Being a working parent can look like….
….accepting your limitations, grieving what you can’t do and finding the most beautiful path through the chaos.
I don’t want to lie to you. Being a working parent borders on the impossible for most people! There is the constant nagging guilt that you are falling short somewhere, whether it’s in having the glittering career you thought would be yours by now or enjoying time with your children. For me at least, there is a painful gap between where I think I should be, and where I am. Managing the essentials of life like staying fit, seeing friends, having less than an inch of leg hair, keeping the house clean can leave me feeling like the picture below!
For this reason I don’t want to offer you a post about how to eke out a drop more of efficiency from your already mind bending schedule! If you are surviving at all as a working parent you probably have fantastic organisational skills. It only takes a glance at the eyes of most parents, in the park or at the supermarket, to see hollow looks of exhaustion or wild eyed desperation. Efficiency hacking can look like an escape hatch but it rarely is.
What we need are better career paths…
…ones which accommodate the human need to care well for our children. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as parents, could have dignified part time work which offered a living wage. This would mean that, without having to constantly compromise our physical and emotional health, we could be there for our children in the long term: Non-stressed parents who could raise the next generation of adults to be resilient and well. Given that I can’t create this utopia, what should we do?
My experience as a solo, working mum has been that the very best I can do is keep things precariously balanced like a lady on a highwire (apt given my career as a circus acrobat). There have been times when I glide fairly effortlessly along: When I’ve mastered whatever developmental stage my son is in, work is fine, I’m learning, growing, socialising – great. However all it takes is for an extra task or challenge to come along, I lose my metaphorical footing and survival becomes key!
Right now I’m a little burnt out..
Sometimes the right question to ask might be, “what is core to the wellbeing of myself and those around me?’. You might find that the answer to this question is, “me at my best, or at least, me not exhausted and depleted”. Pay attention to the thing you are needing and longing for. In my case, the answer right now, is rest. Without it I can’t be efficient, creative or kind.
You are a valuable resource…
…compassionately let yourself know this. Big life changes might not be available but small acts of self compassion might be. These could be, leaving the floor unswept so you can lie down for twenty minutes, asking a friend to have your child so that you can have a massage, giving attention to your life goals and dreams, decluttering. Be easy on yourself and ask for more support than you think you need.