Lately I have been really tired, like, really tired. I’m fine during the day but by 7pm I’m flagging and by 8pm I’m fast asleep. I know the main reason for this is that I’m training extra hard for my race in 3 weeks (three runs a week plus two days cross-training). Oh, and I work and study full time and have two small children. To be honest, work and study give me energy as I find so much meaning and satisfaction in what I do for a living. But it’s that nightly blur of meals, cleaning up, baths, chasing children around while you try to put pyjamas on them, persuading them to brush their teeth, wrestling them into bed… That stuff is the proverbial straw on the camel’s back.
I often feel drained after seeing to my children’s many needs – physical and emotional. I feel like I’m always giving – my energy, time, love, attention, concentration. Then I read a bit more of Covey’s “Seven Habits” book, and got to thinking – what if I could start to receive as well as give?
Covey talks about the three stages of development (?) – dependence, independence and interdependence. Dependence is the stage of “You”. It is a stage when one doesn’t have the skills to be independent, so one depends on others for their needs. This might apply to children and the physically disabled, or might apply to those who are reactive rather than proactive – ie. those people who blame others when they don’t get what they want and who believe that the world owes them a favour and that they have no control over their destiny. You know – grumpy, unhappy people who are at the mercy of external events – perpetually complaining about “the system” and how it fails them. You come through for me. You see to my needs. You make my life better.
Independence is the stage of “I”. A person has the capability and the skills to be self-sufficient, is self-driven and can work towards a self-directed goal. I can do this. I am in control. I can achieve all these things on my own.
Now, independence is a wonderful stage to be in. What enormous satisfaction one derives from feeling capable, knowing one has the skills to achieve wonderful things and be completely self-sufficient! It’s certainly a better stage to be in than dependence. This is the stage that is celebrated in our popular culture. This is the stage my career is in, and why I feel so happy, balanced and in control at work. And the reason why, at the beginning of my journey, I felt a discordance between work and family. Independent at work. Responding to incredible dependence at home. I was becoming a workaholic because I felt like running away from my responsibilities at home.
Until it dawned on me, slowly, like a tentative sunrise, that interdependence is the highest state of being. It’s the stage of we. We make a difference together. We are better together. We can create something beautiful together. We can’t do it on our own.
First I applied this to my career. It was only when I realigned my intentions towards helping and teaching and inspiring others instead of simply fuelling personal ambition alone, that my career started to change direction and in wonderful ways. In fact, it happened almost immediately!
Then this week, I started to apply it to home. I had already written about gratitude, and this practice had helped me immensely with the daily routine. I was certainly enjoying it more, but still so tired at the end of the day from all this giving. This week I opened myself up to receiving. If interdependence is the highest stage, then not only do I give to my children, but I also receive. With them in my life, I am a better person. We’re in it together.
As I dropped them off at daycare one day this week, I had an unusual pang of separation anxiety. Usually we bounce in, say our cheerful goodbyes, and wave and smile. But as I left, I was missing them already, because I had been reflecting on how I needed them, how their lovely little presences in my life had altered the way I think completely, and the way I act and interact. And that evening, I opened myself up to receiving. Receiving their huge smiles, their delicious cuddles, their unconditional love. (Honestly, I do not think anyone could love more unconditionally than a small child.)
As I relaxed and stopped my frenetic giving, my children relaxed too. And they played on their own, happily, after their bath, leaving me some unexpected time to myself. When it was time to say goodnight to my daughter (a time she normally clings to me and cries) I said, as I always do, that I would come back and check on her. She said “Go away Mummy, I will stay awake and wait for you. You can go now”.
I did go back and check on her, and she was fast asleep, of course. I looked at my son, sleeping in his crib. I kissed my daughter. And I drank it all in, and felt a profound sense of calm and renewal.
What if you could stop giving so much, and opened yourself up to receiving? What if you were responsive towards receiving the many gifts that come your way throughout the week – ones that perhaps you’ve taken for granted, or have been too tired or too overwhelmed to appreciate? Wouldn’t this change the way you felt about your day, and relieve that burden of constant giving? Mothers, in particular, seem to suffer from this kind of fatigue. But I think we labour under our own pressures sometimes. We need to remember that the most beautiful, most mature state to be in is interdependence, and what a wonderful way to be interdependent – to be part of a loving family. Of course, this is a work in progress for me. The next night wasn’t quite as easy, but I know that with practice this too will become second nature.
So, the Working Mummy Mindset lesson this week is about being open to receiving the abundant, sometimes unexpected gifts that come your way throughout the week. Relax, breathe, and just stop for a moment, and enjoy the richness and relief that comes with receiving and appreciating. 🙂
Photo credit: By Sarah G from Tulsa, USA (The Gift table) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons