with Emily Thorpe – Happy Working Mum
Hello everyone, and welcome to my guest blog for February 2021!!!
This month’s blog is brought to you by the amazing Emily Thorpe from Happy Working Mum, and I for one am really excited about this blog.
Because let’s be honest 2021 hasn’t been easy so far. Running your own business while in lockdown and helping with the kids’ home schooling together with any other responsibilities most of us have, was never going to be easy!
In addition to that, as some of you already know, I’m soon to become a mum of two – which will certainly make juggling plates even harder in the Ally Berry household, so I was desperate to find out more about how to navigate these strange times, and maintain some kind of work-life balance.
I’ve known Emily for a number of years, as our children used to attend the same school, and I’ve always admired how calm and happy she always looked at the school gates.
Emily truly believes that every mother has the ability to be not only a loving and fun mum, but also have a fulfilling career or business. Her courses and masterclasses are always full of excellent and practical tips to help you enjoy motherhood and a career without any of the guilt many of us often feel.
So without further ado, I will leave you to read Emily’s blog about how to achieve a better work-life balance in 2021!
Nobody needs reminding that we are in an unprecedented time; nothing about our experience today resembles life pre 2020. We can’t go on holidays or go to the cinema, we can’t meet up with friends or go out for dinner. We are having to work from home and for many of us we have the added task of monitoring or facilitating home learning for our children.
It would not be unreasonable to say ‘Life sucks!’
However satisfying it may feel in the moment to have a moan or a rant (and believe me my ‘no swearing policy’ went out of the window last year) if we are to keep ourselves and our families well, particularly mentally and emotionally, we need to have some strategies in place beyond dropping an f-bomb or two.
In this article I will share with you 4 steps to maintaining your balance and sanity in 2021.
Step 1: Assessing the situation
The first and most important step is to realise that we are experiencing an exceptional period in time and that we cannot be expected to be, do or have the same life as before. The rules of the game have changed and it would be insane to think we could carry on as before, rather as if they decide to host Wimbledon underwater, new equipment and rules would be needed!
What many people have done, is to try and keep it together and make do for the short term…I think we can all see that we are passed the ‘short term’ mark and so we need to find new ways that work.
So rather than digging deep and pushing on, I would recommend grabbing a cuppa and taking some time when the kids are in bed or over the weekend to really analyse the situation by looking at your commitments and your resources by asking the following questions;
What are your roles and the demands on your time? Whether you are working full-time or part-time, how many hours does that equate to?
What support do your children need from you in terms of home schooling each week (equipment, time, other resources)
What other commitments are taking up your time and energy?
What resources do you have in terms of time, space and equipment? Are you and your husband both sharing the dining room table for work? Are you sharing your laptop with your 10 year old?
Answering these questions will reveal your limitations.
If we cannot fulfil our commitments as we did previously is easy to feel that we are failing and then to compensate we try harder, stay up later, work faster etc. But unfortunately this will only lead to exhaustion and stress…you may have already faced this over the past 12 months. Stress is never desirable and with our children experiencing a very disrupted school life, we need more than ever to be calm, happy and supportive.
Instead look at the ‘new’ situation you find yourself in and move onto step 2.
Step 2: Finding a new solution that fits
The best solution always includes being kind to yourself. In practical terms that means allowing yourself to stay within the limits of what is achievable.
Looking at your list of commitments and resources along with the constraints of the situation, how can you find a way to make it work, flexibility and creativity will be your greatest friends here.
I often use a method with my clients called the 3 Ds.
The first D stands for Decide.
Decide what is important. Right now your priorities might be vastly different to a year ago and that’s ok.
Speaking for myself, my children’s mental wellbeing has rocketed to the top of my list. Previously they were going to school, seeing their mates, doing sport etc and coming home tired and happy. Now their days are entirely screen based, their personal interaction is solely with the family and exercise and fresh air only happen, when I make it. So whereas before I could relax knowing that they were mentally, physically and emotionally well, now I need to be more proactive in their care.
So what are your top 5 priorities right now?
The second D is Delegate.
What can you handover to someone else? An example of this would be online shopping, getting deliveries instead of spending time at the supermarket (although wandering up and down the aisles may well be the highlight of the week!) In our home we have given the boys a few extra jobs around the house; stripping the bedclothes for washing, taking the bins out etc.
Perhaps there are elements of your workload that could be handed off to someone else or projects that could be deferred.
The final D is to Ditch.
What did you previously consider important or necessary that you can now release? In our home, the cleaning regime has been paired back to what is acceptable, but no more. Ironing is a thing of the past as we rarely see anyone and are mostly wearing slouchy clothes! We have also cut back on TV time, preferring instead to get thrashed by the boys at a game of Connect 4 or Labyrinth or Skype family and friends to stay connected.
Step 3: Carve out some time for yourself
This is one area that mums are usually pretty bad at, we are natural givers and carers and our own well-being can very easily slip off the bottom of our ‘to do’ list.
However you are needed in tip top form, more than ever.
With children unable to attend school, you will be providing more of your children’s support than before. If they are stuck on a question, you will be the teacher’s assistant. If your child feels a little lonely, you will be his/her best friend, if your child feels sluggish you will be the one who suggests a quick walk.
You are now the main focus of their world and you are the provider of their emotional wellbeing…this is not a small job and for that you need to be fighting fit, which means YOU need to look after YOU.
It’s all the usual suspects as you can imagine… eat well, drink plenty of water, get a good nights sleep, ensure you move your body every day and get some fresh air and vitamin D. Your health and vitality allows you to be happy, energised and present for them.
Step 4: Having fun and naughty treats
This last step is the one that could make all the difference. With so many things that we usually look forward to like outings, seeing friends and holidays, now off the table, we need to really up our game when it comes to lifting our spirits.
Fun and laughter are the best medicine for all of us right now and because of the constraints we are experiencing we have to think outside the box a little.
My first suggestion would be to get a little bit crazy…be daft, mess around and act the fool. Dance around the kitchen with a colander on your head, sing along to Abba with a hairbrush microphone, basically do whatever it takes to make your kids laugh. If you have teenagers like I do, you may get the obligatory groans, but inside they will be smiling and their hearts will be lifted.
Next plan some family fun; board games, card games, running races, marble tournaments, den building challenges, telling jokes over dinner, makeover sessions, baking, drawing…these are just a few ideas to get you started, but anything that involves the whole family and is fun will do the trick. By making family memories we can avoid the Groundhog Day affect and make 2021 the year we had fun at home.
Finally, ‘naughty treats’ and rule breaking. Right now we are trapped in a world of rules, which can literally drain our spirit. There’s nothing quite like an unexpected treat or breaking the rules to inject a frisson of excitement and energy into our day.
In our family this could be anything from surprising my boys by bringing them breakfast in bed or telling them they are having spaghetti for dinner but ordering a pizza instead. Last week when it had snowed we had a snowball fight at 9pm in the dark, it was a bit of mad fun that lifted their spirits and created a memory.
Another example, I remember a few years ago, I went into my eldest’s room and told him to have a shower in his clothes to save me doing the washing…he absolutely loved it and still tells his friends about it now.
This quote sums it up for me… It is what it is, but it will be what you make it.
I hope you have enjoyed these four steps to maintaining your balance and sanity in 2021. If you would like to get in touch with Emily, you can email her by clicking on the button below: