Rather than a box of chocolates I see life as a juggling act. We have a number of balls we need to keep in the air. Some have more balls to juggle than others. Some smug bloggers/influencers make it look so easy and appear to be doing cartwheels while juggling too. But for most of us I think we’re self-taught jugglers, just trying not to drop the balls too often.
Obviously when we become parents we increase the challenge – some of them become balls of fire! Life can seem relentless. And a lot of the time it’s easy to think you’re pretty bad at juggling. But I think there’s a way to free yourself from the stress of juggling, and to actually enjoy the experience of being a working parent. This is how it goes…
First of all, stop comparing yourself to some bullshit standard you’ve built up in your mind. It could be your impossibly perfect Facebook friend who only ever posts the #blessed stuff that makes you want to vomit; or perhaps the impossibly high expectations you’ve subconsciously set for yourself because you didn’t get enough emotional validation as a child.
I’m definitely not intending to underplay the psychological significance of either of those motivators; they’re both incredibly powerful. But they’re also shades over your eyes that you need to cast off in order to see life more clearly. The key fact we all need to bear in mind is that we are already good enough. We’re all flawed too, sure, in so many ways, but that’s fine. Despite our many flaws, we are all good enough humans. Some people appear to be superior humans, but they’re still flawed too.
Which leads me to my next maxim…everyone is carrying around their own bag of shit, and you don’t know what’s in it, so be kind…kind to them, and to yourself. However impossibly perfect someone seems to be, they still beat themselves up for something. They still wish they were better at multi tasking / more patient / thinner / funnier / more daring / whatever. Literally no-one in the world has it completely nailed, so stop expecting that you should. Accept that you’ll do your best, and you will often fail, but then you’ll go again. It’s what humans do. And you, after all, are only human.
By the way, I find those people that shamelessly admit their faults and mistakes to be the most disarming and real people in the world. It’s far better to be liked for being the real you than for being the impossibly perfect model of a human that people aspire to. Who wants to live with that kind of pressure? That’s one ball you really don’t need to be juggling. Drop it.
Stop feeling guilty
Guilt. Such an unhealthy vice, yet one that we all seem to have to varying extents. Whether you enjoy flagellating yourself for working too much, for working too little, for missing too many school meetings, for missing sports practices, for not reading with your kids enough, or for a hundred other things, you really need to stop. Feeling guilty about our choices is a total waste of emotion. Rather than wallow in guilt, spend the time reflecting on how you’re prioritising and decide if you’re getting it right, or if something needs to change.
For me, this boils down to values, as do most things really. Once we have decided upon our values – what is really, really important to us – then we can judge whether we’re on track or if a change of direction is required. In the Social Media Mafia Academy’s Success Pathway we place a lot of stock on choosing your destination and then planning a route to get there. Your compass on that journey is your set of values. It guides you through your choices and decisions, and just like a compass it can never be wrong. Unless you have shitty values of course…
If you know what your values are, and you should, then you just need to bear them in mind when making your choices. If you value money above all else then you will choose to chase the dinero in some way. If you value family time most then you’ll choose accordingly. None of this is not rocket science of course, but it doesn’t often occur to us that we should use our values as our frame of reference.
So if you chose to put a few more hours in at work and skip that parents’ evening then there is a reason for it. You’re valuing something over something else. You can insert the variables as you please – the equation works across all values. The point is, you don’t need to feel guilty about it because your choice was based on a value you hold, and you just need to evaluate if that value is a good one or a shitty one. I’m not here to judge, you’ve got your own bag of shit after all, just as I do. I just want you to know that you can change your values if you want to, and in fact you should if you want to get a little bit closer to nailing it as a working parent. All those shitty values are other balls you can stop juggling too.
Set your values
A key principle of values is that they must be within your control, and not dependent on someone or something else. For instance a value such as ‘being admired by my friends for being cool under pressure’ is not a good value. You can’t control what other people think of you, and in fact it’s none of your business and totally irrelevant to you. However ‘taking a patient, balanced view on issues’ is a fair value because you can control that. You can use it as a way to guide your behaviour.
So to almost nail it as a working parent you need to consider your values, scrutinise them and hone them, and certainly write them down and remind yourself of them. Those values will actually become extra hands for your juggling act. As you realise that your choices are being handled by those safe hands then the juggling becomes so much easier, and in fact you even get to enjoy it. You may even be able to take your eyes off the balls you’re juggling for a moment to look around and appreciate just how good you really are.
The Social Media Mafia Success Pathway has everything you will need to become an expert juggler, lion tamer and clown. Knife throwing is extra.