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For years I had been running around trying to be a perfect wife, employee, manager, daughter, daughter-in-law, and mother, not necessarily in that order.
“You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” — Oprah Winfrey
Thud. I felt my head hitting the floor before realising I was having a blackout. I woke up to the frantic voices of my husband and the house help ringing in my ears.
“Thank God that you are conscious now,” my spouse said. “I was calling an ambulance. What happened to you?”
What had happened to me?
I recalled getting ready quickly, thinking about the looming office deadline. Then there was the parent-teacher meeting in my daughter’s school that I had to attend between office hours.
My daughter’s nanny had then informed me about her missing the school bus. I decided to skip breakfast and leave home early to drop her to school, then heard my husband calling my name in the background. Then came the blackout.
“I have a bad headache,” I replied. “I will rest today instead of going to the office. Will you drop Avni (our daughter) to school? I guess her school’s PTM would have to be skipped for once.” My hubby looked surprised at the request but agreed. Soon, I was alone in my own company.
This was not how it should be, I thought. For years I had been running around trying to be a perfect wife, employee, manager, daughter, daughter-in-law, and mother, not necessarily in that order. Since I was unyielding with myself, my body had yielded.
Something has to give; it cannot be me, I decided that day, three years ago.
Many things, including how we work and live, have changed since then. So, have I. My beliefs, attitude, and outlook toward life are very different from that day. Now instead of treating my life as a marathon, I enjoy it.
It took me time to realise certain truths about life. I am sharing the same so that it doesn’t take as much time for women like you who, like me, manage multiple roles in life.
Multitasking is a myth. It is only on paper that a person can do several things simultaneously with the same productivity. We are human beings, not machines. And human brains are meant to do only one thing at a time.
Sure, you can have multiple goals, aspirations, and ambitions. Your life would continue to be an amalgamation of personal and professional moments. You can indeed have it all. Just not at the same time. Some days work will take precedence over family and vice-versa on other days. And that’s ok.
The renowned Parkinson’s law that states work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion is correct. No matter how much effort we put in to separate the urgent from important or prioritise our tasks, something unexpected invariably comes up, and certain activities for the day remain incomplete.
Instead of getting frustrated with a long to-do list, decide your principle for a finite period. For instance, to plan for the coming week, reflect on your top objective for the week and accordingly list down the top two priorities for each day of the week and block time for the same in the calendar.
The rest of the time in the calendar is for your team meetings, tedious home chores, contingencies, and the chaff work. That way, you will start your day knowing what accomplishments will make it successful.
Allocate some block of time daily to work with no interruptions- physical or digital. Stay away from meetings, phone calls, net surfing, and emails during this period, and instead focus solely on the task on hand.
You will find that you accomplish your critical work much faster without browsing the net, with the phone switched off and all notifications turned off.
There are two blocks of quiet hours daily, from 9 AM to 11 AM and 3 PM to 5 PM, where I work without any interruptions from phone, emails and meetings. And I finish my tasks much faster during these quiet time blocks.
The word ‘No’ is synonymous with negativity in our society, where, as women, we are conditioned to reply to every question with a yes.
We might feel guilty and apologetic for saying no. But in most instances, saying yes when we would have rather said otherwise leads to frustrations and resentments.
It is time to reframe your thinking around the word ‘No.’ Saying yes to everything means saying no to yourself. Conversely, saying no to something means prioritising another task or person more important to you. And prioritising doesn’t make Jill a mean person.
Indeed, if you say yes to everything on your plate and fail to deliver, you will become more of a bad person that you wanted to avoid in the first place. Be clear about things you would like to say a No. Then say it.
The fear of being judged holds you back from being yourself. Sometimes, we tend to go to self-defeating lengths to elude the possibility of negative judgments.
Humans always judge fellow humans—good/bad or like/dislike with plenty of nuances in between. At the same time, we also aspire to be liked by all at all times. A statistical improbability.
Let people judge you. Your loved one will love you irrespective of your actions. And other people don’t matter in the larger scheme of life.
The human body, while being a marvel, is far from perfect. Our nasal sinuses drain upward, some genes don’t work, and some of our nerves tend to take bizarre paths.
Humans have flaws by design. The quest for perfection will only leave you unfulfilled and dissatisfied. Embrace your imperfections. Accept your flaws. Mistakes only prove that you are human. It is ok to make mistakes, provided you learn from them.
You are important to you. Treat yourself with the same love and respect you’d reserve for your husband, children, or best friend.
You cannot pour tea from an empty cup. You cannot be mindfully present with others while mentally fatigued and drained.
Make room for ‘Me-time’ in your schedule. Go out for that lunch, and treat yourself to a spa. Enjoy your company in mind, body, and spirit without an apology. You will find that the happier you are with yourself, the more the world is satisfied with you.
It took me many years to accept that I can’t have everything all the time, but I am wiser and better off for it.
I now take the time to stop and smell the roses. I still work hard but know where to draw the line. I have accepted that I can’t be perfect, but I still give my best as a wife, mother, daughter, writer and entrepreneur.
Just that I don’t try to be all-in-one at the same time.
Image source: SnowWhiteimages for Getty Images Free for Canva Pro
Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...
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