In the past few weeks, the local playgrounds have been empty, even on the brightest days. Because so many people are away on vacation. Or oscillating between the pickups and drop offs of camp-a-palooza.
But the warmer days and sun filled evenings, tempt us to stay up and out longer. Yet choosing how to spend time during this nostalgic season can feel complicated. Especially since, ‘summer slowdown’ is a myth in most professions.
It’s difficult to emerge from working and parenting through summer logistics, feeling refreshed. So, how can we honor our values, to make this time feel special and still manage other responsibilities? Well, even if you can’t take a summer sabbatical, you can take breaks, change routines, and adjust family norms.
It’s never too late to establish different rituals. Our kids are always changing, we’re always changing and there’s no pattern you can’t interrupt. So, enjoy a little inspiration from two powerful books.
1. The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama
“One light feeds another. One strong family lends strength to more. One engaged community can ignite those around it. This is the power of the light we carry.” Michelle Obama
If you’re a fan of Michelle’s style, you’ll love the stories about her early life, career progression, and guiding principles in The Light We Carry. The book is all about her personal toolkit. The combination of attitudes, beliefs, strategies and practices she uses, to deal with uncertainty.
And there’s a whole chapter, called “Meet My Mom” about parenting. She shares what she’s learned from raising her own kids, and wisdom from her parents. Especially her Mother. Most importantly, she is candid about the struggles. Like feeling overwhelmed, conflicted, guilty, perpetually worried, and unsure. Especially when she was navigating her legal career pre-White House.
Relinquish the Idea of Control
“As a parent you are always fighting your own desperation not to fail at the job you’ve been given. There are whole industries built to feed and capitalize on this desperation…from baby brain gyms to SAT coaches. … I’m sorry to say this doesn’t end with any one milestone either. The desperation doesn’t go away when your kid learns to sleep or walk or goes to Kindergarten. Or graduates from High School, or even moves into their first apartment and buys a set of steak knives. You will still worry. … As long as you are still breathing, you will still worry there is something more you can do.” Michelle Obama
Training, which is a lot of what we do as parents, takes time, energy, and patience. So, Michelle explains how her Mother parented for the long-term goal. She always reminded her that her job was to, “put herself out of business.” Because parenting at its core, is to raise competent, healthy, and happy adults who won’t need us. So, she shares how her Mother fostered independence. By allowing her and her brother to make and navigate certain mistakes.
Reinforce That Home is a Place of Belonging
“Once, when I was in high school, and unhappy about having to deal with a math teacher who struck me as arrogant, my mom heard my complaint, nodded understandingly, and then shrugged. “You don’t have to like your teacher, and she doesn’t have to like you,” she said. “But she’s got math in her head that you need in yours, so maybe you should just go to school and get the math.” She looked at me then and smiled, as if this should be the simplest thing in the world to grasp. “You can come home to be liked,” she said. “We will always like you here.” Michelle Obama
Michelle’s parents did a masterful job of making her and her brother feel seen, revered, and loved. They encouraged her to set realistic limits on what to expect externally. While reminding her, that she always had support and love, inside of her family.
2. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
“To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.” Jim Loehr
The Power of Full Engagement is as much about work/life integration as it is about performance and leadership. Although it was published in 2003, when ‘engagement’ was all the rage in corporate circles, the lessons are just as powerful now.
Choose Energy Over Time Management
Most of us learn quickly, especially after kids that energy management is more important and nuanced than time management. It’s not only the lack of sleep or emotional exhaustion, or even the long hours. Moms still ‘own’ the majority of household work and childcare in most families so, we’re often reacting to or anticipating other people’s needs, all day long.
The premise of the book, is that you need a well rounded life to maximize energy. Although few workplaces really support this, it’s widely known that humans can’t work like machines. They advocate for focused, meaningful breaks throughout the day, for renewal.
Most Work Cultures Don’t Allow Space for Revival
“We live in a world that celebrates work and activity, ignores renewal and recovery, and fails to recognize that both are necessary for sustained high performance.” Jim Loehr
This is at the heart of the challenge for many. In the book, they quote a leader who said, “one of the biggest problems with modern management is that you don’t get the satisfaction of feeling your job is well done at the end of the day. There’s always more work.”
They compare the physical and emotional demands of elite tennis players, they worked with, to the corporate ‘athlete.’ who doesn’t have a ‘coach’ or advocate for recovery time. And as we all know, burnout and breakdown occur when we can’t tend to our mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual health.
So, Protect Time For Family With Your Rituals
“Rituals also help us to create structure in our lives.” Jim Loehr
Most leadership and time management experts talk about the power of rituals. Because they help protect our brains from the mental load, and make it easier to honor our values and commitments.
It’s probably not a surprise that time management books are rarely written for or by Moms. And in some of the most popular books on leadership or productivity, ‘family time’ is rarely mentioned. Yet in this book, the authors dive into several mini-case studies, with leaders they’ve coached. And all of them address the concept of family or personal relationships.
They discuss how each person aligned their values to their behavior, to ultimately strengthen those bonds. Often, with intentional connection in the form of rituals. And it wasn’t always ‘live’ time. A Dad who was profiled in the book used emails, cartoons and notes placed under the doors of his daughters rooms to show them, that he was thinking about them.
Our Relationships Can Be Powerful Source of Renewal
“We survive on too little sleep, wolf down fast foods on the run, fuel up with coffee and cool down with alcohol and sleeping pills. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become short-tempered and easily distracted. We return home from long days at work feeling exhausted. And often experience our families not as a source of joy and renewal, but as one more demand in an already overburdened life.” Jim Loehr
It’s an important reframe, from ‘family is demanding’ to ‘family is a wellspring of love and purpose’ one that we can relate to and leverage. In the book they also address spiritual health. And how staying grounded and connected with the people we love, not only feels good, it helps us recharge in ways other activities can’t. Of course, we also need time alone. But baking in thoughtful touch points with our kids, partners, parents and friends can improve mood and reduce the all-too-common burnout many are feeling.
Enjoy the gift of more clarity, presence and time for yourself. Care packages for Moms by Moms,
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