Is it really a choice we have to make: our family or our future career?
It should have been a morning of excitement, mixed with a little nerves.
I had been invited to speak in front of two hundred business mamas at the Ausmumpreneur conference, and whilst I’m usually not nervous before speaking about being a happy mama, sharing my ‘business’ tips had made me a little more jittery than usual.
I’m all good talking the power of mindfulness and the need to ask yourself what it is you really want in life now, but business insights? Um… my business has been built on ideas that usually flowed at the end of a meditation and burst out of me without thought of strategy.
And so, I’d decided that I was going to get up and share my story of building a business with babies – but my story would be a cautionary tale of burnout and balance. No marketing insights, no social media strategy or management tips. Just my story of pushing myself to have it all and then nearly losing it all – and what I’ve learnt along the way.
It sounded good in my head, but is it what the mamas really wanted to hear at a business event?
My stomach was doing a little dance every time I thought about it. And so, as it happens, I was rushing my little family along their morning routine more than usual.
And – it was Book Week.
Seriously, what is it about Book Week? It seems to have turned into Australia’s version of the American pressure to get the Halloween costume just right. And the morning of the conference, it was the Parade day.
Nice timing, I know.
So it was a charged morning.
And, as it happens so often, things fell apart.
Perhaps I was rushing them too much, perhaps it was the pressure to dress up as your favourite book character (which usually had nothing to do with the book character and more about the outfit), but just as I was about to jump in the shower and practice my presentation one last time, it all broke.
Tears. Breakdowns. Refusal to go to school.
Instead of that shower and last minute prep, I was comforting a child who now had decided I was the worst mother in the world not to be at the Parade that day.
Why? Why does this always happen?
Why can’t I do one thing for my business – something I have been wanting to do for so very long – without it all falling apart?
I’m there every morning and every afternoon at those school gates – why can’t I just have this one thing for ME?
If you’ve ever wondered what I mean when I talk about the ‘Inner Mean Mama Voice’ – you’ve just met mine. That voice in my head was loud and proud that morning, running all of the variations of ‘why me’ on constant repeat.
And so, rather than reciting the key points of my presentation on running a business with babies without burnout, I cried in the shower. Big, hot, ‘woe is me’ tears.
It’s just not fair.
I did get to the presentation on time, and my children all turned up in their requisite costumes with their Daddy to march around the quadrangle (the first Book Week Daddy has been able to go to, by the way. But that was no comfort to the distraught daughter an hour earlier). And the business presentation went well – there were laughs at the right point and tears at the right point, and a number of mamas came up to me afterwards to hug and thank me for shining a light on what so many of us don’t talk about: the reality of building a business while you’re at home with your babies sounds like the ticket to work-life balance, but it’s often a ticket to burnout and overwhelm.
But underneath, I was rattled.
What had happened that morning? Why had it all gone badly so quickly?
Was it my fault I had been rushing them a little more than usual? Had they picked up on my nervous energy and that’s what had caused the minor-meltdown to begin with? They had all known I wasn’t going to be at the Parade the night before, and had even gone on about how proud they were of their mummy. But the next morning? Disaster.
And then, as the Inner Mean Mama likes to do, the questions went deeper.
Is it really possible to still have dreams of standing on stage and connecting with mamas, of writing books and articles and sitting in circle with women all over the world, AND be the mama they need me to be?
Is it really possible to do both? To have it ‘all’?
I don’t have the definitive answer to that question yet, but I think it’s a ‘yes’.
I think the answer I’m learning to accept is yes, of course I can still have my dreams and my goals, but I just need to know that the pace and timing of it all might not be what I had imagined. I know now that there is no career goal without a family goal: they are one and the same. It’s a LIFE goal. I want to be able to stand at those school gates each day (even though 3 o’clock comes around far too fast most days) and have days off just to wander the aisles of the Aquarium for the 200th time with my little boy, and write books, create content, record podcasts with the best of the best.
It’s a dance I am still learning the steps to. And some days I seriously stumble and trip over, and the Inner Mean Mama voice is quick to jump in and point out ‘See! You can’t do it all! Your husband can – that’s what men get to do – but YOU? Nope. Give up, Amy. You can’t do it.’
But I don’t believe that anymore.
I know there’s a way to be inspired by my work and be there for my family – because it is all part of the life I crave. The big and the small, the outside and the inside. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. But I do really believe we can do it, mamas.
WANT TO KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THOSE MOMENTS WHEN EVERYTHING FALLS APART AROUND YOU?
Starting 25th September, in just 15 minutes a day, you’ll learn how to turn those moments around.