“The coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality, new global data from UN Women suggests…
Even before the pandemic, it was estimated women were doing about three quarters of the 16 billion hours of unpaid work that are done each day around the world. In other words, before coronavirus, for every one hour of unpaid work done by men, three hours was done by women. Now that figure is higher.
“If it was more than three times as much as men before the pandemic, I assure you that number has at least doubled,” says Ms Bhatia, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia.” – Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-55016842
This is just one among numerous reports about the impact of the pandemic on women in particular.
No wonder the juggle feels even more stressful, even more imperative and even more is at stake. We are under more pressure than ever before.
We are being paid less than ever and doing even more of the work. Careers are in jeopardy. The role models we’d worked so hard to become to our daughters AND sons, gone in one fell swoop. Gender equality is just one pretty serious casualty of this pandemic.
On top of the usual juggle of work/life/kids, parents – and mothers in particular – are now juggling:
- School disruption and chaos, with frequent bouts of learning at home or periods off school, in isolation.
- Their own work and careers hanging in the balance, or working from home with the kids and no separation of the two.
- The additional emotional toll of financial stress, the constant threat to ill health of family, friends and loved ones from the virus and the impact of social isolation and a world that looks very different from last year.
Reports like the one above – about the macro, bigger picture impact of the pandemic – are being felt at the micro, day to day level by families everywhere. And it is unsustainable.
Why Juggling Is Entirely The Wrong Approach…
Juggling implies keeping separate, distinct entities under control all at the same time…
- You’ve still gotta make sure your kids are thriving at school, despite the chaos.
- You’ve still gotta make sure you’re earning enough to pay your bills.
- You’ve still gotta make sure your relationship is solid despite the additional stress.
- You’ve still gotta make sure you’re keeping on top of the usual household and life admin duties.
In the pre-COVID way of doing things, we had boundaries enforced upon us to help keep these things separate, so we could move between them a little more easily…
- The kids went to school, leaving you several hours in the day to focus on work/life/household/social stuff.
- You went to work, to a place with space dedicated to you doing that job with no distractions or disturbances from the rest of your life (kids, partners, houses to clean).
- You went to the shops or to the bar/pub/restaurant to get your social and fun fix.
These were clear and distinct physical boundaries to help you shift your focus from one part of your life to another, without them ever really having to mix. And now?
Now, we don’t need to put on our work clothes, step into that work ‘persona’ and head to the office. We don’t get to book the babysitter, dress up and head out, dropping the ‘mum’ vibe and swapping it for the ‘adult gagging to have some fun’ vibe.
These days we are working from home trying to stop the kids from bombing our zoom calls…
…The kids are either learning at home trying to get to grips with lessons online or not seeing their friends socially outside of the classroom and subjected to staggered start times, staggered lunch times, staggered play times and more…
…We are socialising at home through screens and on Zoom, we are eating at home, exercising at home, and shopping from home.
There’s no need to get dressed up or become someone else to fit in. There are fewer physical separations and boundaries. Everything is blending into one…
But what if that’s how it should have been all along?
What if the physical separation of different parts of our lives has been doing us a disservice? Encouraging us to separate parts of ourselves and not integrate? What if we’ve been living within these artificially created, imposed-from-outside boundaries without questioning whether they actually work best for us?
Let’s imagine a different way…
Imagine if you could show up to a work call knowing it’s ok if your kids wander into shot. And not just ok, but welcomed and encouraged.
Imagine if you could chill out about your kid’s education knowing that you’ve set things up in a way to trust they’re learning anywhere and everywhere not just when they’re at school/in an online classroom.
Imagine if you could feel connected to some of your closest friends who don’t even live in the same town as you but live halfway round the world, and yet it feels like you’re as close as you can be and that an in-person meeting, whenever it happens, will deepen and strengthen that bond but isn’t fundamental to the relationship thriving.
Imagine if you were surrounded by people – relatives, friends and colleagues – who celebrated downtime, relaxation and self care, NOT just achievement, full to do lists, productivity and getting all the things done. Who wanted deep connection and communication, not just the superficial, surface stuff.
Would that feel easier? Would the stress and impact of COVID feel more manageable and comfortable if that was all a reality?
(How) Is this possible?
At Beyond School, we talk about ending the juggle by making some key mindset shifts and then building your habits, actions and lives driven by, based upon, around and to support these shifts and new beliefs.
This may require you to do some of the deeper work. To change your mind, to change some deeply embedded beliefs…it doesn’t always happen overnight (though it can!).
These shifts include consciously choosing to believe and know…
- That you are the priority. No guilt, no shame. Put yourself first. Always. You can’t give from an empty well, you must put your own life jacket and oxygen mask on first if you’re going to support others.
- You can choose to be the model you want to be for your kids. Consciously. No repeating the patterns from generations past without questioning whether they still serve you and your family, or not. You can choose to model the beliefs YOU choose, not the ones handed down to you as ‘this is just the way things are’. BE the change you want to see in the world, MODEL this to your kids and those around you. They will do what you do, not what you say.
- Integrate, don’t separate. Consciously create a life that allows you to – or even better, encourages and empowers you to – show up WHOLE, everywhere. No more hiding one part of your life from the other. No more juggling separate areas of your life. No more trying to keep things separate.
When you act from a place of deeply believing these three things, other things begin to shift for you. You will find tools and resources to:
- Identify and hold boundaries you never could before (and didn’t even know were needed), even with the most challenging relationships in your life.
- Identify, acknowledge and get YOUR needs met, at no-one else’s expense.
- Identify, acknowledge and meet other peoples’ needs, but NOT at your expense.
These three things in themselves can lead to:
- Better health and wellbeing; a body which serves you well rather than lets you down when you need it most.
- Better relationships; nurturing, nourishing and mutually respectful and beneficial connections which enhance and lift you up rather than drag you down or keep you small.
- Better sex; let’s delve into that one another time because it’s SO worth it!
- Better parenting; being the kind of parent you always thought and hoped you’d be without having to compromise elsewhere.
- Better finances; a healthy relationship with earning, having and spending money.
- Better career options; unlimited opportunities and potential that you create yourself rather than relying on others to ‘give’ these to you.
And when you begin to surround yourself with other people doing the same, you will see another way…
You’ll start to see examples of people – of other women – who have done it/are doing it differently. They are nothing special, they have no special skills that you can’t gain, they are not doing anything that you couldn’t do, except…they have the particular mindset and a different set of beliefs that perhaps you don’t yet have. And they act from these beliefs and from this mindset, ignoring the doubts and fear and guilt and shame.
They consciously craft a life – a daily routine – that works for them and their family. There is no mad rush to get to school. There’s no skipping meals because there’s just no time. There’s no rushing from home to work to the shops, to the pub then back home again, with barely a beat in between.
This consciously chosen approach to life will…
Shake up the way you think about work and your career. You won’t be satisfied with working just to make money, but sure that’s a start.
Shake up the way you think about money and finances. You won’t be satisfied with making ‘just enough’. You want more and there is NO guilt or shame in claiming that.
Shake up the way you think about your kids, about parenting them, about educating them and about the way you are shaping their lives and what life you’re setting them up for.
Shake up the way you think about yourself, your own wellbeing and your own needs and wants.
If you want more of the same, this approach IS not for you. If you have a suspicion there’s a different way, this IS for you.
If your life isn’t panning out the way you thought it would or if you’re just marking time, treading water and you’re NOT living every single day intentionally and consciously and doing the things you want, when you want, this is for you.