When we lived in Iso, I had a front row view of how my husband juggled work, home and parenting and it was a revelation. I would often resent how “carefree” he seemed to be but in actual fact, he had as many balls — albeit slightly different ones — to juggle, but it was just how he chose to tackle them that made the difference. Whereas he was quite happy to focus on one task at a time, and set the bar at a realistic height as far as parenting, housework and the like goes, I was a one-woman show that was quickly turning into a circus.
There were days where instead of just trying to get through the day, I would end up throwing something in the mix that would make it infinitely harder. Whether it was trying to cook a ridiculously time-consuming dish for dinner, embarking on a complicated art project with my boys during a busy time or trying desperately to keep the house tidy when I had two toddlers who had other ideas.
When my husband would ask me what he could do, instead of taking him up on the offer and having him remove something off my own overflowing plate, I’d end up just adding it to my list, simply because he wouldn’t or couldn’t do it within the time frame I expected.
The harsh reality was, that I had in fact, become my own worst enemy.
The harsh reality was, that I had in fact, become my own worst enemy. My inability to let go and relax my standards, meant that I was in a situation where I was trying to do absolutely everything. I had set the bar so impossibly high that it was really no surprise that I would commonly end the day feeling frazzled.
It was after one particular outburst after a stressful day that my husband gently suggested that perhaps, I didn’t need to be doing all the things I had told myself I should be doing. As I looked around at the mess made after an attempt at a gourmet meal that my kids had rejected in favour of avocado toast and wondered why I had set about trying to re-organise a perfectly fine pantry when I didn’t have time and as a result had left it in a half-finished mess, I realised he had a point.
So, I tried to take a leaf out of my husband’s book. I set about trying to loosen the reins a bit and not feel the need to take on so much, or do so many things at the same time. And also to devote my attention to the things that actually needed it. Meeting a deadline? Yes. Re-ordering the linen cupboard? Maybe another time.
I set about trying to loosen the reins a bit and not feel the need to take on so much, or do so many things at the same time.
At first, I found it hard to do. There were niggling voices in my head telling me I should be doing this and I should be doing that. I’d be in the middle of a task and my to-do list would be buzzing through my head and I kept thinking I should be trying to multitask and tick off a few of those things.
Gradually however, I learned that sometimes, it’s okay for me not to tackle a chore if it meant I was sacrificing time that could go towards a task that genuinely required my attention. Through this process I learned how to start recognising things that should be prioritised because our household or my business actually needed it to function, versus trying to meet a standard that I’d chosen to put on myself that life had to look a certain way. And the end result? Everything still functioned as it should.
The kids were fine with me not trying to MasterChef it up at dinnertime, our house was still a place we loved being in (albeit slightly messier) and I was able to properly focus on work when I had to.
It’s undoubtedly hard trying to do the juggle, but I also realised that I was unnecessarily making it harder for myself because I felt pressure to live up to an impossible ideal. I was trying to live up to how I thought a wife, mum and career woman should look.
It was when I stopped and actually looked around me that I realised that while things might not be perfect, I had in fact ticked all those boxes. I had happy and healthy family, a home that I Ioved, and I was able to do work that I found challenging and satisfying on a day to day basis. Life will always involve a lot of juggling, but I now know it’s entirely up to me to do it in a way that’s manageable and achievable. I’ll leave the circus to someone else.