A client recently leaned over and almost whispered to me what she was concerned would be a shocking admission. She doesn’t get nearly the “juice” from spending time with her family as she does from working!
I wasn’t surprised in the least and told her so. But, she cried–what about all this balancing life and work stuff? Doesn’t that mean that I’m out of balance?
I realized later that this is the dilemma of highly productive, very involved women. You rarely hear a man talk about this. It is a given, especially for those over 45 or so, that men work. They focus on work. They are rewarded and praised for working.
Women may be more likely to be criticized for the same thing. “What about your other responsibilities?” they are asked. “What about your children? Does your husband mind that you work so much?”
This has changed in some ways, as more women are divorced and keep working, it becomes acceptable for them to be driven and focused–they have to support themselves. But married women are not given the same leeway. They are constantly scrutinized and judged for their behavior. After all, they aren’t the primary earners…. Or are they? We’ve seen surveys over the past few years documenting the change in earning power of women. Sometimes they are making more money.
Whether they are bigger earners or not, the question still needs to be considered: Is it acceptable for married women to be career driven? Do they deserve to be put in a different category?
And women who aren’t married but still have children at home–aren’t they subject to more pressure when trying to juggle family and work? Especially since many of these women don’t have a great deal of support from the childrens’ fathers?
I’m not trying to say that this only applies to women. I know there are some men who are raising children on their own, and facing similar issues. And I’m not taking a “super feminist” stand here. I’m just talking about what I see out there in the world.
So, what did I say to my client?
I told her that the amount of time she spends with her husband and children isn’t nearly as important as the quality of time she gives them. In actuality, they are just as busy with their lives as she is, and she may be making more of a story about this than necessary because she feels guilty–especially because of the points I made above.
The odds are that if she tried to get more of their time, they would not be available! We often forget that people are manifesting their own lives, not in reaction to us, but based on their own values. The point is to link the quality time she does spend with them to nourishing herself and creating a solid home base so she is more free to go out and work.
I truly believe that the best thing we can do for our loved ones, both family and friends, is be the most fulfilled, authentic, creative, vibrant, alive and dynamic people we can possibly be. That does require some “down time”–setting up some sort of system for rejuvenation from the stress of working. We all need that, whether we know it or not.
Instead of feeling guilty about what we’re not doing, I suggest we take stock of all the beneficial things we do to take care of ourselves. Then, from a more open-minded perspective, we can find more ways to enhance our sense of balance. Letting our family and friends know how much they mean to us, how important they are to us helps a lot.
And we can always find a bit of time to spend with people, especially if we recognize the value they bring to our lives. If we approach them from a place of gratitude and appreciation for the parts they play in our overall well-being, they will be much more likely to look forward to seeing us and be much less demanding, and they will have fewer expectations of us. A small amount of fulfilling, quality time with them is probably all they really want from us!
When we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we will see our loved ones mirror them back to us. If we have a more objective, self-appreciating view of ourselves and how we are living our lives, that is what they will reflect back to us in their actions and attitudes.
Which do you want in your experience?