Ep #9: Career, Family, Wellness, and an Alternative to Work-Life Balance

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | Career, Family, Wellness, and an Alternative to Work-Life Balance
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Being a mom is hard, and it can be impossible to find the time to do everything you truly want to do. When you are balancing a career and family, self-care and wellness can often fall to the bottom of the priority heap. But nobody is going to take care of your needs for you, and when you take care of yourself, everybody around you wins.

If you are familiar with the tension that comes from the desire to have a meaningful career and the desire to have positive family relationships, I hear you. But what would you say if I told you that you could have both? What if you could be a working mom, and a good mom, while still balancing self-care? Well, it is entirely possible, and this week, I’m showing you how.

In this episode, I’m diving deeper into the challenge of being a working mom with a career-level job, and the issues and challenges that come up with balancing everything that comes with it. I’m sharing the reasons that you may prioritize your career and family above self-care, why having it all is possible for you, and what you need to do to get it.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away a wellness journal to five lucky listeners who follow, rate and review the show. I want your honest opinion and feedback so I can create an awesome show, and make it a useful, fun resource for you.

Click here to learn more about the contest and how to enter!

What You Will Discover:

  • The issue I run into most often when I coach working moms.
  • How to find a workaround for your self-care.
  • A prime example of people-pleasing and why it doesn’t do you any good.
  • Why it is not selfish to take care of your own needs.
  • What a career-level job means to me.
  • How to give yourself permission to put self-care at the forefront in your life.
  • The difference between alignment and balance.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Follow on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Featured on the Show:

  • To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m giving away a wellness journal to five lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. Click here to learn more.

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #8. Want to change your habits, but have no idea where to start? Let’s get you going now.

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #9. If the thought of work-life balance makes you laugh, tune in. I’ve got an alternative for you.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high achieving, busy working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer and Certified Life Coach Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new? What’s good? I am going to start this episode just a little differently than I have others, because I wanted to read just a snippet of a review about this podcast. There’s a reason that I chose this specific one, and I’ll get to that in a second.

But this one was from “akambergl”. I probably destroyed that username, and I apologize, but I’m going to read it anyway. She said, “This is beautiful, relatable, wholesome content delivered by a highly qualified professional who clearly understands just how challenging it can be to juggle a career-level job, a partner, kids, friends, a pet, and the desire to grow and not be simply physically fit but actually feel WELL.” I’m going to stop myself right there.

She said a lot of really nice other things, and truly made my day by sharing her experience, and really nice words. I cannot say enough, how much I appreciate that review. More than anything, I want to thank you for introducing me to the term “career-level job”. I have been searching and brainstorming and racking my brain over the proper word to describe it, and to describe us and the kinds of jobs that we have.

Once I read your review, you nailed it. Thank you. One, certainly for your super kind review, and two, for giving me the term that I have been looking for. Just FYI, another reviewer used the term “bush moms”, which I also absolutely loved and totally made me laugh. But I decided to run with career-level job for the purposes of today’s episode.

So today, we’re talking about career, family, and self-care, and really, how you fit it all in. I named this podcast, Strong as a Working Mom, for a reason. Being a mom is hard, period, end. I have tremendous respect for moms who choose to work in their homes, raising their kids. I have absolutely no idea what that is like. I have no clue how challenging that is. And very simply, I just cannot speak to it. I’m okay with that, because that is a choice I made.

But what I can speak to, is the challenge of being a working mom with a career-level job. Because there are, most definitely, some issues and challenges that come up. I have lived through some of them. The majority of clients that I coach, are moms with careers. And, we spend a pretty good amount of time talking about the issues related to managing it all. Meaning; career, family, relationships, and wellness.

Because remember, wellness is the trifecta of, eating plus moving plus thinking. That’s right from Episode 1, right there. The issue that I run into most often when I coach working moms, is the guilt and having to make really tough choices.

Many of you just don’t have the time, we’ll get to having the time later, to do the things that you want to do. And then, you’re left making some really difficult decisions. Quite often there is a sense of guilt that comes with those decisions.

I bring this up because my mission is to help working moms have both, a strong mind and a strong body. That gets really hard to do when you’re balancing a demanding career, your family’s needs, and your own needs. I’m going to speak from my own experience here, for just one minute, so you can understand why this matters so much to me.

Like, why does it matter to me that I’m a working mom, and why do I care so much about other working moms? First, it comes from what I observed growing up. I grew up in a home where my dad was the primary earner. He worked in the automotive industry, and worked mostly second shift doing a job that, frankly, he often complained about. He inspected the quality of paint on cars that were coming off the assembly line.

My mom did not graduate high school and she had all kinds of odd jobs, including hotel housekeeper, fast food cashier, dry cleaning machine operator, and there were many others that I don’t even remember. What I do remember, was that money was always a topic of conversation in our house. Always, and specifically the lack of it.

It did not take me long to realize that my mom did not have the means to support herself. During some of the worst moments growing up in my home, I wondered if my parents had work that supported them, and if they each had careers that gave them stability, I wondered if they would still be together.

Because if I’m being 100% honest here, I imagined that my parents would long be divorced if it wasn’t for their financial instability. There is no way that my mom would have been able to support herself, let alone me and my sister, on the type of work that she was doing.

So, as a scared and confused teenager growing up in a rocky home, the message that I took home was this; I got to support myself. And, there is no way in hell I was going to be dependent on my partner to take care of me.

And sure, I guess if you want to boil it down, it means being able to make enough money that I could take care of myself and my kids, if we were suddenly on our own. But truthfully, there is more to it than that. Yes, it was about supporting myself and my kids. But there was more to it. I wanted a career-level job as much as I wanted to have a family, and raise respectable humans.

For me, having a career-level job means that it’s more than a hobby. To me, it means opportunity for serious growth, advancement, lifelong learning, and most importantly, the opportunity to create something of value for others.

In this case, here, it’s other working moms who want to feel good. It’s certainly not to say that you can’t do this in non-career-level jobs. But there is a difference in the advancement that you can make as a grocery store clerk, like my mom, versus ascending the corporate ladder. Versus becoming a chief medical officer at your hospital, you get the idea.

In order to do these things, and achieve at this level, there is serious education, grit, discipline, and frankly, straight up hard work to get there. That gets really stinking hard when you throw kids in the mix. And then, the guilt starts.

So, if you have ever dealt with the guilt, or if you are familiar with that tension, that comes from the desire to have a meaningful career, and the desire to do something in the world, and the desire to have positive family relationships, I hear you. I want you to know this; you can do both. You can be both a working mom, and a good mom, you do not have to choose. I would add to that, you can do both, and be good to yourself, it is entirely possible. Here’s what I want to offer, I want to offer something for you to think about.

When you take care of yourself, everyone around you wins. When you take care of yourself, everyone around you wins. What I want to work through with you today, is this. It’s one of the more common obstacles I run into when I’m coaching my working moms, who have put off their self-care and feel ultimately frustrated, exhausted, stressed, and guilty. But they know they need to take better care of themselves, because they don’t feel good. And, they just don’t know what to do.

You can apply this to most, really, most any type of self-care. But exercise is where I see this most often. I will be working with a client who has a crazy busy schedule, and she’ll say that she wants to exercise, because it’s important to her. But she doesn’t, because of any one of these reasons.

The two most common: One, she doesn’t want to get up early because she’s already not sleeping enough. Maybe she stays up late. Or, she doesn’t want to exercise after work, because that takes away the time she could be spending with her kids and family.

So, you have a few choices: You can choose to get up early to workout. You can exercise during lunch, if you get a lunch. Or, you can get it done somewhere in the timeframe when you’re done with work for the day and before you go to bed. In that letter circumstance, that may mean more time away from your kids and your family, and then you have a really hard choice to make.

As I think through this and brainstorm, which I’ve done a number of times with many of my clients, we think of a couple options. One, you get yourself up early and slog yourself out of bed to get that workout done, before your kids are up and before you go to work. Let me be the first to say, this may not be possible for multiple logistical reasons. However, if it is possible, and this is the one and only time in your day that it’s possible to get your exercise in or your self-care in and you don’t do it, then I would argue it’s not a priority.

That is totally okay. If it is truly a priority for you, if your self-care is truly a priority for you, then you will find a workaround, you will find a way to get it done. If it’s not a top priority for you, you won’t. Let me just add, there is something very freeing about that. I ask clients this very often. It is just as freeing and liberating to declare that something is not a priority, as it is to say that something is a priority.

You have to decide how important exercise, or your yoga class, or your morning meditation, or your gratitude journal, or whatever it is, whatever that self-care is, you have to decide where it falls on your priorities. Then, you have to make a decision.

Second, maybe you decide that it is a priority to exercise, but you feel guilty about working out after work, because it takes time away from your kids and your family. And, this is a huge one. I see this a lot. If you’re not exercising at a time when your kids are sleeping or when they’re gone, your exercise may be overlapping with a time that they’re home. And then, you have another hard choice to make.

You have to choose how do you spend that time? Do you take the 30 minutes or 60 minutes to go and do your class or your workout? Or, go for a run? Or, go for a walk? Or, do you skip it? This is not an easy one, I will be the first to admit it. What do you do? Imagine you’re presented with that choice; you can choose to do the workout and get back to your kids, or you can skip it.

Here are some things to help you decide. If you can make your decision from a clean place, and decide with clarity and from a place of feeling genuine, that you are okay skipping your workouts because you truly want to be with your family, that’s one thing.

When I say a clean place, I mean, there is no resentment, and no aggravation. You’re playing catch in the front yard. Or, you’re playing games. Or, you’re making whatever food it is with your kids, and you’re doing so willingly, and from a place of honesty and integrity with yourself and your family. You are happy to be there, you want to be there.

On the flip side, if you’re playing with your kids, instead of doing your self-care or your workout, because you felt obligated to be there, you may not be fully present. I see this all the time. You are not fully there, because there’s part of you that knows you sacrificed your self-care for the sake of your family. You may be there, but it’s with gritted teeth, and an underlying tension that feels just icky. I know that’s not very scientific. But that is a prime example of people-pleasing, and it does no one any good.

I learned this concept in my coaching course. I want to share the idea here. And it’s this, people-pleasers are liars. I can say that with conviction, because I was one. Most definitely still working on that, as with many things I’m working on. But what it means is, you don’t really want to do something, but you say yes, because you feel obligated.

And all the while, you are angry, and upset, and resentful. You’re saying you’re happy through gritted teeth, and there is steam coming out of your ears, when in hindsight, you could have instead spoken your truth, and taken care of your needs from a place of authenticity, with yourself and with your family.

Very simply, let me ask you this; does it feel better to be honest with yourself, or does it feel better to people-please and do what you think other people want you to do? That’s a really hard question.

As a spoiler alert, we’re going to get all into other people’s opinions of you. Because this is a big one, this is huge. I see a lot of obstacles here, so we’re going to talk all about other people’s opinions, in a future episode. Hang on for that one.

But to help clarify this for yourself, answer this question; how do you feel when you decide to skip your workouts? Or, your yoga class? Or, your book club or your meditation session? Whatever it is. Do you feel content with your decision? Are you making that decision from a place of integrity, so that you can show up for your family as your best self?

Or, are you angry and irritated? Are you making that decision based on a feeling of obligation, that results in you being there, but not really there. Only you can determine that for yourself.

And so, here’s where it all comes together. You probably know this already, but let me remind you, your family and your kids want you, to want to be there. They don’t want you to feel obligated to be there. There’s a big difference, they will know it; they will feel it. And, you will most definitely feel it because there will be a nagging tension and heaviness to it, if you’re there with your kids and your family and you’re not fully present.

Is there a compromise? Is there a way to get in your exercise or your self-care and still be present with your kids? Of course, there is. The key word here is compromise. For many of you, when we first start working together, you will comment on what exercise, eating well, or general self-care used to look like before kids, partners, family and your job.

We’re all competing for your time, and that is hard. It may be that before kids, you could get up at the crack of dawn and take off on the road for your run, or head to your gym for your workout class, or turn on your yoga and then go to work all day. And, there was no one else to answer to. But now, kids are involved and your schedule is just not the same.

Your workout may no longer be that perfectly boxed 60 minutes anymore, and it may not be at the time of day or the location that you prefer. Here it is, here is where you ask yourself; where can you compromise? And, can you accept a short walk and call it good, on the really bad days, knowing that you, at least, did something for yourself, before you go and manage the needs of your family?

For my perfectionists out there, I am talking to you. Because often, this is where people stop before they even get started. For many of you, if it is not a well prescribed 30-minute crazy sweat session on your treadmill or on the road, it is not good enough, so you don’t bother. But let me argue, that doesn’t get you anywhere. I’m going to share with you the mantra of fitness after children, and that is this: Something is better than nothing. I will put this on a t-shirt, I will tattoo it on my chest, I will shout it from the rooftops, because it is the absolute truth.

Sometimes your kids puke. Sometimes you get no sleep because they have nightmares, or they’re up all night feeding, or they wet the bed. Sometimes things just do not go as planned. If you wait for that perfectly packaged 30 minutes or 60 minutes, or whatever time you want, to get your workout in, you may be waiting a long, honking time. The question is, can you accept less than perfect when it comes to your self-care?

Let me add too, we have a lot more to discuss about perfectionism. Oh, for sure. But I’m saving that for an entire episode, because it is such a huge topic. And, we have a lot to unpack there. So, stay tuned, there’s more to come on that, too.

But suffice it to say, you can take care of both your needs and the needs of your family. But it may require some compromise. For many of you, what I see instead, is that you skip your workout altogether out of a sense of obligation, because you feel guilty for taking any chunk of time to take care of your own needs.

But there’s some irony here. So, you sacrifice the time to take care of yourself in order to manage the needs of your kids, and your needs go unmet. But when you’re there with your kids, it’s not fully joyful, it may not be fun, sometimes it’s strained, because there’s something missing. What’s missing is you; you haven’t taken care of yourself. Often, you’re just not fully there.

So, here is where that whole airplane analogy makes some sense, right? When the plane goes haywire, and the oxygen masks come down from the ceiling, you put on your oxygen mask first, and then your kid’s mask, same idea here. No one is going to take care of your needs for you.

Unfortunately, no one is going to read your mind and say, “Geez, Carrie. It seems like it’s been a while since you went to the gym. Why don’t you just go?” You are going to have to make it known, and make a plan to fill your needs. Here’s a big reminder, it is not selfish. It is not selfish. Because remember, when you take care of yourself, everyone around you wins.

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the concept of work-life balance, here. Of course, this is where it gets sticky. For many of the women I work with, we spend a great deal of time talking about the concept of work-life balance. I’m just going to put it out there: The idea of work-life balance is nice, but I just don’t love it. And, here’s why.

If you think of an actual balance, it puts one thing against another. In the case of work-life balance, you’re putting your work life against your non-work life. Because it’s a scale, it ultimately is a measure of quantity. And in this case, it means time.

So, we’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day. For many of us, we spend eight, frankly often, much more than that, hours of our day at work. If you’re super lucky, you get eight hours of sleep. Then you add in commute and other tasks like, getting ready, household chores, laundry, dinner, cleaning, whatever.

You’re lucky if you’ve got four hours, at most, of non-work, non-maintenance type of stuff. For some I get it, this may be a very generous estimate. But I do not know a single person that I work with, who has a ton of free time. So, what do you do with that time? Here’s what I see happen most commonly. You take care of your family’s needs, and you spend time with your family at the expense of taking care of yourself.

What this means is that self-care goes out the window. You feel worse, because you haven’t moved your body in a way that feels good to you, or you haven’t done any sort of activity that fills you up, and you feel empty. Then, the process repeats itself. This is a slippery slope. I’m putting it out here now, because it needs to end. I’m not saying to ignore your family. Let me make that clear. I’m not saying ignore your family. But what I’m asking you to consider is this; consider giving yourself permission to put self-care at the forefront. If you’re shaking your head at me, I’m talking to you.

So, going back to the idea of work-life balance, let me offer you this alternative. Instead, consider the concept of alignment. I absolutely love this word. What it means, as it relates to your work and your life, is that while you may not be able to spend the same amount of time on all of the things that matter to you, you can make a concerted effort to ensure that your energy, that you apply, is the same.

Think about the alignment of the tires in your car. Imagine that each of those tires is something in your life. So, career, relationships, kids, family, self, you choose. If the self-care wheel is constantly out of alignment, you are not running properly. If the wheel that represents your family is out of alignment, you are not running properly. But what I love about this, is that it does not imply that each of these parts of your life get equal time. Rather, it is the energy and alignment that you put into them that matter.

Going back to self-care and exercise, so what if you’re putting so much energy into your work, your kids, and your other important relationships, that your self-care wheel is totally out of alignment? Then what? If you go back to this car analogy, you’re not going to be running smoothly. And, if you keep it up for too long, car’s going to break down.

Most often, for the working moms that I coach, it is that self-care wheel that is generally out of whack. To be clear, here, there is a difference between alignment and balance. Balance implies that your time and effort are generally evenly divided among all the areas of your life, and that is superhuman. If you have figured that out, please send me a text and let me know how you did it.

Alignment, on the other hand, if you google it, means proper positioning of parts in relation to each other. To me, that means well rounded. Most of us aim to be well rounded in the important areas of our lives, like career, relationships, wellness. But it is too often, for my working moms, that wellness takes a backseat to everything else. That’s where we run into trouble.

But when you’re living in alignment, the important parts of your life line up. They coexist in harmony, mostly. So, if this is sounding a little too much like cotton candy and rainbows, let me bring it back down to Earth for you. When you live your life in alignment, you’re also realistic.

There will be days when work needs you more, and you give more of your energy to work. There will be times when your kids need you more, and you give more of your energy to them. There will be days when you need to be extra kind to yourself. When you’re truly living in alignment, you can do that, and know that you’re not going to fall apart. Your car’s not going to fall apart, because at the heart of it all, your energy and intention is there.

Your energy is there and you are fully capable of shifting that energy to whatever wheel needs the attention. Because you know you’ll bring that energy back when work simmers down, or your family drama is over, or your kids feel better. This is not fluffy. It is living with intention, and making a choice to live in alignment with what matters to you, and directing your energy appropriately.

To bring this all home: It is not fun, nor is it sustainable for that matter, to be at the top of your game in one area of your life, at the expense of the others. It’s really hard to be a rockstar at work, when your relationships are suffering. It is hard to bring your best to your family, when work stinks. It is hard to be awesome for your kids and your family and your work, when you have nothing in the tank because you’re not taking care of yourself.

Too many of you are running on autopilot and are grinding and hoping; if I just keep going things will get better. But you know this, it does not work that way. Remember what Brené Brown said, I’m totally paraphrasing here, but she said it really well and I want to share. If you are capable of creating an overworked, overcommitted, overstretched life, it means you are capable of uncreating it.

Is that easy? Heck no. It means making some really hard decisions. But if you are struggling to manage at all, hear me out. You can have it all; career relationships, wellness, really, it is all available to you. But it may mean that you give yourself permission to take care of yourself. When you do that, start small; a five-minute walk after work to decompress after a stinky day, that counts. It does not have to be huge.

Remember, where can you compromise? It does not have to be perfect. Start small. If you need a reminder of how to do this, go back to Episode 8. We talk all about habit creation and how to start small. Remember, when you feel good and when you take care of yourself, everyone around you wins. Especially you, and that is priceless.

So, let me know what you think of this. I know this has been a long time coming. I wanted to create something especially for my working moms, because I truly believe that you can have it all. It will not be perfect. It definitely will not always be pretty. But if you can align yourself with your priorities and live into them, everyone around you will benefit.

Speaking of that, stay tuned for the next episode because that’s where we’re going next, priorities. We’re going to go all into priorities, and I have some questions for you to help you clarify what matters most. Get yourself ready for that one. Okay?

Thanks again for hang out with me today. Please let me know what you think about this. I have been asked about this exact topic many times, so I’m really happy to be bringing you the show today, and I look forward to catching up with you again next week see you then.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m going to be giving away a Wellness Journal to five listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. You do not have to give it five stars, although I certainly hope you love what you’ve heard so far. But more than anything, please give me your honest opinion and feedback so I can create an awesome show for you.

I would love it if you shared your questions and thoughts, so I can make the show a useful and fun resource for you. Visit CarrieHollandMD.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I’ll be announcing winners on the show in an upcoming episode. See you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think so you can live in the body you want with the mind match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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