What You Get When You Try to Be A Combo of Olivia Pope and June Cleaver
Are you on the verge of giving up your hard-earned career because the demands on you both at work and at home is too much to bear?
Or perhaps you’re about to (or have) let your career dreams rot because you don’t have anything left for you given the work and family demands?
If you feel like you’re caught between expectations of being a badass Olivia Pope-type at work and an ever-cooking and -cleaning version of June Cleaver at home, listen up.
Something’s gotta change. And it ISN’T your career dreams or your family.
It’s your courage, thinking and calendar.
What do I mean? Well, let me give you a birdseye view into a recent coaching intensive to explain.
A talented manager — let’s call her ‘Nina’ — is married, is a mom and is an up-and-coming star at work.
You know what else she is?
Choking back tears, Nina described the tug of war she feels between work and family:
I want a fulfilling career and family but I don’t know how to have both.
I feel like I have two full-time jobs, if not three, between work, family and running a household.
I don’t have any time for self-care, consistent exercise, my spiritual practices, or coffee with girlfriends — all the things that fill my cup.
My girlfriend’s weren’t able to figure this out and I’m so afraid I won’t be able to either. They gave up their professional careers and “settled” [her word] for working less hours in a lower level position because they couldn’t figure out a better way. And now that their kids are older and in school, they’re trying to return to their professions but are struggling because they didn’t keep their skills sharp in those lower level positions. I’m afraid I’m gonna wind up in the same spot.
I’m driven and ambitious, but there are times when I question myself and whether it’s possible or realistic to even think I can thrive both at work and at home.
I listened empathetically and then said matter-of-factly, “Here's the bad news: it’s only going to get more challenging the older your child gets.”
She was partly, but not fully, shocked. She knows I shoot straight.
But she also knew the truth of that statement. It will only get more challenging the older her child gets and begins to get more involved in extra-curricular activities. What’s she supposed to do? Put her dreams on the back-burner for over a decade?
“Now for the good news,” I said, smiling. “Half the problem is already solved just by the fact that you are facing this head-on.”
Many women, for a variety of reasons and I’m not here to judge but to highlight what I see working and not working…so many women wait too long to face reality and get help from someone in a position to actually help.
For Nina, she’d been trying on her own for nearly 18 months to make things work before reaching out for help. Don’t make that same mistake.
Take positive note from Olivia Pope because this is where courage comes into play.
When you FIRST have that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is off, you owe it to yourself to take immediate, smart action if you want to avoid drowning in overwork, overwhelm and the ensuing feeling of not being good enough.
Courage will also give you the mojo you need to change your thinking.
In the beginning, Nina’s thoughts were spiraling in discouragement and despair. Plus, the fact that her friends couldn’t figure a better way forward really left her frightened that she wouldn’t be able to figure it out either.
It’s normal to feel fear. Staying stuck in fear, however, will cripple your thinking.
You see, when we are afraid, the prefrontal cortex of our brain that is responsible for executive functioning — things like planning and decision-making — shuts down. It goes into flight or fight mode, not problem-solving-a-terrific-solution mode.
So, calm your thoughts down. Smile like June Cleaver and say to yourself that this is solvable. This is where someone outside your immediate circle is valuable. They can hold the vision for you and help you shift your thinking. Albert Einstein once said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” You need fresh eyes, thinking and support to help you see the situation differently and begin to solution a better way forward.
Who do you have in your life that can help? I mean, really, really help. It’s typically not your spouse or partner, nor is it usually your girlfriends unless they have been successful in ending the struggle themselves and have done so in a way that you want to replicate.
With courage and better thinking on your side, it’s time to take back the reigns of your calendar from your boss, your spouse, your kids, and from anyone else who has expectations of you that are not serving your highest good.
It is possible.
At the end of our time together Nina had a plan. She felt at peace. Unstuck. Hopeful. Less than a week later I got a text from her that she took action on that plan. “It went well!”
So, my darling, don’t you dare let one more day go by where you feel torn between work and family! Know that you don’t have to choose between the white hat or the polka-dot apron. Well-being, and a thriving family life and robust career is calling your name.
How are you going to answer that call?