Social media has its way of giving us unrealistic expectations of what we should be doing in our lives, with our families, for our marriages or for ourselves. It’s nothing new for us to have unrealistic expectations on our lives. Leave It To Beaver reruns set me up for unrealistic expectations decades ago.
Yesterday, I was giving a webinar and in the next two days I have two speaking engagements, one point I stress when I present or speak on anything from communications strategy to finding your voice is you cannot be everything to everyone. You cannot be the “yes” girl, saying yes to every request, meeting every demand in your personal life on your own and withstanding hardship without a support network. You cannot be everything to everyone and not have a crack in your armor or feel like you are sinking.
In social media, do a few things well. Listen. Engage. Share your voice. In real life, do a few things well. Listen. Love. Work hard. Give back. And learn to say no to avoid trying to be everything to everyone.
It’s a lot easier to say that point. To type it. To speak it. But to actually live it out? It is a challenge I face in my life.
Over the past six months, I have learned in being at home, without a commute or typical 8-5 career job, that I cannot do it all from cleaning to laundry to cooking, sprinkled in with consulting work and projects, a few speaking engagements, volunteering for my passions, plenty of playtime with my two younger kids, homework and piano time with our teenager and downtime and actual adult conversation with my husband and truly expect to thrive without dropping a ball or two or five. Somewhere in there I would like to find 45 minutes a day to exercise. Instead, I exercise less, sleep less and still feel like I am falling behind…and I am home chasing after balls I have dropped while still juggling a few I have managed to keep in the air.
Know the feeling?
In the last month, I set out to make some positive changes to help me get out of the pit I seemed to be digging myself. You know what I did? I got help! I am now running my own consulting business but want to limit my hours to allow our family routine to continue to work and thrive. There is a local person with expertise in areas that can assist me in projects. She is helping me on details I might otherwise miss. I hired a great accountant to help because my love for numbers is minimal, unless the sweater I want is on sale. Next comes cleaning help, we will have that soon too. If there is one thing I miss greatly it is our former now retired cleaning princess but we have found a new one. Hiring help is not a feasible solution for many but for me it is helping create a more positive working and family life routine. The cost for a little bit of help is minimal when I forced myself to crunch the numbers of my time…and that need for a minor detail of exercise and sleep.
I am avoiding the word “balance” in all of this learning to not be everything to everyone. Because what is “work/ life balance” anyway? I don’t know that I will ever perfectly find it. I tend to go hard and go home. I tend to thrive when I am a little out of balance. But I know I can’t be everything to everyone. For the first time maybe in my life, but for sure in a long time, I have found my stride. I have turned down opportunities, learned to say “not right now”, “not yet”, “maybe in the future” and plain old “No, thank you.” At the same time, I have opened new doors to say, “Yes, that works for our family”, “Let’s give it a try”, “I can help”, “It’s new to me but yes I can do it.”
Guess what? Learning to not be everything to everyone feels good. Really good. It’s freeing. It’s empowering. I know what topics I love writing about, what topics I love speaking about, what volunteering works for our family and includes our kids and finally I know what isn’t my passion, what doesn’t work best for us in this chapter of life. I am going to do a few things well, for my family, my marriage and myself. Because as I have said before many times, a happy mama makes a happy family.
Take a step back. Stand firmly planted in who you are. What are your strengths? Where can you help in your community? How can you do better for your family, friends and/or your marriage? Then map out a plan. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Because let’s face it, no matter what social media or television reruns says you should like, you aren’t living up to someone else’s expectations set for you by the world. It’s you. It’s what God calls you to do. It’s your family. It’s your community. Love them. Be everything you can be for them. And learn to not be everything to everyone.
And just in case you are everything to everyone, share your secrets on how to keep it together. I need all the help I can get!