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Tag: "family happiness"

The Pursuit of Happiness and the Death of Superwoman

I recently wrote an article that was triggered in part by two threads in one of the online clubs I belong to.

Entitled How to avoid burn out it was a response to the conversations, and also born out of my own experiences in being Superwoman balancing the everyday work that pays the bills, the domestic and family responsibilities that come along with being a (solo) mum and the pursuit of a better place in the future ie happiness and success, perhaps best encapsulated by the dream of paying off a mortgage or finally arriving at the sunlit upper pastures of the four hour week.

The threads were written by two women, both of whom had been working excessively hard the last year or more to try bring their dreams to fruition, and both had recently achieved a level of success. However – and it’s a big however – in both cases the successes were less than what they had been hoping for and working towards, they were very tired, and inevitably they both hit a wall.

While I don’t want to get tangled up in a feminist discussion, I do think that there are distinct differences between men and women when it comes to entrepreneurialship, as well as in other areas. I haven’t analysed it in any great depth, so this is just my general view, but it does seem to have something to do with women not liking to ask for help, and wanting to be seen to be better or more competent than anyone else, and something to do with trying to be best in class in every area, whether that is he best mum, the best cook, the best dressed, and now, the best business women or entrepreneur. And this is particularly damaging in my view because few women seem to take the plunge until later in life when they are frequently trailing family responsibilities in a particularly hands on and domestic way that already means they are stretched thinly. And might just really want to be at home and see staring their own home business as a way to do that.

Because I have also noticed the disquietening rise ‘mumpreneur on a shoestring’ syndrome kicking in over recent years, and as many of you will be aware, I have written fairly extensively in Funky Angel and other places on how to keep work life balance, how to set up a business realistically, how to keep it going etc etc. While it is entirely possible to set up and start a business of a budget, it does bother me a little that some peeps seem to think that they can set up a thriving business on tuppence happenny and some goodwill, because although it is much much easier than ever before to set up a business, especially from home, equally it does take money and it does take effort and it does take time.

The broad problem is, I think, not so much a female problem but more a social one – the belief that all you need to succeed is determination and if you don’t then you are somehow lazy or inadequate, and just wanting ‘to be’ is somehow morally corrupt. I am sure it has its roots in our Puritanical period and the Protestant work ethic, but it really is a load of rubbish and extremely damaging for most people. All these stories of people making millions and achieving their dreams with a few pounds and a lot of hard work just aren’t realistic for most people and almost always lead to a deal of unhappiness and exhaustion and failed business that could have added so much to the economy.

There is nothing tougher, in my view, that working alone to achieve a dream, and I know this is a controversial statement, but doing it solo, especially with myriad responsibilities, is almost always doomed to fail, or perhaps ‘not succeed as well as it could’ would be better judgement. And this is not because of any lack of talent or industry or brilliant ideas on the part of the entrepreneur. No, not at all, as a business coach I am constantly amazed and humbled by the sheer quality and quantity of brilliant ideas, fabulous ability and breath-taking determination – this nation is still a nation of innovators and own business owners! No, the key points in achieving lasting success is to be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day comfortably given your constitution and other responsibilities, that you can build yourself a team and recognise you are a human being who probably likes gardening or making cakes or reading and that time must be allocated for these things as well in order to achieve balance.

Try to do it all alone you and you will have to learn the hard way exactly what constitutes life/work balance and how it works in practice ie push yourself too hard and too obsessively and you will crash and burn – and it could take ages for you to recover and if there is no one else but you who is servicing your clients, running your marketing campaign and dealing with the admin? And if the answer to that is an “er…” then where does that leave your business?

People are not machines. People thrive on variety else they get stale and bored – they need routinue yes, but variety within that structure. People can handle change so long as they are ready for it. People get stuck when they don’t have other people to bounce off and interact with. Doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that this time it will work and will make you happy is sure recipe for failure.

Later last week I was talking to a client of mine, Jo Geraghty, who is very busy running two businesses – Beyond the Ladder Coaching and London Sightseeing Runs. Her approach to it is very different to the two entrepreneurs mentioned above – she has support and assistance, and her second business compliments her first in so much as it is a very active and relaxed whereas her main one is quite static, and so she can balance the smart, work based intense side of her life with something completely different. Another of our Agency client’s, The PR Network, is run by two business women and PR professionals with young children and they are extremely disciplined about days they work and very good at outsourcing all the bits of their business that they don’t want to or can’t do, and so have built themselves a truly hollow company in the process –and a highly respected and successful one to boot.

My work life is currently extremely busy but totally unstressful and very rewarding because I have excellent support and I am very organised and I understand when I need regular breaks and self care in order to keep on functioning at a high level. Two or three days a week I travel to London to work inhouse with Cision UK with my trusty netbook (AKA ‘home office on the move’) helping me cut down on the impact of commuting in lost hours and saving my shoulder from dying from a laptop’s weight! The rest of the time I work from home – business as usual.  I am in touch with The Funky Agency Team via Skype, email, mobile social media, at regular intervals, and the domestic side of things either face to face if I am home (there’s a novelty!) or via text, mobile and social media, so when I have down time with friends, family and the children I can concentrate on BEING with them because technology in all its glory has made it so much easier to juggle the various demands and to do so gracefully.

The upshot is that I can therefore concentrate on being happy, putting myself first, enjoying my work and my closest best beloveds, and feeling balanced rather than desperately chasing my tail and trying to be Superwoman.

Superwoman? Pah, I’d rather just be happy…

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The Joy of the Pre-Teen Years

Big changes happen between the ages of 10 and becoming a teenager at 13, from taking responsibility at the top of Junior school in that final year, before leaving buddies they’ve spent their entire lives with and moving into the next (exciting, daunting, demanding) phase ie secondary school.

Fashion, sport, mobile phones and the internet become an increasingly important part of their lives and the tussle between waiting to be all wrapped up safely at home and wanting independence really starts with a vengeance. They stop believing in Father Christmas and don’t want you to hold their hands anymore (crumbs, sometimes they don’t even want to be seen walking with you!).

So if your cherubs are on the turn, and you and your children are at that ‘inbetweenie’ stage, where is the joy or is it all downhill towards teenager hell from now on? Not at all – the key is a shift of attitude – yours and theirs!

Your attitude
They are no longer little children, and so your role changes from now on in from being a caretaker to being their manager. The demands of the average Tweenies’ social diary, from sleepovers to sports fixtures at 8am on a weekend, is likely to tax even the most organised WAHM, and this gives you the clue. While boundaries obviously need to be applied, they also constantly need reappraising as the children grow and change so that it fits in with you and the rest of the family, not dominates.

Their attitude
With your children’s increasing independence and wannabe consumerism comes increased responsibility. No longer little children needing to be shepherded and cossetted, that means they can now take on their share of the chores and jobs around and out of the house – and should be expected to as their contribution to the household. And what is best about tweenies is that they still want to be with their parents but they are much more their own people, so conversations and investigations become a central part of your daily lives as they notice and question everything around them. Yes, it is a bit like having toddlers again, but hopefully without the tantrums!

Helpfulness
By the time my two turned tweenie they were expected to go to the corner shop for milk and bread, tidy their rooms, set the table, and do the washing up. By ages 10 and 12, one is responsible for dusting the whole house on a weekly basis and the other for cleaning the bathroom. They walk the dog daily and do poo pick up from the garden, look after the cats and other pets, cook meals, wash and clean the car, set and clear the table, run errands and keep upstairs and their downstairs craft area tidy (ish). I haven’t taught them to iron yet (mainly because the younger one has a tendency to daydream, which could be dangerous!) but they take responsibility for their money (they have an allowance) and have mobile phones, which they are responsible for keeping charged up and safe so I can reach them or they can reach me at any time – they can make free calls to me and their father, but if they want to chat to their friends they have to use their allowance money or earn extra for top up by doing extra chores.

Adventures and Companionship
The other great joy of the tweenie is that they now become your companions in adventures and other activities. Trips out crayfishing, paintballing, surfing or ballooning, for example, become much more doable and fun now you don’t have to be constantly on red alert.

Shopping and lunching out (if they are female-flavoured) becomes a positive pleasure rather than an experience never to be repeated.

Just hanging out and having Top Nights In is fun because you like the same stuff, watch the same movies, play board games, whatever you like to do as an individual or couple now becomes stuff you do as a family. And that’s just how it should be, isn’t it?

That’s a proper family. So all hail the pre-teenie – and here’s looking forward to the fabulous teens they well become!

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses.

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Your Family and Other Animals

Let’s be honest. While most women who work from home or run their own businesses around their families wouldn’t have it any other way, many find that their families, the very reason they are working from home in many instances, can be less than wonderful at times.

Most WAHMs cite the flexibility, the sense of achievement, the control of one’s destiny, and the ability to get close to a happy life/work balance at least sometimes as bonuses they couldn’t live without. Their family, however, is sometimes quite another matter!

So why is this?
Isn’t it supposed to be the answer to everyone’s prayers? Didn’t you decide to work from home so you could spend more time with the family?

Yes, obviously, and most of the time it is. However, sometimes, just sometimes, there is a degree of everyone else taking the working mum for granted creeping in. Perhaps it’s one too many request to ‘pick up that’ or deal with that that can make the WAHM feel like she isn’t actually a working person per se, let alone a business woman, more a glorified housekeeper. Mind you, that’s a scenerio that is hardly unique to WAHMs, but it can be magnified when work and life is in one basket with sometimes not even a closeable door  betwee them.

Maybe a child, partner or other live in relative may start feeling neglected because your attention is on a client, a report, a telephone call or an important email, rather than them, regardless of whether it’s the 30th time they’re interrupted you that morning.

Sometimes I hear tantrums have been thrown. Heck, sometimes I even throw them myself!

So why does it happen?
I mean, aren’t you providing a valuable service to the household budget, perhaps the only contribution to the household budget? Didn’t you talk about it in great detail before you started? Didn’t everyone promise they’d be supportive? Ahhh, well, disregard the lip service because what we’re talking about here is either a lack of consistent boundaries or deep held belief that are stopping them respecting those boundaries.

Setting boundaries
Difficult as this is for some people to do, it’s actually beneficial for you and your family to have set boundaries and to have theem consistently applied. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible for you to be successful as a WAHM if you don’t because there is no boss or manager fighting your corner saying “no, you can’t interrupt her at the moment, she’s busy on an important call” – there’s just you.

Having people trample all over you and your feelings is a fast track to making yourself stressed, overloaded and miserable, so if you’ve never been very good at being assertive, now would be a good time to learn how.

Deep held beliefs
These are beliefs adults hold from a very early age that may have no bearing on reality or that person’s actual life as it is now. We all have them to varying degrees and they can pop up in strange situations or show up as completely out of character. Most of the time people aren’t aware they hold them, and depending on who is acting out they could be along the lines of “my time is more important than you”, “mum doesn’t mind”, or perhaps “working at home isn’t really working,” or maybe “women are there to serve their husbands, just like my mum was”.

It can even be your own deep belief that’s doing the sabotaging. Perhaps you don’t believe you can do, or think you are not entitled to be rich and/or successful. Perhaps secretly you’d much rather not being doing this and so let everything else get in the way so it all falls around your ears. Perhaps you simply can’t bring yourself to say no!

So what to do about it?

Dealing with your family – and other animals
• Be assertive – stop saying yes all the time and start saying no occasionally – and mean it, whether that’s to the kitten, the kids or your partner.

Set boundaries – perhaps you claim an undisturbed hour every day, when the door is going to be shut and no one can interrupt unless it’s a life or death emergency.

Believe in yourself – You want to do this, you can do this, you just need time and space to do it in, so don’t let that little voice allow you to be so distractable you can point at the family at a future point and say “I could have succeeded if it wasn’t for them”.

Deal with unhelpful deep beliefs – sometimes just having a think about your patterns of behaviour and talking it over with your closest and dearest is enough. Other times you might want to use the services of a life coach. Whichever route you follow, however, it’s worth doing – as I know to my cost, some of these unconscious beliefs can keep you poor and overstressed for years.

© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.

First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses.

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‘Work/life balance for CEOs’ – published in ‘1,000 CEOs’ by Dorling Kindersley, 2009

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