When I feel like a failure as a working mom, here is what I remember

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Some days I feel like I have it all together.  And some days – as a working mom – I feel like I’m a failure as an employee, as a mom and as a person.

I debated for a while whether to post today – I let a few things really get to me, and because of that, it was not one of my best days – but I think it’s important to be honest, so here I am.

I had a sick kid today and a full day of work that I needed to get done and limited time off to spare.  My solution was to take my sick kid into work – not the best for the kid, my co-workers or myself.  But when you’re trying to make it all work, sometimes you come up with crazy solutions (that maybe don’t always make sense!).  The end result ended up being fine and I was able to best help my kid and get my daily work done, but it wouldn’t have happened if I’d been left up to my own solution (which, let me repeat, was not a good solution).

You can’t do it all by yourself.  Believe me, I’ve tried again and again.  And I’ve failed again and again.  I can do a lot of things.  I’m proud of my successes and confident in my ability.  And I know that as I continue to learn, I continue to grow.  Here’s the important lessons I was reminded of today:

Remember, you have others to help you. Let them be kind.

I never ask for help.  I hate asking for help.  I want to be able to do all things and do all things perfectly.  And I know that isn’t realistically possible for any human to accomplish – much less to try to maintain on a regular basis.  But I still want those things, badly.  So when I need help – really need it – I have to mentally psych myself up to ask someone to help me.

And guess what, when I ask others for help it’s usually no big deal to that person and I’m better off for having involved them, letting them help me, and building a new part of our relationship.  Ask for help when you need it.  Ask for help more often.

And if you’re having a hard time asking for help (like me), accept the help when it is freely given to you.  In an important conversation today, I was offered help.  And even with the 1000 things running through my mind – my response was, “Thank you for helping me, I appreciate it.”

Figure out what works for your energy or emotional release. And do that thing.

When I’m starting to feel my stress build to the point that I’m not sure I can take it, I try to find something to help exhaust me.  Now, I’m not talking about mental exhaustion – I’m usually already there by this point! I’ve found what helps me calm down is something that can take my mind off of my stress, release all of the extra (stress) energy that I’m internalizing, and something that is good for me.  I usually will exercise – and it seems to work.  Today, I went to the gym after work and focused on the workout. About 15 minutes in, I decided to add some extra weights during my weightlifting class and by the end of the routine – I was exhausted and REFRESHED – because I was thinking about the exercise and not my stress.

Keeping the stress with you is only going to do damage to you.  Get it out in a healthy way that actually eliminates the exhaustion – it could be talking to someone, it could be running, it could be getting enough sleep.  Find what works for you and make it a priority to make it happen.

Tackle things in small pieces. Remember small progress is still progress.

I often wake up in the middle of the night when I’m stressed and think about all of the problems of the world. I need to fix everything and I’m too sleepy and disoriented for anything to make sense, so I spin my wheels and make no progress.  I’ve started forcing myself to write down the real things that I’ve developed and send them to myself in email.  Then I do something else until I can go back to sleep (so I don’t think about everything that has ever existed in the world that I need to fix).

When I wake up and I’m thinking clearly, I look at my email and am able to write down my “real” tasks so I can make progress today.  Then I focus only on what I can accomplish today or what I planning I need to accomplish so I can make tiny progress tomorrow.   When I think about the here-and-now, I realize that I’m making progress and it’s making a big difference over time.

There are many times where I have to tell my kids “No” because of something related to work or not take a work-related opportunity because of what it means for my kids.  I realize it’s the balance that will always exist in my life and I’m comfortable with my decisions and my progress. I know they’ll be good days, challenging days and important days in the future.  I’m working to make sure that my days are purposeful and that I make a difference with what I can do.

I’ve learned is purposeful positive thinking makes an enormous difference in my life, and I think it will benefit you as well.  When I’m feeling like a failure as a working mom, I remind myself of the power of purposeful positive thinking, because it works. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do it all,” I remember,  “I’m doing the best I can and my best is enough.”  Switching my thinking is a valuable reminder that gives me strength in challenging situations and makes me continue to do the best I can – to be the best mom, the best employee and the best person. 

I think that’s all I can ever really hope for.  And I’m happy with that. Because my best is enough.

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18 thoughts of encouragement for 2018

File Jan 05, 4 00 52 PMA friend of mine shared thoughts recently that to build courage in others, we should be more focused on encouragement.  It was the right message at the right time for me.  Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I theme my years (and I’ve been doing it since 2003), and focus on improving my life in a key area for the whole year.

I’d been struggling with what to have as my focus for 2018, too much on my mind and the thoughts running through my head, “Does anyone really need my help? What do I have to offer?”

And then I’m reminded that each of us has unique talents and gifts.  My strengths include organization and communication – and I love sharing what I’ve learned with you.  I know it’s helpful to be reminded what you do well and get tips for making improvements.

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Don’t Wait Until You Are Ready. Start Today.

I heard advice recently that you shouldn’t wait until you are ready.  Because if you wait until you’re completely ready, you’ll probably never do anything.  It made me remember how important it is to take risks, to make progress every day, and to purposefully spend time developing your next step.  I know I need to practice this even more than I currently do and I encourage you to do the same.  Start something now, even before you think you’re ready.

Start when the idea is just an idea.

I spend many of my days in brainstorming mode.  And I come up with some crazy ideas.  Some are crazy good and some are crazy terrible.  But all of them are worth their time and discovery.  Staying in full-thinking brainstorming mode forces me to create and develop tons of ideas and helps me move forward before I’m entirely sure of the end result.

I encourage you to spend a regular amount of time each week thinking up new, crazy ideas. In fact, I want you to schedule that time – it could be your workout time, it could be in the shower, it could be at 4am (when I unintentionally do some of my best brainstorming). You’ll start to notice that you look forward to that time and can think more clearly and purposefully with your big ideas.

Start when the idea scares you.

Recently, a friend applied for a promotion at his current job.  His response when asked, “Well, they’ll either hire me or hire someone better than me.”  I was impressed with this thought process and wondered how ready he’d felt when he applied.  I’d bet he felt mostly ready to take on a new position like this.  If you wait until you’re completely ready, you’re already too late.  Too late for the job, the experience, the chance.

I encourage you to move forward when you feel about half-way ready.  You should feel a little scared-excited with what you’re planning to do.  Once you’ve figured out this scary step, be purposeful with your time and effort to help make this step happen.  You’ll start to notice that scared-excited begins to look more and more exciting when you really make progress.  And soon you’ll be right where you want to be.

Start when things will get messy.

I love a clean process, it’s refreshing to get things done and have them turn out exactly as planned.  Do you know what never happens for me? A perfectly neat and tidy process.  You know what I’ve learned over the years?  To enjoy the mess.  In fact, now I really look forward to it.  I know things are going to get messy and disorganized. And that’s OK. Because eventually, the same things will get cleaner and organized and totally make sense.

I encourage you to look forward to the mess.  Try to do a little something each day.  My house is full of projects, my office is full of tasks and I have lists and lists of ideas to start.  Each of them have their own life cycle of ideas, mess and success.  I know where I am with each item because I focus on a little each day.  And I know it will get messy, but I know I’ll also make progress.  You may only have fifteen minutes – use it.  Doing a little bit every single day will make a big difference over time.

It’s easy to wait until you’re totally ready to do anything.  It’s too easy.  Don’t let yourself get that complacent. Start before you are ready and you’ll start to notice how much progress you can make.

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Don’t wait for perfect: Why progress matters no matter what

Recently, I was traveling with a friend and she shared a bit of wisdom that has stayed with me.  It’s what I’ve been thinking about in my free time and helped me gain perspective on something I’ve been struggling with for a while. She was telling me about how she’s been burned out with an area of her life – a necessary area of her life – and she realized she had to make a plan to work on things a little each day.  She told me, “I knew it wasn’t my best work, I knew my heart wasn’t in it.  But I kept going because I knew I needed to.  And I’m glad I did, because now I’m in a much better place and my work has improved.”

I couldn’t believe it – it was exactly what I been struggling with too! I love spending time writing, but lately my results and readership have exploded (I know, #firstworldproblems) and I felt like I needed to share that perfect post with the world – I mean it’s what 10,000 people per month are expecting.  And it was overwhelming, I mean what do you say to a crowd that big?

You can’t wait for things to be perfect.  You have to start somewhere.

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Be More Productive: Make (tiny) Progress Each Day

On more days than I’d like to admit I’m too tired.  Lie on the bed all night and binge-watch TV tired.  Can’t do anything else for the day tired.  And that doesn’t work so well for me to get anything done. And then a few months ago, I realized that I was trying to do my day backwards.  I was trying to do too much during my low point of the day, and it wasn’t working for me.  Here’s what I remembered to boost my productivity each day, and I think it will help you too:

Your Productive Time Matters.

I’m pretty productive at work, so much so that I’m mentally exhausted by the time I make it home. I’ve realized I’ll sacrifice my personal energy to maintain my professional energy.  So I work when I’m best – when I first wake up in the morning.  My goal each day is to get one productive thing done at home before I go into work.  And on most days, I can accomplish this task, which makes me feel more productive as I go into work.  Try to work at the time that works best for you – early in the morning, during your lunch hour or late at night – if it works for you, it works.  And remember to write it down, so you remember what needs to be done!

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