It’s Saturday night, half past eleven. I am wrapping up the day finally in some moments of solitude as I shut the locks, lights, fill up water, clean the pantry et al. My mind and I are in a subconscious performance discussion. As I scan and clean my son’s room I am thinking of how we haven’t spent quality time whole week, what with long workdays, and even on Saturday I was out completing chores. He deserves more of my time and attention with studies and play than what I have given him this week. Specially, since he is been doing online school for 15 months now.. I shut his room, make a mental note for next week in the parent’s tab of my brain, I reach my office to scan some weekend emails and shut the laptop. I am now thinking about how I said no to a couple of meeting requests from colleagues in UK/US who wanted to speak at 7/9 PM my time during a couple of weekdays as I was in the kitchen and how I could have done more work, paid more attention, finished two more meetings this week. I could have been a more productive employee if I gave more time to work. I listen to my own chastising and slightly irritated now, shut the office and see my husband repairing something in one room and my mom watching her favorite TV show in another. I am filled with guilt thinking I need to do more to help my husband around the house and spent more time with ma – she is lonely away from her town, almost homebound at my house for covid safety reasons. She is getting older and she needs my company to counter loneliness. I also think by the way of two relatives, five friends and few acquaintances who I have been wanting to call for days now but haven’t been able to. The kitchen looks like it needs additional attention, it makes me feel like a lousy woman. Overwhelmed now by my own bashing, anxious and troubled, I rush up to sleep, remove my fitness tracker to put it on charge and chide myself with another glare about the walk and exercise I have missed for three days this week because of how hot it has been and also how my grey hair need a recolour that’s been overdue.
Suddenly an epiphany (sort of) strikes, my mind is numb and I sit down on my bed a little shocked. For the past 30 minutes after a long day of chores, I have given a mental assessment to myself about how I have not done enough as a mom, daughter, wife, employee, homemaker and a person. This is my self talk. Am I telling myself I didn’t do enough because I secretly feel I am not enough? And this is when I have a partner, who never stops gushing about how much I try to do in my life, appreciates me, and encourages me constantly. I have cheerleaders in my life and yet in a vulnerable moment my first instinct is to shoot myself for all that I have not picked up. Suddenly all the women’s magazine articles talking about perfect women, Instagram and Pinterest pages, TV shows all come together and I realise the subconscious utopian standards to be perfect at everything I have built for myself, that I am bashing myself for. Do stakeholders in each of these areas also find me as imperfect or sucky as I am telling myself to be? And even if they do, does it matter at the cost of happiness, health and peace?
Working mothers in a culture like ours are not celebrated enough for the multitasking they need to do. The moment we start talking about it, it needs to be appropriated and balanced with talks about contribution of fathers and grandmothers and homemaker parents for political correctness. But if we just pick up the topic of working mothers at once, as someone has famously said, they are expected to be mothers like they have no job, they are expected to work for office like they haven’t got children. In lockdown, my son’s school has made no mention challenges of working mothers, neither have attempted to shape the curriculum in a way that helps mums who can’t sit with their children while office goes on during school time. And this is an international school. This is a school that assessed whether I am an educated and employed mother while interviewing for admission. By default they do address any communication to mothers because for 100% of my son’s class it is the mothers who are primarily responsible for children’s studies – working at office or home. Despite knowing that children’s education is primarily a mother’s job by default generally, most schools haven’t considered the flexibility or breathing space working mothers need with children’s education during the pandemic.
There are expectations from everywhere and defined standards of perfection. The bar keeps going higher and higher every time. And we don’t make this constant hustling any easier on ourselves. Rewards make us feel guilty, neither do we coach our minds to first pat ourselves on the back for how much we have achieved. Healthy and happy kids at home, safe family, being a friend to our partner, happy team at work – all were achieved this week but all that my mind once let loose, focused on was the have nots. What we women do to ourselves is self criticise, not self forgive. There is a manager and an employee in my head and this self assessment and criticism for not doing enough is a constant battle. There is an immense amount of effort needed to become self forgiving. To become accepting of not being perfect in each area is an art I do believe. As a coach, I am quite sure that some coach somewhere has figured out a mantra to do that and it just needs to be found out.
For now what I am going to do is balance out wanting to make everything perfect and being grateful with also being self loving and appreciating. Every time, I bash myself for what isn’t done, I will consciously thank myself for what IS done. I will thank the woman, mother, wife, daughter, leader, employee, sister, friend et al for remembering to be who they are and putting in all the effort that they could. I will forgive myself for my shortcomings of the week and clink glasses with the mirror for a little TLC. Yes there are people in my life who love and value my contribution, but firstly, I need to do that myself. In thirty years from now, if I am alive, it wouldn’t matter what I did on day to day and what I couldn’t – I need to keep that in mind.
We need to normalise life in all its reality as being what it is. Move away from the Instagram version of reality and aims of perfection and embrace today, warts and all. This perennial guilt that comes as an occupational hazard of the roles multitasking women play, we need to keep it in check and balance it with self appreciation and self acceptance.
I hope when I am repeating this process next weekend, I’ll be kind to myself. And remember that I do enough. I am enough. I cannot control everything because I am not God, but I can fill the spaces left incomplete at home and at work with love, compassion and kindness. Every time I find myself beat down by anyone for not doing enough, I hope to find my cape of achievements lying around the house – my happy and healthy child and partner, my safe and warm home, my mom and rest of family, my work achievements and happy team, my friends, my pet projects, books, music, dreams of travel and fly high to tune out the noise of negativity. Because I am enough and this imperfect world of mine is perfect for me right now and will do just fine. 🙂