I used to try to be a superstar woman, equal parts phenomenal mother, awesome and successful businesswoman, and all-round superhero. I thought that was what I was supposed to be, what the world needed me to be, and the only thing that would be acceptable to others. None of these facts turned out to be true.
Pretending to have all your sh*t together is doing each of us a great disservice and making more than a few of us quite sick.
I used to pretend that all my ducks were in a lovely, neat, clean, perfectly aligned row.
I always worried about other people were thinking of me; mums at school, parents dropping their kids at my house, clients, bosses and co-workers, random people in the street. Even people I hadn’t met and might pass on the street or in traffic.
I had to be good at everything, all at once
I had to be a superstar, and I needed everybody to know it.
This kicked into overdrive nine years ago when my first child was born, and I went back to work within 4 months, and just got worse and worse with my second and third babies. Things really hit the fan a couple of years ago and I ended up in hospital and finally figured out that trying to be a superstar was unhealthy for me. So I did some re-evaluating.
I am actually doing a great job of being a mum right now, but it only happened because I completely gave up on the idea of being a superstar.
There is no such thing as multitasking
Mothers and women are very gifted multitaskers, being able to accomplish many different things at the same time. We are quite proud of this fact.
But scientific study has shown that there is actually no such thing as multitasking, and it isn’t technically possible to focus your attention on more than one thing at a time. What we end up doing is putting very tiny milliseconds of attention on each of a number of things, and flit very quickly from one to the next.
It increases our stress, reduces our ability to do anything well and absolutely removes our true enjoyment of anything we do.
So no longer do I try to have all my ducks in a row. I admit freely that I have kangaroos, and they are having some kind of rave.
But the peace I find with that is quite incredible, and it all comes from not caring about trying to be a superstar anymore. I do one thing at a time and I experience life in the moment. And I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. And so are my kids.
And funnily enough, in doing this, I am more of a superstar mum than I’ve ever been
The incredibly wise Annabel Crabb wrote in her book, The Wife Drought, that ‘the obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.’
She is 100% right of course, and this is where the problem of multitasking, overstretching ourselves and trying to be superstars comes from.
You may have been incredible at your job before you became a mum. Back then you were full-time, had about 7 million fewer things to worry about, and your focus and intensity for your career were awesome.
After going back to work from maternity leave, so many mums, myself included, tried to make everyone forget that we were mums, because somehow it made us worse employees. Mums who return to work do so as completely different people than the ones they were before bubs popped out – and we should accept, embrace and be proud of this fact.
We don’t have to be as good at our jobs as we were before we left. We have taken on a physical, mental and emotional burden since then which requires 24/7 attention and has taken our ability to worry through the roof. So, no, we don’t have to be the same person coming back.
We are a whole different person
We will be far more efficient with our work time because we have to be. There will be no more procrastination, talking a round the coffee machine or taking long lunch breaks (often we won’t take them at all!)
We will be more empathic to co-workers and clients than we were before
We will be more empathic to co-workers and clients than we were before because we have an entirely new understanding of being in touch with another person’s feelings. We will be able to push through levels of tiredness, stress, and pain like never before.
But we won’t be able to multitask, we won’t be superstars, and we will pack up and leave at the end of our shift to pick up our kids as scheduled because our priorities have shifted since before.
And we should accept, embrace and be proud of that.
I do one job at a time
For me, right now, I am a full-time mum. When I am mumming, I focus on being in the moment with my kids, both for them and for me.
Because my kids are a little older (the youngest is 4 and in kinder three days a week now) I can focus some time on my career as well in between the mumming. I am a freelance copywriter and personal blogger, and when I am writing I focus 100% on that.
Something I don’t spend any time at all doing is worrying about what other people think of me, either as a mum or as a writer or businesswoman. Worrying about other people’s opinions of me was a complete and utter waste of time, and it never actually affected what other people thought about me anyway.
About the author
Jacinta Burgess Lane is a mother and writer and founder of The WellMess Balance . She is the author of Strong Mama Bare; her tips and stories for managing mental health while still raising confident and happy kids.