Overwhelm and the working mom:
Overwhelm isn't just something we struggle with on a personal level; for women, it really is a systemic issue. What I mean by this is that before it can be resolved it needs to be examined as a central problem before we can break it down and try to solve it in a series of small steps. With so many dimensions, it seems too exhausting to attempt a solution, and so it continues.
A few of the challenges:
- We seek more flexibility at work so that we can have more time at home: But what if the boss says no? What if it hinders our ability to advance in the workplace? What if...
- We have a second shift once we leave work: tending to the family needs; running the kids to sporting events; getting the laundry and food shopping done.
- We have a third shift: the one you can't see in action, but absolutely exists. This shift is at work for every mom who is balancing the issues of work and family. This is the thinking shift, where dinner plans, doctor appointments, parent-teacher conferences, family get togethers, the rescheduling when meetings come up--the third shift is where all of these tasks reside. Our minds have a lot to keep track of every day in order to keep the family running.
How can we make it easier on ourselves?
There isn't an easy answer to this question as it is so multi-faceted in nature, and delivers us right back to the original issue of a systemic problem. Women and men both work, families continue to "function" in this manner, but if there is one thing I have learned from experience, there are three places to start in the journey of reducing overwhelm:
- Communication can't be discounted: If you're married or in a relationship, start communicating your needs, but with clarity in mind. A significant other doesn't realize what you need, or see all that you do sometimes, unless you communicate it. Lay out a schedule of your day without making it a game of comparison--because this only breeds resentment. Then ask for what you want taken off your plate if you feel the playing field isn't level in your home in terms of duties. You might be surprised.
- Ask for what you need at work: Your boss needs communication, too. Proposing a more flexible schedule is more effective when done from the perspective of how it benefits your workplace. Show your value, propose a change that maximizes your efficiency for the organization, and then display your gratitude.
- Re-set your schedule: Take a good hard look at your daily routine and create a schedule that leaves time for unplanned meetings (who is the back-up for the kids?); schedule in some early morning time for quiet reflection during which you plan your day ahead and see it working, rather than allowing the frazzled notion of "how am I going to do this?" to grow and fester in your mind; organize a system on the wall for your family activities in a place where everyone has access to it, and hold them accountable for adding in items that need to be done, events that need RSVPs and doctor's visits that need attending to. This also helps accomplish the first tip.
And in the meantime, take time to take care of you. Find out more about adding some natural pampering to your daily routine because this is one area in which we can help: