“If you’re doing too much then how do you give yourself permission to let go of some things? To say, I don’t have to do the laundry, I can ask my partner to do it. Or if it doesn’t get done for a week, who the hell cares? So, how do you allow yourself to not have this perfection standard, that you have to, ‘have it all’ done?” said Dr. Charmain Jackman, Clinical Psychologist, Entrepreneur and Mental Health Advocate.
We’re rewarded when we appear organized and in control. So, a lot of us internalize that and when life is messy or unclear, we fear penalties. Or worse, penalize ourselves when things aren’t perfect. Especially at work. But our capacity and needs change so, it’s important to revisit the rules for ourselves. And expectations from others
The Motherhood penalty makes it painful to rise in many jobs. Or expand a business. And if you want to grow, depending on how you define ‘quiet quitting‘ it’s probably not the answer. So, how do you create a more realistic scope of work, without hurting your career?
Know That Letting go is Hard
It’s not only because we want to be on top of things. In most families, there’s no relief. Who will you hand things off to? Whether it’s outsourcing or spouse sourcing, finding another capable adult to transition activities to, isn’t easy. There’s a very real childcare crisis. And navigating equal partnership with a spouse, can take years, so start now.
But in the meantime, become intentional about reducing your workload. Charmain said, “Whether it’s work things or home things, just take stock. What can I let go of and still be okay?”
Especially at Work
Admitting that it’s hard can feel vulnerable. Especially at work. Charmain said, “Workplaces weren’t really tolerant of people going through different things. We’re taught you don’t bring negative or sad emotions to work. You manage that. But the pandemic has really helped companies to recognize this is a struggle for people.”
Amen. Trying to do great work, without a supportive culture, adequate childcare, or mental healthcare hasn’t worked. And in many cases, the chronic stress leads to burnout or worse, depression.
Because the Exhaustion Isn’t New
Charmain said, “The pandemic highlighted and elevated some people’s concerns. But lots of women were feeling this before the pandemic and just kept going. So, make space and time to reflect about what’s going on for you.”
Although we tend to get some breaks, in the paid workforce, that’s rarely true at home. In most US families, women still own the majority of household management and childcare. And you can’t just take a day off from it. So, how do we improve things?
The To-Do List is Unsustainable
A few hours to yourself without the right coverage, can mean returning to dirty dishes, missed routines and cranky people. So, many Moms don’t pause. The post-pandemic economy also means that most work is more complex. Leaving no time between careering, Momming and running a household.
Charmain said, “We’ve also seen that loop in the workplace. People are not taking their time off because they’re afraid of what they’re going to come back to. It’s the same thing.”
Traditional work has never been family friendly. Moms have few leadership role models. And it’s worse for Moms of color*. So, the fear of reprisal is real. So, do you need to disengage?
And it’s a Disincentive to Taking Time ‘off’
There’s a lot of press about quiet-quitting. Or disengaging from work. But few want to risk their heard-earned tenure, promotional opportunities, or trust.
Charmain said, “But you can’t keep powering through it. Either you take that time away and deal with the pile of dishes. Or you figure out how to advocate for what you need.” That might mean conversations with your partner and renegotiation with your manager or clients.
Because it Feels Like Another Trap
Like conductors, we try to keep everything moving on tight schedules, to prevent the trains from crashing. Charmain laughed, “I love the train analogy because people often feel, ‘well that train is gone. And I can’t change things. Or ‘I’m a perfectionist and can’t just become a normal worker now. Because they’re going to notice.’ Once we’ve created this kind of expectation, it’s hard to do just what’s asked, without going above and beyond.” Indeed. Our research shows what many experience. In most organizations, work commitment is demonstrated with long hours. An exhausting paradox for hands-on caregivers.
Figure Out What Your Real Job is
Charmain said, “So what are the things that you’re saying to yourself when you don’t go above and beyond? It helps to have this internal conversation.” Sigh. Everyone wants to be excellent at everything. And if we don’t meet our own goals, we can loose confidence, feel guilt, shame or stress.
It helps to get clear about what the real success measure is. She suggests, “Reflect on, ‘what is my job? What are the minimum expectations for the role? And what am I doing that’s above and beyond?”
And Make a List for Everything ‘Extra’
Charmian said, “There’s a certain amount of pride that we take in doing things a certain way. But once you have that list of what you’re doing that’s extra, choose one thing to let go of.” Nice.
She added, “Consider, ‘for the next week if, if I let go of this thing will I still have a job? What is really required?’ Maybe some of those things, you don’t do ever again. Or there may be times when you only choose to do one or two of those extras.”
Assess Your Environment
Unfortunately, many people have toxic workplaces, un-woke managers or difficult colleagues. The psychological safety isn’t there. So, if you’re managing through workplace aggression or bias*, you may meet resistance when setting or keeping boundaries. If that’s your situation, it may help to avail yourself of an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or work friends, to gain perspective and support.
Charmain said, “Sometimes the obstacles are real. And sometimes we perceive them as real. So, do that check in. How do you assess if this is the right work environment? Part of that is, can you have a conversation with whoever is above you, about that navigation? And if not, think about whether that’s the place for you long term.” Environment matters. And the culture in your workplace or industry influences what you give yourself permission for.
Then Stop All That Overdelivering
Consider your mindset. You have a right to protect your energy and health. And it might require you to become a bit ruthless. Charmain explained, “It’s not about, not doing your work with pride or attention. But not doing all the extra stuff. People might notice the extras. But you can remind them that the job got done.” Yes. And you probably know exactly what you want to do with more time.
And Reinvest Your Time
Managing chronic stress is critical for our health and happiness. So, think about the rewards on the other side of sustainable expectations. Like sleep. Maybe movement, meditation, or any other self-care activity you retired in March of 2020. You can also unapologetically invest in your growth. Financial health creates its own buffer. Think of it as a cushion between you and a certain level of career drama.
So, whether it’s that book you want to read or write. That speech you want to give or platform that you want to build, having more access to your own time helps you get there.
* We have cited McKinsey’s thoughtful research studies for years. We are now thrilled to have McKinsey as a partner.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Charmain Jackman!
Follow Charmain’s great adventure on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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Dr. Charmain F. Jackman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist of Barbadian heritage and the Founder & CEO of InnoPsych, Inc.
Growing up in a culture where the stigma of mental health was pervasive, but therapists of color were not, she decided that she was going to change that. Dr. Jackman has spent the last 20 years working with people of color (POC) in hospitals, clinics, courts and schools, and has consistently observed that POCs long for therapists who look like them—who understand them and who will do right by them! That knowledge has inspired Dr. Jackman to make it easier for POC to find therapists of color! She also wants to change the negative views of therapy and to educate POC about the necessity of taking care of their mental health and to empower communities to heal.Tags: Career Development for Moms, Entrepreneurship for Moms, Manage Stress For Moms, stress management, work life integration for Moms