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After our second child we also moved house to a new area and lost our trusted babysitter. There was also a period of adjustment to be able to look after two children. The re-initiation of nappies, bottle feeding and weaning with time for ourselves after the kids went to bed at eight. It would have been all too easy to just carry on in that direction.
I decided to get help and that meant that we could bring back a permanent date night, and what a difference it made. It has given us the opportunity to reconnect regularly, with the ability for it to either be just the two of us, or meet and reconnect with friends. Of course we connect on a daily basis, but the depth of connection is different when you are focused on the kids asking them about their day at kindergarten, weaning our second child which involves 40% of the food being dropped on the floor, playing puzzles, bath time and bed. By the time parent time arrives at 20.00pm we cuddle up and chill. Friday nights is different we have the energy to debate topics like when we were dating from politics, religion, economics, the arts to social issues. We have the chance to laugh and joke from an adult perspective. We have the chance to understand how each other’s lives are going, and help and adjust for each other. We also get to do the things we love eating out, the cinema and being with friends.
While this may only be a few hours a week to some, the date night is what ensures our world fits together.
My biggest recommendation is to make time to reconnect.
I was one of those kids in school who got picked mid-way through or last to play on a team. I played rugby, netball, cricket and basketball. It was not that I did not like sports, but it was the fact I was a girl who had assets well beyond her years. So much so I had to have a breast reduction at 18.
In my early 20’s I fell in love with spinning. I could infinitely peddle to the beat and get to Mars is I wanted. I even trained to do a 470km run and cycle to raise money for the Princes Trust. I felt so focused running. Then S*** happened literally! I came down with Shigella, which before you start googling is a form of Dysentery. 9 days into agonizing pain and my doctor not wanting to shell out antibiotics they did further blood tests and then the strongest dose of antibiotics knocked me flat. I had no energy, my muscular strength went and I had to build it up again.
In my transition period I started Ashtanga yoga. I loved it. At that time of my life I was still deluded that career meant success. So I spent my time as a Management Consultant working on bids until 4am in the morning, living out of a suit case, travelling, accumulating air miles and not knowing where I was going to be on a Monday. To be fair it was exciting and I made the most amazing friends, and worked with really talented people that satisfied my intellectual needs.
I then went independent but relocated to Zurich. At that point I started to challenge what success really was. I was earning lots of money, great friends, had a great serviced apartment, property and a jet set life style and I was still in my 20’s. The truth was on a Sunday I would be alone in that apartment and working; but for what.
In my second transition period a colleague at work asked me to go to a Bikram Yoga class. I then practiced Bikram, but something inside of me changed. I decided to not fly back home every weekend (because I had great friends and family), but to try and integrate into life in Zurich. I decided to focus on me. Each day I went into the studio I focused on me. It wasn’t about those around me, my success was not measured by what others were doing. It was about my practice. Some days my body was different, and I could not go as far and some days my body had a new alignment having a deeper and more advanced practice. I had gone from the competition being external, to internal. I was figuring out what connected me, how could I improve with discipline and focus and this competition was tougher than winning a netball match. It also had life changing implications. In parallel I started and captained the netball team making great friends, but it took me away from what was my true passion.
Life changing self-competition made me focused on everything that connects me. I started to bring and define success for me: my amazing husband (I was single at 30), 2 beautiful children, teach and practice yoga, challenge my mind in a fulfilling and balanced role and education, a healthy life style as my appetite and food tastes changed, as well as launch my start up. I broke away from Bikram yoga because of the significant number of alleged rapes. I continue to practice Ashtanga and Hatha.
There is a misconception that because yoga is not directly competitive it doesn’t add any value. I have had these comments from previous team mates, and even friends. I never try to force my thinking on them. Slowly over the years others have started to practice and you can see the change. What I wanted to share was the clarity of perception I have now. When I thought I was being competitive running, and playing netball it was a distraction. The hardest thing was to constantly improve when the only tool is your own body. That body can change, and believe me it did after each child. I had to go back to zero again which is very humbling, and start again. I don’t get distracted with what others are doing and my life is whole.
The Balance Equation
- Your career will not secure your health. Indeed nothing will, but time spent on exercise, nutrition and a healthy balance will lead to better long-term health.
- Your career will not build the personal relationship with your family and friends. Some of the biggest regrets have been time with partners, or children. On their death bed no one ever said “I wish I would have spent more time on my job.”
- Your career will not pick you up, or look after you when you are sick or feeling low. I have had 2 friends who have recently burnt out. This has led to some deep reflection of what do I have? What does it mean? They realise that all these years of focus on the wrong thing has cost them a lot.
- Your career will not support you emotionally in retirement. My mum retired this year she has worked hard since the age of 15, but always had a balance. Every time I call home she is out catching up with old school friends, friends, salsa, at yoga and next year she is travelling for 6 months. She has friendships that she has vested in for over 60 years, and which still give her a rich emotional quality of life.
- Your career is not there in the morning to give you cuddles or long lasting memories. Your partner and children are.
Yes a career can provide financial stability, and a sense of achievement in the mental stimulation that a person may need, and the results they deliver. It may even provide connections to people who become lifelong friends. However, it is the actions outside of our career that provide the physical and emotional requirements that we need. To live a truly balanced life we should not let that mental and financial requirement supersede the physical and emotional needs.
The next level of complexity is that it is not just about your financial, physical, emotional and mental requirements that provide balance. It is the balance of your requirements and whoever else exits in your unit for example: your partner, and children.
1. Don't live your life by anyone else's expectations.
2. Put yourself first. If you are not breathing you can't be there for the one's you love.
4. Have honest vested friendships. True friends will put their friends happiness first, even if it affects their friendship. If a friendship constantly drains you - walk away.
7. Focus on the things that matter. The things that need to be done, that matter and that you can move. Don't get stuck on the small and trivial.