18 May Changing lanes
Two weeks into maternity leave – away from the office, offline from clients and deliverables. Since my last Teams call, we’ve welcomed a new little human to our tribe. A human that came from my body, after baking there for 39 weeks. It is an incredible privilege to be able to take time away from my day job to focus on my family, dedicated mom time and integrating our new baby into this world. Not one part of me takes this for granted, even for a second. I find this shift incredibly difficult though. I suspect that many of you will expect me to write about the nerves of bringing a new baby into the world and getting things ready for that, but really that’s not why it’s tough. Here’s why…
Our society and culture teaches us to ‘do’ rather than ‘be’, that ‘doing’ means our lives have purpose and we’re being productive. We are taught, most of the time completely subconsciously, that being busy, ticking things off our to-do lists and having something tangible to show as evidence of what we’ve achieved at the end of the day means we’re successful. This could be in the form of a colour coded calendar of scheduled meetings and commitments, time blocked out for client presentations and financial models, school drops offs, pick ups or volunteer hours for the community fundraiser. It’s all scheduled, planned out, full. This becomes our norm. We learn to thrive on this kind of daily routine, we learn to need it to feel fulfilled. We even come to rely on it, to the point that when we no longer have it, we feel a bit lost, out of sorts and purposeless. It’s easy to switch off, unplug and relax when we’re away from our normal day-to-day environments, visiting family or on holiday somewhere, but when we stay home, when everyone else’s routine stays the same and yours changes overnight – this is what I find so hard!
It’s hard for me because I have to literally retrain myself to physically and mentally slow down and change lanes completely – to let the meetings continue without me and be ok with having a coffee in the garden in the middle of the morning, without rushing back to my desk. There were moments in that first week when I had to actively force myself to do only one thing at a time. One morning I was listening to my audiobook and had to very intentionally stop myself from writing my grocery list, paying for my son’s soccer lessons and scrolling Pinterest for birthday party ideas for my daughter, all while listening to Chapter 2 of my audiobook!
You see, while we can be fully aware that busyness and multitasking are not actually what gives us purpose, our lives are still full and the juggle is very, very real. This comes in the fine print of being human, of having a family with young children, of investing in friendships, of building a career in the day and age in which we live. Living intentionally means that we are fully mindful of what fills our days and how we prioritize these activities around what matters to us most. I know this. We know this. What makes it hard is when a big chunk of that time is now dedicated to something that does not involve a spreadsheet or team call, it does not involve a deliverable emailed as a pdf attachment. It involves something far more precious than that – bringing a newborn into the world and making sure that she is safe and loved – but often through a routine that is repetitive, has no manual, often doesn’t work according to the schedule and quite honestly, rather grueling at times. For those of us used to having something to show for our efforts at the end of the day, this can be completely daunting, depressing even. We feel like we’ve not done anything with our day, we feel like we have had no purpose to the hours that pass in a blur.
So what does it take to actually enjoy these times? Here are some things I’m constantly reminding myself of (more than once a day!):
Firstly, stop feeling guilty! You do not have to feel guilty for napping at 9:30am when you know it’s the usual time for your weekly client check-in. You do not need to feel guilty when someone offers to make dinner for your family so you have an extra hour to feed your tiny human. You do not need to feel guilty for not organizing the painter, or not hosting people for tea to meet your new baby or not getting to your kids’ homework today. Stop feeling guilty about it all!
Secondly, ditch your to-do list. Nothing matters more right now than loving your family and letting them love you. Soak it up and let it overflow.
And lastly, remember this – your greatest contribution to this world, is not having the cleanest house, being the most organised mom, cooking the healthiest meals, leading the most effective team or closing that deal. It may just be the people you raise.