You can’t “have it all” if you insist on “doing it all”, yourself.

The merging of a career and family is not an easy transition. A common theme in my coaching sessions with professional women in this phase, is to explore their sense of feeling overwhelmed, overloaded, and fatigued especially upon their return to work.

On examining their circumstances, the real issue is best described by the women themselves in these words: “I am my own worst enemy – I can’t let go, I know I’m doing too much!”

Whether you are a perfectionist, OCD or a control freak, the D.I.Y approach doesn’t serve you long term. Choosing not to seek help from others, or resisting offers of help, simply increases the pressure on yourself. This pattern tends to start during maternity leave and is unsustainable when, on return to work, the amount on your plate doubles.

Here are some good habits to cultivate, so that you can focus your time and attention on the activities that count …

  1. If you have a domestic support system, USE IT!

In South Africa we are blessed beyond belief to have access to wonderful domestic helpers and nannies. Consider some of the basic domestic chores you may be insisting on doing, because it makes you feel like you are a ‘good mom’. Ask yourself: “Is this the BEST use of MY time when I get home from work, when I have so little time for myself, my husband and my baby?” If the answer is no, hand the job over, equipping your helper to handle it for you to meet your expectations. Don’t be washing bottles while your helper is washing your baby. That’s precious bonding time that you’re missing out on. Be present, delegate and don’t allow the tiredness at the end of the day overwhelm you into robot mode when you get home. Connecting with your baby and husband will be what re-energises you, not a sink full of soapy water and Milton!

  1. Share the load with your husband or partner. 

A colleague of mine said this the other day: “We are taught that a VERB is a DOING word: FATHER is as much a DOING word, as MOTHER!”  Your husband or partner is a key element of your support system. Accept his offers of help and invite his help as soon as the new baby arrives. Then let him find his way and build his confidence without criticism, even if it means biting your bottom lip until it bleeds! It is easy to nitpick when he doesn’t do things as perfectly as you would, and most men won’t because they just not geared that way to begin with, but you are creating a rod for your own back later, when you have considerably less time after work. With more mom’s becoming significant financial role players in the family ,with greater work responsibilities drawing them away from their families, there is even more need for Dads to lend a helping hand. It’s the perfect opportunity for Dads to be integral in the daily lives of their children when in days gone by they were, for the most part, disconnected physically and emotionally from their children. The ‘woman’s place’ was considered to be with the children and most men would come home, pour a drink and sit down in their chair to relax. With many of those stereotypes being blown out of the water, a lot of Dads are actually forming closer, more intimate relationships with their kids and are playing a more significant role in moulding and shaping their little ones, as they partake in their daily routines in a more active way.

  1. Accept offers of help from family and friends graciously

With the arrival of a new baby, we underestimate the interest and love of family and friends, who often demonstrate this with sincere offers of help. They want to feel involved and supportive in some way – it makes them feel good and useful. But the natural tendency for many women is to respond to these offers with a “no thanks, I’m fine”.  Why do we say this? We may genuinely be ‘fine’ but our refusal more often than not is because we don’t want to cause the person any trouble, or display any signs that we aren’t coping. It is also easier to say no when we haven’t thought about what help we may need. Consider having some ideas in mind of the kind of help you would appreciate, so that you can respond with something concrete, like a pre-cooked meal for your freezer, some child-minding or shopping. I am sure if you think about it, you can come up with a few practical ideas of your own.

In whatever life-phase we are, it is a sign of strength not weakness to be effective at delegating, to graciously accept help when it is offered, and to be vulnerable enough to ask for it. Being helpful is as much a gift to the giver as it is to the receiver.

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