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Having it all? It’s more about letting go than gaining control

I’m so happy to be back at my desk finally after almost 3 weeks off crook (and no, it wasn’t some experiment in lean thinking to see if I could save eliminate  “white space” by contracting every bug and cold and flu on offer in New South Wales, all at once… although having accomplished that I hope to now have a clear run through winter!) 

Put simply, it’s been chaos around here.  Over the past couple of months, apart from being crook (or as a precursor to being crook!), I’ve been project managing a major transaction; travelling a lot; settling my son into a new day care centre; launching a new campaign to make childcare more accessible to others; grieving the loss of my beautiful beagle Millie and learning all over the challenges of toilet training a new puppy; and that leaves approximately 4.37 minutes per day to devote to domestic duties…

So I had to laugh when I read this question from Lara on LinkedIn this morning: What are your top tips to “do it all”? (“it” being defined by Lara as the “family/hubby/career/neat and tidy home” combo)

The first thing I would say, Lara, is that I defy anyone to have complete calm and order in all four of these elements at any point in time.  I personally don’t know anyone who falls into the category of having them all sorted.  Or who cares too much that they don’t.  If you do happen to find the holy grail on this, don’t bother sending me an update – I’ll be too busy to read it! 

But for what it’s worth, I think it’s worth sharing some tips on this lest we all feel hopeless for not winning the Superwoman of the Year award (again!) this year!

So here’s my thoughts:

1.    Family always comes first. It has to.  No one other than family would put up with us when we’re busy and tired and crabby – so we have to get plenty of Brownie points up our sleeves for those times!  And of course it’s important to look after our families.  But family coming first doesn’t mean that you put yourself last.  There has to be a way to keep everyone’s needs in sight, and for me that’s about giving others (read: my husband) permission to be equally involved in both the decision making and implementation of family priorities. 

2.    Hubby.  Well, I’m lucky here.  My husband is my rock, and I don’t tell him often enough that I’m his number one fan (though I know that he is mine)  But practice makes perfect – my first marriage was a complete and utter failure so you’d hope it would be better the second time around!  I’m glad that we have a practical relationship, that we understand the cycle that one is up when the other is down, and that we give each other the space we need to be our selves and the support we need to achieve our goals. But it doesn’t always just happen: it’s a constant and ongoing focus to keep things on track.

3.    Career… well, the first thing I would say about this is that women beat themselves up far too much about their careers. My experience is that there’s a lot more “give” in our careers than we believe is possible.  And I’ve also seen first hand in my 16 year corporate career that men face just as many career challenges as women. OK they don’t take maternity leave, but they have other challenges like the need to keep working in soulless jobs that they hate if they are the only breadwinner (at least until they find another one).  In many cases, they just don’t have as much outlet to express it as women do.  I admit that I’m not currently an employee, and that it’s a different dynamic being a supplier… but don’t think having your own business makes it easy.  But all of us have the power to take control of our careers and make them work for us.  It’s a matter of deciding what you want, what’s important, and then… just do it!!

4. Neat and tidy home? For our city patch I get a gardener to mow the nature strip so it looks fairly orderly from the outside, but let me tell you it’s a different story behind the front gate!!  I’m afraid I’m never going to be a domestic goddess, there’s too many other things that are more important to me. But clean is important to me – and almost enough for me.  So I get a cleaner through the house once a week (and yes, she moves the objects around enough to vacuum and clean under them!) and if it gets a bit messy in between… oh well, it happens.

I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for Lara, but it’s my reality.  You should do what feels good for you.  I will offer one piece of advice though: when it feels like it’s all getting to be too much, that you’re juggling so many things you can’t possibly be doing a good job of any of them, sometimes the best thing to do – at least temporarily – is to do nothing at all until the dust has settled and you can think clearly about what really matters and what to focus on next.

Your thoughts? Ideas? Tips for Lara?  I’d love to hear what you think…


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