Updated: Jan 9
We women, by our nature, the virtue of hormones, and the way the female brain is wired, are gifted multitaskers and exceptional caregivers. We are thrilled when we are helpful, make a difference, brighten someone’s day, and excel at work. And, while we can juggle an unbelievable number of balls well, we are only human! We all need time to rest, recharge, and even play! Many of us find it challenging to prioritize ourselves in general. And, when we are working outside the home, and raising children in the home, we are especially vulnerable to depletion and burnout.
As working moms know, our work never ends! We have our “day jobs”, which are usually not just day jobs at all. And we have our home-lives, which can demand our time, energy and attention at any hour of the day or night, whether we are at home or away! Most of us have some version of a worst nightmare which involves a sick child, spouse, or parent, a nanny/childcare option that falls through, and a series of time dependent and pressing demands at work. And, of course, in the scenario, we have no way to cover all the bases that must be covered! So, what are we to do?
Unfortunately, when we feel unable to manage it all well, we often do the worst thing possible. We add to the stress of our difficulties by criticizing ourselves for falling short somehow. An inner dialogue takes route that finds fault with something, or many things about us, and further stresses us out. We are perfectionistic and hard driving. And, sometimes we just won’t give ourselves a break!
In my 35 years of working with professional moms in medicine and law, I have heard (and lived) these self-deprecatory refrains over and over. Super women, who have accomplished great things, are beating themselves up! We are expecting ourselves to be super human beings. And, there is no way to win at that game.
Here are some strategies that have helped many of my lawyer and doctor clients who are also moms:
· Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend. If you would not talk to your friend the way you are talking to yourself, stop it!
· Hire ongoing extra help, or someone you pay a tiny retainer to be on call for you, so when you need the support in a crisis, your base is covered.
· Create a caring co-op with other working moms you know, where you agree to help one another in a reciprocal way.
· Get a baby sitter and be sure to take a date night with your partner or a good gal friend at least every other week.
· Eat healthy! (And, if you need help to figure out what it means to feed your body well, get it!)
· Make sure to move your body/exercise/take a walk/get outdoors at least 20 minutes 4 days a week.
· Find safe places to share your struggles. Isolation and loneliness fuel the distress and make it harder to come up with creative solutions to wicked problems.
· Get help, coaching, counseling, a support group.
· And, never let yourself forget how amazing, gifted and accomplished you are. Write yourself a positive affirmation about this and post on your bathroom mirror. If you read it every day for 6 weeks, it will start to rewire your thought patterns for good!
Eve A. Wood, M.D.