There is still a chill in the air but change is definitely upon us. With the kids back to school, hairdressers open and businesses beginning to open their doors it feels like it’s time to peel away the winter layers, shave our legs, and dust off the work wardrobe.
As a working Mum, I’m feeling anxious of what the new normal means. Whilst lockdown has been hard, and the juggle has left many (including myself) feeling exhausted and stressed, there have also been many positives. I have realised to appreciate the little things – the morning cuddles that I never had time for because I had to get them dropped at breakfast club. The summer walks learning about gravity whilst throwing pebbles into the river – moments that were previously only stolen at the weekends.
And for my husband, he’s never had the opportunity to spend this much time with the children – he’s become their teacher, the cook, the dish washer and has achieved a degree in turning grumpy frowns into joyful smiles.
Coping with the new normal
Speaking to Inloco families, feelings are mixed about what happens next. Mothers guilt is oozing in. How do we manage the commute again? Do we get an after-school nanny? Can we afford it? Will the kids mental health be impacted? Should one of us reduce our hours to keep some balance? Will a carer be able to drive them to cricket/dance/swimming? Will my employer let me work flexibly? How will I find time to exercise? At times it all just feels too much to think about.
Enter tiny habits.
After reading B J Fogg’s Tiny Habits I decided to try and stop trying to fix everything and answer all the questions floating around my head and instead tackle life in bite size pieces. Pieces that I had the motivation and power to do something about.
Some of the habits have been so very tiny that I’m not sure I noticed they were happening. An example is simply being more positive in my language. This morning I said to my son “Be a good boy”, he said in response “ Don’t say be a good boy, instead say make positive choices” – I’d clearly fallen out of that habit and he swiftly reminded me that he is a good boy so getting him to think about positive choices is much healthier and empowers him to create his own tiny habits.
Fogg’s idea is that we start small and then make adjustments to our environment and daily routine – he suggests things like saying “Today is going to be a good day” as you step out of bed – try it, it works! Friends of Inloco decided to create the habit of family sit-ups and pushups every time they boiled the kettle for a cuppa. It turned out to be such a positive behaviour that they were churning out 50-60 pushups a day.
Another great author when it comes to helping cut through the noise of life is Brene Brown. She’s an all time favourite of mine for her practical, honest approach. In her book ‘Gifts of Imperfection’ Brene talks about giving up trying to be perfect and instead just being authentic in who you are. For me that’s about being kinder and focusing on what is truly important. Brene talks of an exercise that she does with her husband in the book. They write a list of all the things that they feel are working well when the family are feeling happy and positive. Then they write a list of all the things that they dream about. I’ve shared the one my husband and I did here:
- Kids in a good school
- In our home and not worrying about bills
- Eating healthy food
- Getting enough exercise
- Having some ‘me’ time
- Seeing family and friends
- Taking time out for us as a family
- Doing work that meets our values
- No aches and pains
- Hair not looking a disaster
- House cleaning under control (not spotless but not a mess)
- Spending time outdoors together
- Electric car
- Garden done up
- Pergola for the back of the house
- Taking an extended period of time to travel
- Pay off the mortgage
- Each go on reduced hours to spend more time with the kids
What we learned is that actually when we looked at our working well list, we had most of those things, most of the time. In fact, most of the things on the dream list wouldn’t be additive at all to the working well list. Yet we chase the dream list – and this is what often leads to the crazy. Taking a moment to appreciate what we have and acknowledging that it might not be perfect but it’s pretty darn great has helped reduce my stress levels considerably. Here is a link to some great tools on Brene Brown’s website.
Making small changes and creating tiny habits
As we look forward to the world opening up, here are our suggestions for helping get some balance and generally being kinder to yourself. We’d love to know any other ideas you have.
- Give up on striving for perfection – follow the 80/20 rule and you’ll still be rocking it “Perfection is the standard that will drive you mad in its pursuit.” Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection.
- Create a tiny habit that’s designed by you, just for you. Whether that’s doing one sun salutation every day or taking a minute outside in the quiet with your morning coffee.
- If something isn’t working then change the environment – it could be as simple as going into the office once a week or going for a walk.
- Talk to your boss/partner about how you are feeling – tell them you don’t want solutions but you do want to be heard – being vulnerable is a strength not a weakness. This is a great article which also quotes Brene. “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage,” affirms research professor and author Brené Brown in Rising Strong.
- Be kind to yourself – if you are stressed and feeling overwhelmed, the chances are, your loved ones are too.
- Make sleep your superpower! Probably the hardest one for parents of young children, check out this great Ted talk by Matt Walker.
- And finally, ask for help when you need it – whether that be from a friend, family or paid for flexible childcare – remember it takes a village!
Flexible childcare to support your family
We experienced how tough it can be to find the right support, when you need it, so we created Inloco to help families find the childcare they need to thrive. It’s a new way to connect with a trusted community of local friends, families and childcarers, bringing people together for mutual benefit.
You join, your friends join, and you all invite your trusted sitters – Ta da! Everyone has access to the very best local childcare.
Sign up for free at myinloco.com to join the Inloco community and start enjoying hassle-free childcare today. Thankfully all childcare is now allowed again, find the latest guidance on COVID-19 and childcare here.
Written by Nicola Weir, Mum and Inloco Co-Founder