the nuts and bolts of it, most of us would probably not have children. Practically, they’re expensive, time-consuming and parenting is basically pure service. You give of yourself to support another’s journey with no gift of return. You do so willingly out of love, kindness, and generosity. You give the best of yourself to another human being (or beings) because some hormone called oxytocin drives you to. Logically it is nonsensical. Emotionally it is the greatest learning and growth you will ever experience. There is absolutely nothing you will ever do that will change you so completely if you allow it.
As someone that works in the fertility space, I am inspired and awestruck but the transformation of motherhood. Women are biochemically altered in ways that evoke deep spiritual awakenings. Dramatic changes are often abound espoused to the notion of ‘whatever the kids need, I will manifest.’ This deep driven state only requires a flood of that clever oxytocin which you can get a hit of just by thinking of your progeny.
What I ask mothers to do is to take the capacity of motherhood, the new-found lioness energy and channel it into the rest of their lives. Similarly, to the fierce and determined attitude one has in the protection and the wellbeing of their kids, mothers need to be determined in carving out time and space for themselves. The non-negotiable attitude of the best nutrition, the best exercise, the best routines, adequate sleep, adequate love/cuddles/fill in the blanks are exactly what women need to provide for themselves.
When you’re making the balanced lunch boxes for your kids with wholesome and nutritious food, ensure that there is a container filled for yourself. When you take your kids to yet another soccer match, ensure that you have your own exercise in the diary and place equal importance on its value.
Humanist, feminist and womanhood
Far from a misandrist, I see myself as a realistic-humanist. Men have strengths in key areas and so to do women. The feminist in me struggles with it at times, however, women (mothers) hold the equanimity of the home. They create, restore and evoke the energetic stability of the family unit. I’m all for co-parenting, co-partnership and sharing modern unions; however, the longer I bear witness to and experience it, the more I see with full clarity that it is the woman that can determine the balance and the energetic frequency of the home and its inhabitants. A woman who is nourished and is an example of self-care and self-love fosters these qualities in her children and creates a partnership that supports and encourages optimal self-worth. Women that nurture personal growth, cultivate the same in other inhabitants in their family.
The gift of being a woman is our capacity to grow and to change; to adapt and evolve; to maintain stability and nourishment for those around us. Perhaps as we expand as women in 2019, we recognize that there is equal importance in finally starting to nourish ourselves as much as we nourish others; to allow ourselves the opportunities for growth and expansion as we would allow our children. Perhaps it is time we acknowledged how unique we are as women and stand in our potential accepting and recognizing our capacity for what it truly is.