“But where are the kids? I Don’t know how you do it!”

I am angry, to a point where I haven’t known how or where to direct it, and I’ve been quiet about it (apart from a few minor rumblings) as I process how to best manage my rage.

It all started about 6 months ago after reading a book “The Wife Drought; Why women need wives and Men need lives” by my new hero, Annabel Crabb.

It is a thought provoking read that affected me deeply and has set my new professional direction, I discovered my “Why and What” in one little 282 page publication.

Fast forward to a week ago and I read a post from an amazing women who is risking lots, putting herself our there and following her dream, she also happens to be a mum with young children. Her post broke my heart for so many reasons and I, just as she did, felt compelled to respond, but I didn’t know how or what to say. I have been sitting with her words and what came up for me when I read them, trying to put it into my own words in a way that might serve. Now I feel ready.

I have just come back from attending a Women’s Leadership Program, I spent 2 days with a bunch of inspiring rural women, sharing stories and listening to their triumphs and struggles and it became clearer to me.

We women need to STOP sabotaging ourselves and others!

To help clarify, I have put together an easy to follow 5 step process.

Scenario: You see a woman doing something big, exciting, risky, time consuming, adventurous and you are about to ask her a question;

Step 1: Check yourself first. Would you ask a man the same question?

When a man starts a new venture, being it training for a sporting challenge, opening a new business, travelling for work etc. He is NEVER asked, hmm what about the kids? Where are the kids? Who is looking after the kids? How do you fit it all in, you know with work and family??? Yet as women, it rolls off the tongue so quickly, it is almost spoken before any Yay! Congratulations or GO YOU!! is even uttered.

Step 2: If yes (you would ask a man), it may be an ok question to ask, because it might actually be a genuine curiosity about the business/adventure, but proceed with caution because, how you ask could still infer a perceived issue.

If your answer is No, then STOP, instead ask yourself, what’s going on for ME here, why am I questioning her, what do I really want to know?

What I have realised the past few days, is that our mother guilt runs deep and hard, like a torrent flowing through our every cell and that we get through each day by building a very thin layer of protective ice that allows us to leave our children for periods of time to pursue other things, work, rest and play. But this feeling is so pervasive that every question, sideways glance or inference is an ice pick chiselling away at our protective barrier and you never know when it’s going to seep through in a trickle slowing undermining our resolve or gush out like a blow hole and drown us in it’s wake. And when this happens, everyone loses.

Step 3: Ask yourself, why do I care so much about HER family?

In truth, you actually don’t, what is more likely going on, is that you are measuring your own success (or perceived failure at life) against someone else’s dream.

If we’ve never had any desire to climb Mount Everest, run a marathon or open a business, why do we feel a sense of inadequacy because we haven’t done any of those things?

It’s most likely because we haven’t stopped and taken the time to set ourselves any goals so when we see other women out there going after theirs we are left feeling uncomfortable and at worst a hopeless failure.

I coached an incredible woman last year and she said to me, “I’m not very good at running, I only run about 5kms each day.”  After I picked myself up off the floor, I asked her, do you want to compete at the Olympics in a marathon? She gave me a quick ‘No” so then I asked her about her running goals, because I said I would consider myself a major athlete if I could run 5km’s without stopping, I would be sooo proud of myself! However, if you are aiming for a marathon, then yes, 5kms is a start, not the end. But she had failed to identify what would success look like for her, with her running, so how was she ever going to know when she got there?

Step 4: If you now find yourself feeling shame over times you realise you may have done this to another woman or yourself STOP that too!

Shame is debilitating, paralyzing and just makes us shrink and that does no one any good. Shame keeps us stuck in “Oh I’m such a bad person, I’m such a failure!” Stop the pity party and shift that destructive thought pattern, you don’t know what you know don’t know, but now you do, so it’s up[ to you to do something about it and shame won’t let you do that. Shame is all about “I AM bad” and there is no where to go from there but down.

Instead, feel a bit guilty, a little bit of guilt never hurt anybody, guilt can be used to motivate and give us a reason to DO better. Guilt tells us we DID something bad, and next time we can behave differently. We can change behaviour, it’s all a choice.

Step 5: Ok so by now, you may have been through an emotional wringer and you’re asking yourself what could I do instead.

If you see a woman you have admiration for, ask yourself what is it you admire? Is she doing what you’d like to be doing? If so, what is it that she’s doing that you admire? Is it the business, or the way she seems to have it altogether (which as we all know, can be a bit of an illusion, like to duck gliding effortlessly across the pond, but under the water paddling like mad to stay afloat!)  Then just simply say, “Congratulations on your….I’m so looking forward to watching/helping you succeed” Let her know you have her back, no hidden ice picks!

If you’d like to learn from her, offer to take her out for coffee so you can pick her brain for an hour, to which she will probably respond that she’s still muddling through, not sure what she has to offer etc, because we women are also conditioned to downplay our success stories for the other dreaded tall poppy loppers! But don’t let her get away with that! We need to be proud of our achievements and celebrate our wins with those who helped us get them and be willing to share our stories that can include our misses. This gives us a chance to give a leg up to the women who follow.

Ladies, we need to be super aware of ways we either elevate or deflate each other, and we need to always choose the former.

If this has left feeling unsettled or uncomfortable do something about it. Look at your values and what is important in life for you, set some goals that align with your values and work with your strengths. If you need help to do this, get it, talk to someone you trust or send me a message, I’d be happy to chat.