by Mary Jane Bogle
I’ll never forget my first jarring encounter with a teeter totter. One moment, I was rising high in the air, eyes closed, drinking in the fresh spring air. The next minute, the other kid decided to leave the teeter totter without telling me. Yes, I came crashing down—hard!
Most moms today find themselves in a similar position, trying to manage everything “home” and “career” with equal success. It’s a teetering balance few can pull off. More often than not, we fail to live up to our own and others’ expectations. And the crash is never pretty.
The answer to these pressures—both within and without—is to get really honest with yourself, identifying what success looks like in this season of life. According to Janell Lane, licensed mental health counselor and co-founder of Courageous Healing, Inc., “There really is no one size fits all. We each need to define what ‘having it all’ means for us.”
Of course, discovering that sweet spot doesn’t come overnight, and we can only achieve it with lots of grace. If you’re looking for some help managing that teeter totter of success, here are four tips to keep you balanced.
Tip 1: Be present, not perfect. Sometimes in our quest to do it all, we end up sacrificing the things that matter most.
“There are always going to be sacrifices,” said Lane. “What are you willing to give up?” For some families, that might mean unplugging devices or sacrificing activities so they can carve out uninterrupted time together. For others, it’s frozen dinners or takeout instead of home-cooked meals. Whatever you choose, find a plan that works and stick with it.
Tip 2: Define true success. “As a therapist,” said Lane, “I get to sit with people at the end of life. In those moments, everyone wishes they had more time with family, time traveling, or time pouring into others. No one says, ‘I wish I would have worked harder.’”
Defining what your success looks like can help you let go of some ambitions so you can pursue what brings the greatest fulfillment.
Tip 3: Heed the warning signs. Stress can build quickly if left unchecked. That’s why Lane recommends noticing increased irritability, angry outbursts or sleep changes, as well as changes in weight or appetite.
“I tell women to ask themselves multiple times a day, ‘What am I thinking, what am I feeling, what am I needing,’” said Lane. If you need to talk to someone, make the call. Or maybe you can trade naps for an earlier bedtime, carving out more time for you at night.
“Stop feeling that time for you is selfish,” said Lane. “The best version of you is better for everyone.”
Tip 4: Give yourself grace. In the age of COVID, more and more people join zoom calls with kids in the background. If society is willing to make room for families and recognize that work comes second sometimes, maybe you should, too.
Courageous Healing, courageoushealing.org