“There is so much out there now about women’s rights and so many women turning their backs on their families to do what they want, it’s so selfish. I can’t stand it!”
No, that’s not a quote from the mid 1960’s. I met up with an old friend earlier in the summer — one of my best friends ever — and when I asked her if she had read any of the articles on my website, I was shocked to hear that she had this opinion about what she thought I was writing about.
Many women – and many more men – do feel that a woman’s sole focus should be on taking care of the children and the family; but I have a feeling that in this case, “the lady doth protest too much”.
- When you consider taking the time to just think about starting a business, do you feel guilty? Do you feel like you are turning your back on your other obligations; whether it be your family, friends or current job?
- Do you use these feelings as justification to keep the status quo, perhaps because you are afraid of going for your own dreams?
In the safety talk before every flight they tell you to “secure your own oxygen mask before you assist those around you”.
It may be a mother’s instinct to help her child first, but if she passes out due to lack of oxygen, who can she help then?
This is the same in your every day life.
- If you have no energy or are physically unwell because you aren’t eating right or getting regular exercise, you will not be in the best position to take care of your family — and you are not being the best role model for your children either, especially if you have a daughter. Many women ignore their health so completely that they are at danger of developing life threatening diseases or debilitating conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, etc.
- If you come home drained from your 9-5 job that you hate, it will be a bigger challenge to be patient and helpful when your family needs it. Do you snap at your children when they spill a drink? Are you shouting all the time? We are more frustrated and less able to deal with these issues if we are not thinking clearly either from being over burdened, tired or unhappy.
- You encourage your children to be the best that they can be, how can they be if you are not doing the same for yourself?
- If your life is not full of joy from doing something that you have a real passion to do, your family is losing out as much as you are. Maybe you don’t think that you can have this kind of joy or don’t deserve it, but every person can and should seek this kind of joy every day.
These issues aren’t just for mothers. Many women are expected to allow their partners’ careers and goals to come first — and there are also those that are now caretakers for elderly parents or other relatives that need ongoing care. In fact, many women in the workplace are expected to, or automatically slot into, the role of caregiver amongst her co-workers and often miss out on career advancement because of this.
Your children, your partner, other family members and friends will ultimately benefit from witnessing the transition in you as you work toward your goals and will share in the joy and other benefits you will gain.
I am not saying that you can’t be completely fulfilled by putting your entire focus on the needs of your family over yourself. That may be the thing that you are most passionate about. Just be sure that it is really what you want and not a way of thinking that you’ve just ‘become comfortable with’ or and excuse to not go for your real dreams because you are afraid.
Also be aware that this may be something you need to do now because of a specific situation (having a baby, caring for a very sick relative, working on a project that requires an extra amount of focus like building a new house, etc.), but that in time you will be able to focus on your own needs and goals more. Regardless of the amount of current (or even serious) responsibilities you do have, you should always make some time for yourself.
I was in that place a few years ago and didn’t even realise how much I was holding myself — and my family — back through such limiting thoughts. Though I did have my own business, it would always come behind what everyone else around me needed. I had three small children that did require a lot of my time and was juggling work and home responsibilities; but my health and happiness was low on the priority list. I often skipped breakfast because I was so busy getting kids and hubby fed and off to school and work. I felt guilty if I took time to go to an exercise class, so often missed classes to do things around the house. I stayed up late at night finishing web design work that I didn’t get to earlier in the day. I always put this down to bad time management on my part, which plunged me into more negative thinking, but it was more than that.
Then, a few things fell into place that made me realize that these ‘sacrifices’ for the family were not really helping the family and that it benefits the family more when ALL members of the family are true to themselves and that each member is encouraged and assisted in reaching our own goals as well as the joint goals as a family. It became clearer for me to see what I was doing and change my thinking as the children got older, as I pushed through the guilt and got involved in projects that were more rewarding for me and began to see the benefit that it had for the entire family.
My 6 Secrets for Getting Time for My Business Without Turning My Back on My Family
- Set aside a specific time each day for yourself. Years ago, I started getting up before the kids so I could finish up work, but now I use that time for myself. I do some exercise, prepare a healthy breakfast and organize what I need for a healthy lunch if I am going to be out of the house. I also fix healthy meals for the family at this time. I know some women that head off after the evening meal for a walk or to do a class that is specifically for themselves. Find that time that suits you best and stick with it.
- Make your own health – mental health as well as physical health – a priority. In the past few months, I’ve put a real focus on my own health to ensure that I will be physically able to attain the goals I have for myself and those we have as a family. I am seeing a nutritional therapist who has really helped me get on top of some issues that have been bothering me for years and I’ve lost weight, have a lot more energy and a much more positive feeling about myself and life overall. My family are benefiting from my new knowledge on nutrition as well.
- Give up perfectionism. I still keep a high standard in my work, but now determine the highest required and achievable standard instead of some unattainable level of perfection that is actual time and resource wasting and often demoralizing. I also have given up trying to have a ‘show home’ – or actually have given up the guilt of not having a perfectly clean and organised home – and just love my home as it is. This is better use of time and lets you give more energy to the things that need it.
- Delegate. My children have specific jobs that they do around the house. Beside helping me get things done, it teaches them responsibility and shows them what it takes to have what you want — and keeps them busy. The one amazing by product from this is that we all feel that it is our home and share responsibility; rather than it being ‘my kitchen’ and everything has to be done my way, it’s ‘our kitchen’ and everyone has input into how we do things. At work you need to delegate jobs and responsibility without feeling that you are giving up some of your value. It’s actually empowering to delegate as you are using your power to give up something that you no longer have to have a hold on.
- Quit or cut back on irrelevant activities. I gave up all the volunteer work I was doing that wasn’t directly benefiting my family or business. At first I thought belonging to a local community group or PTA would be fulfilling and benefit the family, but very often with committees and other groups like this you don’t get as much out of it as you put it, so choose your activities with care. This is also the case for doing favours for others. If it doesn’t fit in with what you need, just say NO!
- Discuss the process. Talk to your partner and your children openly about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how it makes you feel — and listen to how they feel about it. Very often we have conflicts when a change is made because we are not being open about it. If you have these conversations ahead of time you will have a better understanding of how everyone feels about potential changes and how it will impact everyone. I wasn’t good about this at the beginning, maybe because I wasn’t sure what result the changes may have or that I couldn’t go back if I changed my mind; but being open is the best way to keep moving forward and seeing the benefits for all involved.
Some of these things weren’t easy at first, but once I realized that it was my own negative thoughts that were holding me back, it all becomes more natural — just an integral part of family life and not anything that’s causing you to ‘turn your back’ on your family.