This week has been a great week for me as it relates to building connections that matter. You know, I mentioned that it was my success plan theme for the year.
I love meeting people... I love getting to know people... and I had a number of incredible opportunities to do just that.
I had some one-on-one and group opportunities... some that I participated in and some that I led.
A common element in each of these connections was a level of authenticity and vulnerability presented in these encounters.
I was talking with someone who is a stay at home but busy as all get out mom. After we talked, I asked if I could share her story with this group. She said I could.
Janet has worked in the corporate world for many years before getting married and having children. After the first child was born, she made the decision to stay at home when she looked at the financial picture - daycare costs, clothing, food, travel, vehicle maintenance... and she would be working 40 plus hours a week and after all those expenses, she would be working for $8.50 per hour. Her hourly wage was $18.92 per hour, but after paying $6 per hour for child care and the other expenses... it left her bringing home $8.50. Her husband made enough for them to live comfortably and she had envisioned she would work from home.
Her child was born and she fell in love with him and enjoyed being a mom. However, she struggle with the inability to make a schedule for her and her newborn and that really threw her for a loop. No matter how she tried, she struggled. She told herself it will happen soon enough... what did happen when her son was almost 7 months old... she became pregnant again.
Her second son was born and she really struggled with two babies under 16 months old. She had even less time to figure out what she was going to do with the day let alone that business she never started, but intended too.
Jane felt like she was always frazzled and always receiving sympathy and not all that sympathy was well meaning. She was in the corporate world for many years and she should be able to get 2 babies on a schedule... she had 30 employees she managed regularly.
When her youngest child was a year old, literally two days after his first birthday, she found out she was pregnant again. Her daughter was a blessing... but it threw everything even more out of whack for her and her schedule and non-existent business.
Her youngest child is 2 years old now and she is exhausted. She is frazzled. She is frustrated. She is going crazy.
She loves her children with all her heart, does not regret one moment with them. But, she is nothing like how she was when she was working. She cannot bring a connection between the two people she was/is.
She ran across something I wrote and since I write with both business and personal intent... something I was told was not good BTW... :) I needed to pick an audience... she asked me if I could give her some help.
I asked her this question.
"What help do you WANT?"
She didn't say anything right away.
I stayed quiet and so did she.
A few minutes later she told me, "I need to know I am a good person even if I don't have a schedule."
I asked her about her schedule. She stated she doesn't have one. I asked her what does she do the moment she opens her eyes in the morning.
She said, 'this is what I have done today" and listed her day so far.
I asked her how that varied from yesterday.
She went through her previous day.
I asked her what she did two days ago.
She realized that she has a schedule. It is just not a tight and predictable schedule.
I asked her how she was able to make it today to where we were.
She said her husband works from home and she has a babysitter that comes to the house and she wanted to get out and do something and saw this and chose to come to this.
I asked her how often could that happen?
She didn't know because of the financial elements.
I asked her if the kids take a nap every afternoon. The two youngest do, the oldest will play quietly during nap time.
I asked her what she does during nap time.
She does cleaning.
I asked her if she could work for those two hours each day on her business and clean with the kids helping her at other times during the day?
She said she never thought of that... not once. But she could.
I told her she just found 10 hours a week to work on her business.
I asked her what does she do when the kids go to bed at night.
She said she usually picks up the house and watch television.
I asked her about how long does she watch television each night... 2 or 3 hours she said.
I told her that she had about 4 to 5 hours a day to work on her business if she used her time wisely.
I then asked her why, if she was in the corporate world for so long, this never occurred to her before?
I was not being rude or condescending... I let her know that before I asked the question, I needed to ask her a hard question and I don't mean anything bad about it... and then asked her why, if she was in the corporate world for so long, this never occurred to her before?
She said, 'the corporate world works from 7 to 3, 8 to 4 or 9 to 5. I was trained that those are the only times you can work and be successful. I thought I would be unsuccessful in everything that I do if I didn't work or be productive during those hours. When my first son was born, I spent a lot of that time holding him, bathing him, feeding him... loving him. That wasn't productive.'
I asked her 'what type of child is your oldest son?'
Her response, 'he is loving, fun, creative, inquisitive, helpful...' and her list continued.
I said, 'well, it sounds like when you were loving him, bathing him, teaching him how to live a loving, fun, creative, inquisitive, helpful.... life... you were very productive... maybe not as you did in your corporate life... but this is motherhood... not a top corporation... so, you were productive... you were on a schedule that fit you as your life is now...'
I said no more... she looked at me with a look of surprise...
"I felt like I was doing everything wrong because I compared my corporate life to my present life. I felt guilty, like a loser, a failure, a frazzled mom but I wasn't. I was a great mom paying attention to what my child wanted and needed, but I never cut myself any slack.'
Motherhood is not an easy job. It is often looked down upon. Yesterday at a workshop I attended as a participant, I received this card to comment on as it pertains to me...
"What would give you great comfort right now?"
I struggled hard with how to answer that... I heard another person make a comment that brought clarity to me.
What would give ME great comfort right now? I feel great comfort right now knowing that every moment I have spent as a mom... from the moment I found out I was pregnant... to this very moment where my boys are 25 and 22... brings me great comfort. I have two incredible boys that I love dearly, am hugely proud of... and they turned out this way despite all the mistakes I made as I was learning how to be a mom worthy of their love.
Sometimes, that 'why' behind our struggles are not as obvious as it appears... sometimes it takes a bit of understanding of our roles and how those roles affect our self-esteem, our understanding of perception of those roles and cutting ourselves some slack in our view of perfection.
Yeah, the 'why' behind our struggles are very personal... and very profound when we figure them out.
Thanks Jane for letting me share your story.