“Superwoman Syndrome and its effects on Sleep in Mothers”
This is the title of a paper I wrote back in my final year of college 16 years ago before I even had kids. I guess I’ve always be passionate about this stuff…the effect of perceived expectations on a person’s wellbeing. Even at 21 (I was a serious go-getter and graduated college at 21) I knew there was something wrong with our social expectations for a happy and fulfilling life: get an advanced degree, marry someone who fits this mold, climb to the top of the corporate ladder, beat the odds, have a big house decorated to perfection, have 2.5 kids, host parties, drink wine and coffee and eat desserts to be happy but don’t you dare become overweight, be happy, don’t care what others think of you, work hard, if you want it you’ll give up sleep to get it, push, hustle, be the best, on and on it goes. The voice of expectation is different for all of us but it’s there whispering in our ear and chipping away at the happiness we could be enjoying right now in this moment. I’m not saying don’t work towards your goals. Working towards your goals is really important. What I am saying is to allow the journey towards those goals to be enough in the everyday moment. In the past 6 days I have lost a dear family friend and our family dog who was older than all of my kids. We also lost Marc’s dad a few months ago. While my heart is torn and aching, it IS a wakeup call to appreciate what is right here in front of us because tomorrow is never promised. This evening isn’t even promised! So, make sure what you are doing RIGHT NOW is in line with what is truly important to you. You are driving your life. Not your fiancé, not your parents, not your spouse, not your kids, not your boss, not the parents of your kid’s friends. YOU. If your life isn’t lining up with your goals, because it’s easy to get sidetracked, try taking these steps:
- Make a list of what’s important to you and/or your values. This is a loaded direction but it’s really that simple at the same time. Here’s what mine looks like: Quality Family Time, Health, Achievement, Service, Personal Growth, Simplicity
If you need help figuring this out, try reading my friend Dr. Samantha’s book Overcoming Overwhelm. She will help you figure it out. Promise.
- Track your time for a week to two weeks (because there’s always an excuse or exception to any individual week) to see where it is Carry a notebook you can fill out as you go through your day.
- Analyze where your time is going. Do the things that you are doing line up with what’s important to you and your values? If yes, why are you still reading this? Go enjoy your life! If not, move on to #4.
- If what you are doing with your time doesn’t line up with what’s important to you it’s time to get real because that’s painful! It means you are living a life for other people or are truly struggling with something. Maybe you’re still eating ice cream every night even though health is supposed to be important to you (raising my hand here). Maybe your job isn’t your dream job. That’s a tough one because it probably also fills a need and value of taking care of your family. I worked in a job I liked very much but kind of knew wasn’t quite right for years until I found photography. So, you could allow yourself to be okay with it for a while, while you work towards a different job knowing it is filling part of a value. Maybe you are spending too much time on social media. Maybe you got roped into helping at school or a side project at work and it is just sucking time you could be using towards your actual goals. As a mom of 4 I used to bend over backwards to volunteer and sign up for things and worry about what others thought about me if I didn’t but finally realized it was stressing me out and not making me happy…so I stopped. It’s my life. I’m driving. Do the same thing with all of the time suckers and misalignment in your life. You may not be able to change everything immediately but you can make a plan to get there.
My addiction to sugar is next on my list of things that don’t align with my values. It is holding me back from my best life and I know I need to fix it. Recognizing that is the first step. I can’t eat ice cream every night and seek health at the same time. Every time I eat ice cream I want it so badly but I also know I shouldn’t be eating it….that’s addiction folks. Next, I need a little education. Anyone know a good book on sugar addiction? And, finally, I will make an action plan for my every day life that is doable. When I quite caffeine I tried cold turkey and realized VERY quickly that it was going to have to be an incremental change over about 2 months but I did it!
- Realize you can’t be everything to everyone all the time. This has always been a hard one for me. I’m a people pleaser to my core (service also being a value). When I decided to stay home with the kids after I was laid off 9 days after returning from maternity leave from having Finn I also decided to learn photography and start a small business eventually. I didn’t expect the business to become what it eventually would today and for it to be so fulfilling to me. So, when I started getting really busy, I tried to do it all and would attempt to get work done in every possible in between moment: naps, while they were playing quietly, during baseball practice, on my phone while nursing the baby, late at night, etc. There came a time when I realized I was struggling. I can’t even pinpoint it. I was tired. I was stressed. I was starting to snap at people. I had to make a change. For me, the change came when I allowed myself to be okay with the fact that my business is important to me TOO and also deserved a center-stage spot in my life at times. It is part of my values (achievement). I felt guilty that I wanted more time to work but once I gave a babysitter a try I found that I could be a better mom if I fulfilled the achievement need that I had. The kids were happier to get to play with friends while I worked and I could give my full attention to them when I they were home with me.
Balance baby! Balance. People talk about it all the time but what I want to stress to you is: make sure you are balancing the right things. It’s a lot easier to balance a lighter load. Simplify. Then balance. You’ve got this. Go get em’ and enjoy this beautiful day! XO – Megan