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Written by Claire Bennett
So, what is the juggle? For me it’s the attempt to manage being mummy, wife, daughter, sister, aunty, friend, and having a fulfilled and successful career, as well as keeping my mind and body healthy.
Now you may think that, as I have chosen to write about this subject, I have mastered the art of “the juggle”. Needless to say, this isn’t the case and I am certainly still developing my approach. I do think, however, that sharing a little bit of my journey could maybe help you reflect on yours.
In terms of my approach – which has been, and will continue to be fluid – I think maybe it’s more of a journey than reaching a destination, because of its fluidity. COVID-19 most certainly has not helped and has thrown multiple spanners in the works, so to speak.
The various challenges we are facing right now are really taking their toll on people. Stress and resilience training for parenting has always existed, but now we need to think a little broader. Most of the lines we built around our lives are becoming blurred. Home vs work life, family time vs home schooling, family/social gatherings vs zoom calls. We are thinking more about our safety in terms of the virus and the impact our choices can have on others. Literally life or death scenarios.
The Guilt of “Am I Doing Enough?”
If you’re like me, you have always had to manage your ‘parent guilt’ from a working parent angle or even decisions about their lives. We find that now we are in a position where, quite easily, that guilt can spiral into so many aspects of our life. For me – am I giving my children enough time and energy? Am I damaging their education because phonics totally blows my mind & have also discovered maths has changed considerably since my school days? And trying to understand the “new” way of long multiplication is sending me into a tailspin!
Am I calling my parents enough to make sure they are OK? Should I be doing more? Am I still investing enough focus on my career? And where on earth do I find the time to do all of this? There are so many things that can overwhelm us in these times and, to be honest, many more times in our lifetime I am sure. So actually, the lessons we can learn from COVID could really improve our resilience for anything else that life has to throw at us.
So what is the answer, I hear you ask? Well, the truth is there is no one-size-fits-all. We need to discover what works for us; we are all in this COVID storm but our individual boats are so very different. The beauty in this world, I think, is our uniqueness. I believe that we should be kind to ourselves – things won’t always go our way, but we can choose to learn from it and focus on what we can influence and change for the better.
Make a Plan and Take Care of Yourself
My biggest learning, I think, is taking the time to organise and plan. Spending an hour making my list of things I need to get done, prepping meals in advance (Sundays have now become “batch cook Sundays”). Chunking up the work/school day to give all of us a chance to achieve something each day. I have to say, Alexa (my smart speaker) is my new best friend. She captures my shopping list as I come across things we have run out of. She reminds me of appointments/meetings or to-do items I really don’t want to forget. Then, at the end of the day, she plays me some feel-good music whilst I cook the tea and dance around my kitchen with the kids and the dog.
Without a plan, we can fall foul of the self-generated stress and pressure that can hit us. You know that feeling when you have slept late? It can really set the tone for your day and, in most cases, can be one of the worst days stress-wise for us. Not being organised when there is a lot happening can generate that same feeling. So consider what could you do that could help you organise life more effectively?
Self-care is, in my opinion, the single most important activity we should all be working on. I often hear that it’s an indulgence that we simply don’t have time for, yet we need to make that time, we need to create space in the evenings when the kids are in bed, or an hour at the weekend to focus on us. Spend some time doing what makes us feel good. Read a book, have a bath, take part in a hobby or activity that can distract us in a healthy way. Remember – you cannot pour from an empty cup. If we want to support others we have to start with supporting ourselves.
So, for me, there is no conclusive answer to “the juggle”. My hope is, however, that you can read this blog and relate to some of its content and maybe consider what your approach to the juggle could be.
Claire is a Mental Health & Wellbeing practitioner living in Gloucestershire. She is passionate about creating psychologically safe environments for people to thrive. She is a busy working mummy to two children and a Hungarian Vizsla called Rufus. Claire enjoys running, yoga and practices mindfulness on a regular basis.