I know you, Working Mom. You love your life. You do. There's just so very much of it, all the time.
You're up early and you're up late. And in the middle, you seem to be running. Running to the office, to meetings, to soccer games, to the grocery store, to the dentist, to the PTA meeting, to the birthday party for ... well, you can't even remember who the birthday party is for.
You say yes to everything, because you're a team player. Everyone can count on you.
But here are a few things that you don't say often enough.
(Photo: Maartje Van Caspel/Gettystock)
1. "I could use some help."
Asking for help is something that many high-performing women resist. We don't want to be seen as weak, or needy, and we take pride and a sense of identity from our ability to do it all, all on our own.
But successful people know how to recognize their limitations. They know how to look after themselves so that they don't collapse from exhaustion. And they know that some of life's biggest challenges -- starting a business, raising a family, going back to school, caring for aging parents, or making space for a creative project -- require the support of other people around them.
2. "I'm hanging out with my friends tonight."
Our social and emotional network -- the web of relationships we have with friends and family and colleagues -- is one of the richest sources of joy in our lives. Scientific studies tell us again and again that that people with positive social relationships live longer and healthier lives. In fact, the beneficial health effects of good relationships can be as significant as not smoking, getting enough sleep, losing weight, or improving our diets. Yet, while we're willing to invest time on these other health-enhancing activities (alright, maybe not sleeping), we struggle to make time for our friends.
3. "Something new? Sure, I'll try that."
When you're running as fast as you can, routine can be your saviour. But routine can be deadening, too. Psychology tells us that we are happiest when we're immersed in a meaningful activity that pushes us to grow -- and watching TV doesn't qualify. You don't have to be perfect; you just have to engage in something new. So take that dance class, pick up a paintbrush, or learn to play a sport you've never tried. You'll be amazed at how energizing it can be to step outside your comfort zone.
(Photo: Sam Edwards/Caiaimage via Getty)
That's right. No. No to all of the energy- and time-sucking activities that you do because you 'should'.
Should you organize that community picnic? Chair that committee? Join that book club? Before you say yes, apply some of that savvy business thinking from the office to your personal life. What is the return on investment here? Are you learning a new skill, contributing in an important way to your community, lending support to a beloved friend, or just having fun? Then go ahead and plan that picnic. But if you are saying yes because you haven't learned how to set boundaries and say no, now is the time to start practicing.
Now that you've practiced saying no, say yes. Say yes to the things that give you a real sense of joy.
By joy, I mean that pure, short-lived endorphin hit that makes you feel awake and alive and completely present in the moment. If you don't know what gives you joy, start paying attention. Your body will tell you. Try laughing until you cry, writing a perfect sentence, walking with the sun on your back, or having a long conversation with a kindred spirit.
I happen to think that joy is one of the great casualties of working motherhood, and that's a shame. Because anyone can access moment of joy, no matter how frenzied or difficult the rest of life may be. Joy doesn't require us to change everything in our lives in order to achieve it. It isn't something that we can fail at. And it delivers a profound sense of meaning, connection, and well-being.
Isn't that worth saying Yes to?
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