Life has thrown me many curl balls over the years but none so tricky as the role of parenthood and the transitions from parenting to other roles and vice versa.
The energy and mental state that is required by most work environments are driven by outputs and time frames. This is very different to the energy and hormone status you require to be a calm, nurturing mother. We need to switch hormones when we switch roles and if we try to do both roles (work and parent) at the same time, or forget to transition, BOOM you will end up with a hormone EXPLOSION!
Your hormone explosion might be a surge in cortisol which will make you anxious, jittery, agitated, crave a release (maybe chocolate or food). Adrenaline can make you do similar things but your heart will race and you will feel a surge of anger or irritability – which is good old Mr Testosterone (our male hormone) surging forth like a monster. And unfortunately it is often the testosterone that leads us to yelling, grunting, getting impatient, stressed and lashing out.
Left unchecked the Hormone Explosion ultimately leads to the Hormone Collapse and the inevitable words; “I can’t do this any longer!!”
I must admit that I struggle with the transition from business woman to mum. I genuinely struggle to do it seamlessly and I know I am not on my own.
Which makes me wonder whether we (mums) should be working in the first place. I love my work immensely and if I didn’t have to do it for money, I would still be doing it. However the reality is as a sole parent, is that I need to work not only for enjoyment and sanity but in order to make money to survive.
Many of you may feel the same. Whilst working less could be an option, not working at all really isn’t. And so as mums (or dads) we do have obligations to keep the family afloat and provide in a financial sense or by making food etc (which can also represent work).
Some activities, such as work, just need to be done.
In a desperate attempt to squeeze all our roles and obligations in our day, we can impose some serious time frames. Also known as DEADLINES.
Rationally we believe deadlines will help us with time and energy allocation, so we can so work out budgets, time allocation, whether we can afford holidays etc. A business plan at work based on time management with measurably outcomes makes sense, but unfortunately the same strategy isn’t as easy to roll out on the home front. Trying to get children to confirm to strict schedules can knock out the only opportunity in their day to have unstructured spontaneous fun. Which is very important for their imaginations and development. But can seem to make our day drag out when we are often tired and fatigued.
Children are very much in the now, while planning and timed expectations makes us stress forward. Transitioning from work mentality to home mentality is so important to change this way of responding to our changing roles as it affects our hormones too and can lead to a rise in our stress hormones (cortisol, testosterone and suppression of our lovie-dovie hormone oxytocin).
If we come from an environment of time pressures, KPIs, deadlines, reports and strict adherence to policy straight into a random, children driven environment it can feel like a rough ride in a car like when the gear box crunches together or you bunny hop.
Being a working woman requires testosterone (so we can be fearless, strong and powerful) while being a mother requires more oestrogen and oxytocin (so we can be nurturing and caring). By recognising the different hormones required by your body for certain roles, you can make adjustments.
If you don’t make these adjustments and transitions either consciously or unconsciously, we can end up in having a few hours of almost hell until we get the children to bed. Ugly for our children, as we may sound stressed, agitated, or yell and ugly for us as we feel annoyed, pressured, tired and guilty. No fun for anyone!
Here are some things that I have tired to help switch my brain (and hormones) from work (head) to home (heart).
I know this tip doesn’t work…
1. Turning up late after school or after school care and getting home when they should be eating dinner. You are tired, they are tired and this is a recipe for disaster. Red light activity folks!
What has helped me…
1. Having a sign or sticky note on my steering wheel saying “mummy hat now”
2. Mentally resigning to the fact that thinking about work will only stress me and to switch off before getting the kids
3. Have a walk or exercise (i.e. dropping testosterone, increasing oxytocin) before collecting the kids
4. Finishing work 1 hour before collecting kids
5. Prioritising family ahead of work and if I feel like I am slipping behind either critic the deadlines I have in place and how achievable they are (and what is the worst case scenario if I extend the deadline to ease pressure).
6. Try to prioritise the kids ahead of unpaid work. Ask “Am I being paid to do this activity” (i.e. have you worked your quota of hours for the week and are doing stuff in your own time and putting pressure on your family and mothering, or are you doing something for good will, or even a work related activity that doesn’t generate income directly like face book).
7. I guess the other part to the equation is your partner. They also need attention and time and if their needs are being met then you are half one on the way to getting yours met too.
8. Consider a demi pair or an au pair. I had a nanny for the first few years of my children’s lives so that I could work and not disturb their routines too much. It seems to work out well
9. Look at other ways to support yourself in your home. Often coming home can mean more work especially when you have children to cook for, wash and clean up after. Consider cooking with slow cookers so the meal cooks over the day, cook every second night and have left overs, encourage the children to cook when they are old enough, consider a cleaner once a week, assign the children chore lists, make cleaning and helping you out fun and a game.
10. If you work from home, try not to look at the computer while with the children. This will only lead to frustration! Get into the healthy hormone habit of turning your computer off at 8pm, no more checking emails etc., just turn it off and have a break.
11. Make sure you are not hungry and have eaten something healthy an hour or two before picking the children up. You want a balanced blood sugar.
This working mum role can be a dilemma for sure!
If you have clear transition periods, signs and shifts in hormones you will be fine. Try some of the above and please leave any success techniques you have. If you would like more help on structuring your perfect work/life balance, have a look at the Happy Female Formulae. It is a culmination of years of watching successful people and how their hormones respond to their lifestyle. This downloadable workbook brings it all together so you can work through at your own pace and create your most perfect day.