The Self Others Dilemma

As a marathoner, and a high energy individual, Katie reminds us through her website to “Pace 2 Finish”.  Pacing ourselves is something that we as women aren’t always very good at – especially if there are needs of others involved.  We have a natural instinct to nurture, and there’s nothing wrong with that but it does create tension, and often guilt, in our lives when we are faced with a choice between caring for ourselves or caring for others.

baby-boot-camp-1We tell ourselves that we have to either take care of others OR take care of ourselves.  It doesn’t have to work that way.   It IS possible to care for yourself and care for others.  It’s not an absolute choice.  I like to use this example from my life that I call “Baby versus Bootcamp.”

I was recently asked to babysit my granddaughters overnight.  Our son had a big interview event and spouses were included. It was important that they both attend.   They were new in town and didn’t have an established support network of childcare.  When they called, I cringed.  My bootcamp class was at 8:00 the next morning followed by a busy work schedule.  I wanted to help, but once again, my self-care would come in second place in the competition for time on the schedule.

I had just watched our grandchildren for six days a couple of weeks before and during that time had let my workouts go and lightened up on my work.  I was now terribly behind and not feeling good about my fitness.  I didn’t like the after effect and promised myself I wouldn’t let my basic needs go by the wayside again.  But there’s always another request from someone.  Because it’s never “over”…there will always be another need, another favor, another expectation from others in our lives.

Either OR Source:

I struggled with what to do.  I wanted to help, but I didn’t want to let myself slip again.  I had paid for the class and made a commitment to myself to attend three days a week.  But surely, my grandkids are more important than one one-hour class.  Surely my work could wait one additional day, right?

I was doing what we often do:  Make an absolute comparison as an EITHER/OR decision.  Which is more important?  Grandkids or a one hour class?

No question grandkids are more important.

That’s where we often stop in our analysis.  That’s where we make the mistake.  If we consider it further, there’s another way to look at the situation.  There is a way to make room for my self-care and my grandchildren.

The primary need was for a baby sitter the evening before and for overnight.  I agreed I could babysit and keep the children but proposed alternatives for the next morning.  Either the children had to be picked up by 7:45 am or I would get a college student to watch them in the morning.  In any case, I needed to be freed up by 8:00 so I could attend the class and then work undisturbed.

It worked!  Our kids respected my needs, I covered their request, I went to boot camp and got my work done.

There’s a way to do this.  In our company, Women Leading Together, we work with women to chart their own Career Roadmap.  Life and career intertwine as do our choices.  Here are a few suggestions on how you can convert the Either/Or choice in your life to Both/And:

  • Shrink the problem:  We tend to think in the absolute (grandkids versus bootcamp). But most choices are actually smaller issues.  In my case it was choice of how to manage a few hours of time.
  • Consider how someone else can do it or whether it’s even your problem to solve.   A lot of times we want to solve others’ problems, out of our natural desire to take care of them. In my case I realized that a babysitter for a few hours would be acceptable.
  • Communicate your needs and propose an alternative.

    both-and-web Source:

Here’s what I needed to tell myself.  Yes, grandkids are generally more important than work or bootcamp.  But for that Friday morning between 8 and 9, bootcamp was more important. Not every day, and not all the time, but for that one hour, bootcamp trumped grandkids.  And it was ok.  The relationship was intact all around.  It’s BOTH / AND.

What are you doing to assure both/and in your life and work?

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