You create your own lifestyle every day, so don't underestimate its importance in terms of your mood and personal happiness.
Caring for a young family is very rewarding but also very demanding because small children are needy and take up a lot of time.
We live in a society where many women and mothers either want to work or have to work. When a working woman has a family to look after as well as a job, it can create a very stressful and demanding lifestyle.
Many women in this situation feel that unless they achieve perfection, both at work and at home, they are failures. So we have many women trying to achieve the impossible and in the process causing themselves and those around them misery and heartache.The superwoman!
There is the idea of the "superwoman" who is successful in a high powered competitive career, while at the same time being the perfect wife and mother. She lives in a fabulous house that's always spotless and has children who are polite and high achievers.
Then in her spare time she writes a novel while baking her own bread. This, of course, is a myth!
So it's important to have realistic expectations about your individual situation. There are only so many hours in a day and there is only so much that any one person can do in that time.
Plenty of women manage successfully, just don't expect to do it all on your own or feel guilty because you can't.
When being a working mother is not successful, everyone suffers, and children can suffer far more than they should have to. When a child sees little of their parents because of work commitments, they can feel sad and lonely, which can lead to problems later on in their lives. The young years of childhood seem to go very quickly and if you miss out on them, you can never get them back. So whatever choices you make, consider the effects on everyone in the family, not just your own needs and desires.A friend's crisis
After bumping into a friend who I hadn't seen for a couple of years I enquired about her family, which included three young children.
She told me that she spent long hours at work and she had split with her husband, mainly she explained, because of the strain put on their relationship by her excessive workload.
She said that she had to "reintroduce herself" to her children during the holiday period because she saw so little of them, they almost felt like strangers.
She had acquired all the material trappings of success but at what cost?
Was she happy and content? No! Her success at work alone was not enough to make her a content and happy person and it also caused unhappiness to the people she loved the most.
As for the long term effect on her children, only time will tell.
Sadly, there are too many cases of young people being affected by this enforced isolation from their parents which can lead to all sorts of problems as they grow up. It may even be referred to as a type of social neglect. Being born into a family free of financial problems does not necessarily mean a happy childhood. Children value the currency of time.
The latest gadgets and other material possessions will not make up for an absent parent.
When Carol Thatcher described growing up with her mother, the late Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister 1979-1990) she said she used to feel one of the best things she could do for her mother was keep out of her way because she was always so busy! The relationship between this mother and daughter has been well publicised in recent years as being "difficult".So what is the answer?
First of all you must feel free to choose what's best for you without feeling guilty!
- If you are happy to follow a career path, that's fine
- If you want to raise a family without having a career, that's fine
- If you want a mixture of both, that's fine too
Just remember that if you want to be happy with your lifestyle, then you must make choices that suit you, your situation and the people in your life.
It is unethical to choose what we want to do without considering the restrictions of our situation in terms of finances, partner or family commitments, but we can find the best compromise which can be achieved by setting realistic goals.
For example if you want to be a stay at home Mom but can't afford to give up working, you might look at working part time or working from home. If you are a dedicated career woman who wants a family, maybe your partner could stay at home to look after the children. Just remember that you cannot undo your past so the right decision is important.
Try not to make a choice that creates a situation you will live to regret.
Too many women try to "do it all" on their own. This will just lead to you becoming stressed out and miserable so don't try to be a one man band.
As a young working mother I tried to do everything myself and as a result I became irritable and bad tempered. Once I "saw the light" thanks to my partner's intervention, life became surprisingly organised and much less stressful.
It is important to share out the jobs. It doesn't matter if they're not always done as you'd expect, learn to be flexible and appreciative. As children grow give them jobs to do as they love the feeling of responsibility it gives them. They can earn their pocket money and privileges this way and it also teaches them a range of important skills.
Have a time, perhaps once a week, when your friend has your children for an afternoon or an evening and you have hers another day. Choose an arrangement to suit you both.
The children will enjoy it and it will allow you both to have a break. A bit of "me" time can be in short supply when you're raising a family so this is one way to have time for yourself.
Don't put things off, it just makes life more difficult as everything piles up.
The more organised you are the better.
- Use a calendar to record appointments and important events
- Use lists to help you remember things and have the satisfaction of crossing things off that you've done!
If you're going on holiday, always have a checklist.
You can add to the list over the years as your needs change. It's a good idea to keep it in your suitcase and it makes packing so easy. You no longer have to sit down and think, "What do I need?" It's all there on your list!
Planning ahead helps to avoid stress, so it's well worth it!
If you're a busy working mum, then you might consider cooking more than one meal at a time and keeping them in the fridge or freezing them. Cooking extra is far less stressful than cooking fresh meals every day. There's something lovely about coming home and knowing that a healthy meal is ready in the fridge and you have a break from cooking.
Of course some meals are not suitable for this procedure but stews and casseroles are not only nourishing, they work well with this method of meal planning.
You could adapt this habit to suit yourself. You could have a big cooking day, preparing meals for a week or so in advance. A friend used to prepare all the family's sandwiches for a week then freeze them. For some, that may be a step too far! But the practice of cooking in advance is a good idea.Don't overwork
In an age where we seem obsessed by cleanliness and tidiness, many working mothers feel under tremendous pressure to have pristine houses.
Some may hire help, and if it suits you do to so then it's fine, but others may not be able to afford this or feel that it's not the right choice for them.
So don't load yourself up with things that don't need doing.
Clothes can be worn more than once without being washed, only wash them if they're dirty.
Teach your children to look after their clothes. If they hang up what they've worn instead of throwing them on the floor and walking on them, it will save work, especially your ironing!
Only iron what needs to be ironed. If you have a tumble drier, many items will not need to be ironed if the load isn't "packed in" and they are hung up as soon as the cycle is finished.
Never leave them in after they're dry or they'll be creased to high heaven!
Avoid lots of clutter. It's much harder to clean a home where there's stuff all over the place.
Make sure everyone keeps the house as tidy as possible, then dusting, polishing and vacuuming become much easier
If you feel that you may have obsessive compulsive disorder over cleaning and housework, you should visit the Mood Traits section on this site which could help you overcome this kind of problem.Making time for each other
You all owe it to each other to spend time together. Plan times when you can all share fun things as a family, at least once a week, and treat this time as non negotiable.
You could go to the cinema, ice skating, have a meal out, or use the time to play games and catch up on chat. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you all have time together and relax.
All the toys and material possessions in the world can't replace spending time with your children. You only get one chance, and once they're grown up you can never go back and change things you might regret.
The actor Jeff Bridges said that one of the most precious times in his childhood was one hour a week that his mother set aside to be with him on his own. She did this for each of her children and it was a special time when each child had her full attention. He said it was wonderful to know that that time was set aside just for him and he admired his mother for doing it.
When my children were small we took them everywhere with us, but I still remember a few times when they asked me to play a game or watch a film with them and I didn't. I was so busy trying to catch up with things that I would sometimes do the housework instead.
I think back to that now and wish I'd left the house to rot and put them first!
So don't put off being with your children because you are too busy or too tired. How many times do parents say, "Not now, later on" and how many times does later on never happen?Remember! Your children need you now!