If you’re feeling exhausted from the non-stop routine of looking after your kids and getting ahead at work, you need to take the time to be yourself again. Give yourself permission to get out of the red, says Mignon Keyser.
I recently had a conversation with a brave and generous woman who has been part of my business world for the last six years. I have always admired her graciousness and poise. The conversation was about depression, feeling lost, being exhausted and trying to keep it all together as a working mother.
Working mothers incur an “energy debt” in the first four to six years of their children’s lives. We go into the ‘red’ and don’t acknowledge or even recognise it, beyond the feeling of exhaustion. Everyone, ourselves included, just expects us to get on with it.
We are up at night, with the breastfeeding, teething, and toddler wrangling. The nappies, the school lunches, the egg on the sofa and the ‘Honey, how was your day?” This means learning to set boundaries for yourself and others at a whole different level.
Now add board meetings, marketing plans, staff issues and client dramas. Add getting sick more often because your kids are sick, and having to manage the logistics of school holidays, playdates and time as a couple. And then you haven’t even had a glass of Chardonnay with one of your friends.
It’s a condition known as Superwoman mode. Pushing, working, leading, and coping because you can, until you can’t. Enter depression, breakdowns and serious health issues.
We adapt and think, this is how it is now. There is no social ‘permission’ to slow down and recover from the mind-blowing act of creating and nurturing new lives.
I lost myself in all the activity and responsibility. It took a bout of shingles, and noticing how much shouting was happening in my home, for me to take the plunge and gently find my way back to health, energy and effectiveness.
I had to give myself permission to rebuild my energetic balance. I battled self-judgement and perceived judgement from others regarding slowing down (i.e. being lazy) and learned to relax, delegate and be as kind to myself as I wanted to be to my friends in the same situation.
I had to give myself the time I needed so I could create the gentle spaces to get my mojo back. I had to catch up on a lot of sleep.
I’m not sure that I am completely out of the woods yet. But I recognise the woman in the mirror in the mornings. She is a more grown up version of the kind, lovely person I lost in all the craziness. She is my kind of person, and I’m happy to have her back.
• Mignon is a strategic facilitator and peer process specialist with over close to 20 years of experience in facilitation, planning and team development. She works with leaders and teams to make the best possible use of their resources and abilities. Although Mignon studied architecture and started her career in the project management industry, she found her groove in facilitation and people development. Mignon has worked with over 500 entrepreneurs and business leaders, and helped them improve how they operate in the world through her strategic peer-to-peer methodology. Mignon is married and has two (precious) children.
• This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.