At least once a week I am asked that magic question “How do you juggle it all?” And at least once I week I shrug my shoulders and smile while saying something like “I have no idea, you just do!” Like so many of the women (and men!) around me I am ‘juggling’ many aspects to my life- mother, wife, friend, daughter, business owner, lawyer, occasional very bad baker and regular birthday party forgetter! (yep we missed two in the last two weeks thanks to my inability to read invites and record dates properly so perhaps that already answers the question of my lack of skill when it comes to ‘the juggle’!)
A few weeks ago I was asked to speak on this topic at what was a beautiful lunch for the ‘Ladies in Law’ in Toowoomba. At the time I felt a little bit of a fraud as the reality is to manage my ‘juggle’ I have a HUGE amount of help. Between my husband, parents, friends and colleagues there is a small army of people that all play a part and I couldn’t do it any other way. But as I spoke that day to many women who are on the cusp of adding the parenting juggle to their already full loads, I found myself sharing my insights in the way I wished someone had done for me a few years ago.
The reality is we are all ‘juggling’ no matter our age or stage of life. And much of life’s juggle brings joy, fun and laughs but then there are the many bits that are mundane, frustrating or down right difficult. All of this has led me to the conclusion that the difficulty does not lie in the juggling, the difficulty, for me anyway, lies in the fact that I want to be, do and enjoy ‘it all’ all of the time. And the reality is, that is just not possible.
So after many years of ‘juggling’ and dropping many a ball along the way here are my 10 learnings on what has (or has not) worked for me so far-
Self- Belief is your saviour, but it will be forever challenged
When it comes to being a mum, running a business and everything else in between, I have come to conclude that believing in yourself is an absolute key. In business, particularly as an entrepreneur, you have to back yourself even when you are not quite sure if you should! I have found the same with motherhood. It is hard (but fun!) and tiresome (but rewarding too!) and I have found myself questioning regularly whether I am doing enough or the right thing for my family. In those moments of self-doubt I stop, take a few deep breaths and remind myself that as long as I am doing my best in that moment, that is all I can do. We must believe in ourselves before we can expect anyone else to so next time you questioning your worth, stop, breath and remind yourself that your best is all you can do.
It is time to be at one with the guilt
I didn’t really understand the talk of ‘mother’s guilt’ until I became a mum and now my days seem to be full of it. After many failed attempts to lose the guilt, I have decided to be at one with it instead. I do often wish I had more time with my family than I do. I know my job running a law firm and being a lawyer means I miss events at school, on weekends and am out a lot in the evenings. I find myself questioning whether this is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and I still don’t have the answer. And so I follow my advice in 1. above and remind myself that I am doing the best I can and accept the sense of guilt as just part of the fun!
It takes a village-
I said it earlier and I really can’t stress enough the amount of support and assistance that I have around me. From my family, husband, team at work to my friends and colleagues. The mums at school & dancing to the kind men in the sandwich shop that give my daughter ‘extra cheese’ each day. I have an amazing village that makes it all possible and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When it comes to your village- choose your supports wisely. I am surrounded by helpful, kind, positive people who add so much to my life. Life is so short and those closest to us need our support, love and care too so why not fill your days with people who will hold you up rather than pull you back down.
Have a plan (and be ready to throw it out the window too)-
I am all for planning, I do it every day. But I have fast learned, thanks to running a business and having a child (and now with another unexpected surprise on the way) that often those plans get thrown aside. After many a sleepness night I have come to learn that a ‘go with the flow’ attitude is the best way to survive. We all need some sense of structure or order in our lives, but sometimes the best things happen when you plan gets tossed aside. So next time life wants to throw some curve balls your way, take a deep breath, re-jig those plans and remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day.
Don’t compare your behind the scenes with another’s highlight reel
In this day and age of ‘online’ connectivity we have wonderful opportunities to build relationships all over the world. We can get lost for hours in the activities of others we hardly know and it is not long before we are comparing our crazy or mundane days to those glorious curated Instagram accounts of colourful events and flatlays. We never really know what is happening in someone else’s life and those glossy social media shots don’t often tell the whole story. Don’t compare your life- your career, family, friendships to others. Run your own race, be yourself, chase your own dreams and support those around you along the way.
Watch your own expectations- we are often our own worst enemy
I am surrounded by talented men and woman- many of whom are running businesses, managing families and doing their own version of ‘the juggle’. For so many of them they have set their expectations of others quite low but of themselves so very high that they struggle each day to achieve them. I have come to expect only 1 thing of myself- to do my best in that moment with whatever life is throwing at me and while I know I expect a lot of myself, I am happy to lower the bar from time to time as well. Watch your own expectations and don’t be afraid to lower that bar from time to time- an unmade bed, un-ironed skirt or takeaway for dinner never really hurt anyone!
Lose ‘balance’ and go for integration instead
I have written about my dislike of the phrase ‘work life balance’ before and I will say it again. The word ‘balance’ in this context is often misleading. It can set an expectation for equality of time between the different aspects of your life. With our age and stage of life, the demands on our time are forever changing and this is where integration comes in for me. Rather than seeing my life in hours or days I see it in weeks or months. I move between home, work, family, fun and friends without any worry for the ‘time’ I am spending in each area of my life. My work comes with me as much as my daughter does. My family and friends are in my pocket a call away when I can’t be sitting with them. Some call it ‘flow’ I call it integration but whatever your word just focus on being present, in the moment in whatever you are doing and don’t worry so much about how many hours are being spent here or there.
Fit your own mask first
I say this all the time (so you have probably heard it from me before!) We can’t look after others if we are not looking after ourselves and sometimes we just need to ‘check out’- to take a break, stop and disconnect from the world around us. When it comes to looking after yourself, it is those good old basics we were taught as kids that make all the difference-exercise, eat well and making sure you are getting a good chunk of sleep. Just to be clear, ‘a good chunk’ of sleep is still about 8 hours not the 4 hours many of my friends try and tell me is all they need (and yes Clare I am talking to you 😊!) When I feel stressed and things are out of control I go back to these 3 things- sleeping, exercising and eating well. I know after 1 good nights sleep the world already feels a better place so why not give it a go- fit that mask and see how much better your feel.
Watch the negativity bias
The human brain is wired to pay more attention to the challenges in life than the good moments. This is really important for our safety and survival but less helpful when it comes to managing your day to day life. Modern science is showing us that there are things we can do each day to train our brains to be more aware of the good things around us and at the same time to calm our reactions to stressors. Including mindfulness practice in your daily routine has been shown to significantly improve our concentration, productivity and ability to manage stress. Taking a few moments a few times each day to pause and focus only on your breath is a great way to start. This only needs to take a few seconds. Where ever you are, pause, close your eyes and take 3 slow, deep breaths counting to 3 as you do. I use this technique more than 5 times a day to help me focus, be present and calm my mind as I do.
Let’s be real. Life will throw setbacks big and small- it is about what you make of them
No amount of self-care, self-belief or mindfulness practice is going to spare any of us from the many setbacks that will come our way. We can’t control all that happens to us in life but we can control how we let those really difficult moments affect us. As a divorce lawyer I see everyday the effect of life’s unexpected setbacks on my clients and their families. But I also often get to see life down the track, when the dust has settled and time has moved on. My clients who are able to find the small positives even when life is terrible, who look for silver linings even on the most challenging days have taught me so much. They are the people that get back on their feet. They go on to have happy, purposeful lives and still achieve their dreams. Life is full of ups and downs of wins and losses of successes and setbacks. It is what we do in those moments that makes all the difference in the end.
Wherever we look, everyone around us is managing their own version of ‘the juggle’. We can only do our best, whatever that is right now in this moment. Sometimes the juggle is easy and often it is hard but such is life and we may only get one chance at it so why not slow down, smile and embrace your juggle however many balls are coming your way.
Clarissa Rayward is a Divorce Lawyer and the Owner of Brisbane Family Law Centre. Over the past 14 years, Clarissa has worked with over 2000 families during separation and divorce. She specialises in assisting her clients to experience a dignified divorce- staying away from the Court process and finding sustainable agreements for the future. This past year Clarissa has begun to tackle the challenging issue of unhappiness in the legal profession through her writing and weekly Podcast ‘Happy Lawyer Happy Life’ where once a week she interviews lawyers who have found a way to maintain a successful career in the law while not giving up their life outside of their career.
In January 2017 Clarissa published her second book, ‘Happy Lawyer Happy Life- How to the be Happy in Law and Life’ and launched the first ‘Happy Lawyer Happy Life’ online course, helping lawyers nationwide to better understand how they can drive happiness in their careers.
If you or someone you know needs assistance during divorce you can organise a complimentary 15 minute phone appointment with Clarissa or one of her team here.
You can organise order a copy of Clarissa’s Book or find out more about her Online Course and Podcast below.
And if you are a lawyer like me looking to better find that integration in your life, my new Membership program ‘The Club’ might be for you!