Your epitaph reads:
I wish I’d spent more time doing the housework
and looking after everyone else.
Yeah, right! Like that’s going to be your wish. So, has the 21st century really given us women what we want? Can we really be superwoman and ‘have it all’, or is it our time to find the balance in our lives and ask for what we want, rather than assume we have to be brilliant at everything? How do you take your foot off the pedal and slow down? We are all so busy ‘doing’ that it seems impossible to pause for even a second and actually think about what we really want.
So let me give you some tips on how you might find your sanity while the maelstrom of life continues around you.
Chores and housework
Let’s be honest, is your home really a wreck? Will the world stop if the kitchen floor doesn’t get washed this week? Will your children grow up to be dysfunctional adults if the bath isn’t scrubbed to a gleaming shine TODAY! I don’t think so. Don’t sweat the small stuff; life’s too short to be worrying about disinfectant! How about drawing up a rota for yourself (and everyone else in the household, by the way – housework is NOT your sole responsibility, despite what others may think.) Recognise that not everything has to be done every week.
What are the essentials that need regular attendance? What can wait? For another week, maybe longer? I clean my bathroom and kitchen weekly. The dusting gets done when it’s sunny and the light shows it up! The hoovering gets done when I get the sudden urge to do something physical! Does my home look a wreck? Of course it doesn’t. In fact, my friends always comment on how organised and tidy I am! Don’t beat yourself up; be real not a Stepford Wife!
So, you want to be a social butterfly, the party woman, the top of everyone’s invite list, the most popular ‘kid in class’. Really? Why? Sit down for a second – yes, I’m giving you permission to stop what you are doing and rest. Get a sheet of paper and write down the names of your really good friends – the people you would go to in a crisis, the people who think you are amazing whatever you are doing, the people you can rely on to love you unconditionally. How many are on that list? 5? 10? 15? More?
When we really think, our truest and most trusted friends will probably make up only a small list. Everyone else in our life is nice to have around but, actually, thay are just acquaintances. When was the last time these acquaintances got you out of a hole, gave you a shoulder to cry on, came round with a bottle of wine when you needed it, without having to be asked? Would it be a disaster if you didn’t see them regularly? No, it wouldn’t. Get your priorities in the right place. Work on the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your energy on the 20% of your real friends and let the other 80% of people see you when it’s right for you, not when it’s right for them.
Now, here’s a regular conundrum! Having spent the last 24 years working with women on their appearance, I know only too well how stressed women feel about looking fabulous every day. Well, let me tell you, you can look fabulous every single day with an absolute minimum amount of stress and heartache. How? Forget about comparing yourself to others, INSTANTLY! It will never work. What you look fabulous in will make another woman look ridiculous and what makes her look wonderful may make you look silly.
Know who you are and then live it. Get to know your body, your personality and your face and fall in love with all of them! If you don’t love them, you can’t expect anyone else to, frankly. Recognise that you are perfect just the way you are. I don’t care how old you are, what your budget is, what dress size you are; I know you are beautiful, make sure you know it too. Get to know what works for your body and shape and then only wear those types of clothes and styles. You will feel fabulous every day and ooze confidence and charisma, even when you’re dressed very casually, wearing no make-up! Trust me – I gave up worrying about what to wear 24 years ago and feel amazing every day!
One thing I say to companies I work with is “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 20 hours to ruin it.” The onset of social media has created a whole other gamut of potential worry and stress – as if life wasn’t busy enough, for goodness sake! Who’s great idea was Facebook and Twitter anyway?! We feel obliged to have a presence, to build our followers and friends. Good grief!
Ask yourself: What do I really want social media to do for me? Am I using it for social or business reasons? What do I want people to know about me? If I were to ask your closest friends to give me three words that described you as a person and the values you stood for in life, what would they say to me? Are those values being communicated by you to everyone who knows you via social media? Be really honest with yourself – what assumptions do you want people to make about you? And then be sure that your presence reflects that properly. I give myself 30 minutes a day to update social media where it is appropriate, sometimes it’s less time, it depends what I have to say. I enjoy it and have made some great contacts but I don’t let it run my life. At the end of the day, nothing beats face-to-face connection.
A question I ask myself regularly is “Why, in the 21st century, is there still only the phrase the ‘working mother’ and not the ‘working father’?” I know this may come as a shock to many men, but fatherhood does not begin and end at conception! Parenting is a dual role. Children will benefit far more from a balanced message from both parents rather than a good cop, bad cop scenario many parents automatically adopt.
Do you keep control of your parenting role? And would you fight to the death to retain it? If so, why? What are you afraid of if you relinquish that control for a minute or two? That the family will fall apart? Trust me, it won’t. If you don’t trust others to play their part, they will end up not trusting themselves and you will fall into the trap of a vicious circle of resentment, anger, exhaustion and stress. Know with every cell of your body that you will always be the best parent you can be, at any given time. If you get it wrong sometimes, great, that’s the only way we learn in life. Perfection does not exist. Love yourself for making mistakes, they make you a better person and ultimately a better parent. And children are a lot more resilient than most adults give them credit for. Involve them more, delegate!
Tips for coping generally
An analogy I give my clients is about flying. When you are strapped into your seat before take off, the cabin crew go through the safety procedures. They tell us that if the plane loses pressure, an oxygen mask will fall down from above our heads and that before we help anyone around us, we must first attach our own oxygen mask. Well, guess what? They say that for a reason.
If we don’t look after ourselves first we are in no fit state to help anyone else. What we then give of ourselves is less than 100% and given with an element of resentment that doesn’t serve you or other people. If you ensure you always look after yourself properly, making sure your energy levels are not only topped up but overflowing, then you are giving 100% to others and you give with love. That honours you and everyone else and is selfless living.
- The oxygen mask – make sure you are always overflowing with energy.
- No-one died due to a dirty kitchen floor!
- Your children love you even if you’re not ‘perfect’; in fact, they will probably love you more as you are giving them permission to make mistakes too.
- Your real friends love you and want to see you even if you do cancel 3 meet ups in a row.
- You look beautiful every day if you honour who you are as a woman and are proud of who you are.
- Facebook and Twitter are great but we all survived perfectly well before them!
At the end of the day, only love is real. The most important love is the love you have for yourself. Go into your bathroom right now. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how gorgeous, magnificent, beautiful and amazing you are and how much you love yourself – I dare you!