Five things I learnt from my five-year-old
A working mother's life is all about managing different roles - both at home and work. As we juggle various responsibilities while keeping the family going, we often lose sight of the bigger picture, and forget to take care of ourselves. It's in those moments that some simple words of wisdom help us get back on track.
Sound advice, you have to admit, often comes from unexpected sources. In my case, it was my five-year-old son who set me on the right track while I was losing my sense of perspective.
It was a lazy Sunday in the middle of summer. While my family snoozed after an elaborate lunch, my son was sprawled on the floor playing with his tiny cars, and I was pounding away at the laptop. At that time, I had just started out as an entrepreneur. Each prospective client meeting was cherished, and every proposal agonised over. And weekends were things that happened to other people.
In the middle of the sixth version of a proposal, I started feeling frustrated, and used a 'bad word'. My son looked up from his place on the floor, and said sweetly, "Ma, take a ‘timeout’. You need a nap." Those simple words said by my five-year-old had a lasting impression on me. It set me thinking about taking care of myself and relaxing. And I started to pay more attention to what he said the next time.
Over the past few years, my son has said stuff to me that has helped me get my act together. Many of the things he said are silly and perhaps obvious, but when one is an entrepreneur and a working mom, the obvious is often ignored. This post has five pieces of advice I got from my son, which helped me get my act together. So here goes:
When tired, take a 'timeout'
Taking a timeout to recharge is an essential part of being a successful entrepreneur. Stress often leads to burnout. By consciously recharging when possible, we can go the extra mile when required. In my case, I consciously try to minimise the workload on weekends, and I don't work between seven and nine pm. That is my family time.
Play with friends every day
My son goes to the playground every day. Come rain or shine at 5pm he is out of the house. He plays with assorted friends till 6:30 pm, and comes home dirty but happy. Since I can't play on the swings anymore, I make it a point to meet my friends for lunch once a week. Many of my friends are fellow entrepreneurs so they help me vent and tell me off when the whining gets too much. A great way to de-stress and feel happy in a busy week.
Carpe diem, and don't sweat the small stuff
My son forgets about fights in the playground or at school in a couple of hours. He is quick to seek opportunities to enjoy himself, hang out with buddies, and do as much as possible in the hours he can stay awake. I really admire this quality in him, and try to make the most of the present.
Don't use the iPad too much
Watching shows on Netflix is my guilty pleasure. Recently, I completed a marathon viewing session, and woke up groggy and disoriented. As I burnt the breakfast and tried my best to send the kid off to school, he smiled at me as said "Ma... you ‘watched’ the iPad through the night. Can I watch too?" My answer was a loud ‘no’. But as I lectured about the ill effects of digital addiction, it brought home the fact that I was spending too much time on digital devices myself. Since then, I started allocating tech-free time zones through the day.
Negotiate when you can
My son has a tendency to negotiate. Whether it is eating fish (“But why?... Can't I eat dal instead?”) or sleeping on time (“How about five more minutes to finish this chapter?”) he is the master at negotiating a better deal for himself. Unfortunately, I totally lack this skill. But I admire people who can work with others to get to a win-win situation.
In sum, life as a working mother is filled with challenges. There are moments, when juggling work and domestic responsibilities, we may feel overwhelmed. In those moments, we can always take a breather, and learn from our children. Simple truths spoken from the heart can help us change our lives for the better.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)