The Mother of Martyrs

By Laurie Gerber

Do you believe in having it all? For as long as I can remember, I didn’t. Sure, I could have some things…I just couldn’t have or expect to have everything at once. 

In fact, I firmly believed that anyone who said that they could “have it all” — a happy partner, kids, AND a big career — was either a liar, a faker, or a skipper of sleep. And, since I was never going to lie, fake it, skip sleep, or sacrifice my family’s needs, I was never going to be able to have a huge, successful career AND a great home life, period. 

Sound right? 

Except, my coach got me thinking, was this belief/long-term-theory of mine really an act of selflessness or was it martyrdumb? 

Martyr-what?  

Martyrdumb: 

(noun) A display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration…which, turns out, is more dumb (or chicken) than saintly.

(adj) Temporarily unable (or unwilling) to speak so as not to rock the boat for everyone else BUT yourself.

And like any good human, seemingly stuck with a full-blown belief backed by years of evidence, I busied myself proving this theory of mine true. 

How? Well, whenever a big opportunity came up at work, suddenly I’d start feeling overly guilty and emotional about being a bad mother. I’d get really scared that I was going to ruin my kids if I chose my career over spending the weekend with them. Once, I even cried to my boss at the time, begging her not to send me on an important business trip because I thought my kids needed me. She even almost let me cancel the trip. And brace yourself, if, God forbid, a TV opportunity came my way, I’d question it and preemptively worry that I’d never be able to do a TV show and be there for my family. 

Now, keep in mind, my husband was home a lot, we didn’t need a nanny, and he was happy to be with the kids. As a matter of fact, he encouraged me to follow my dreams. Were my kids upset that I was away sometimes? Well, I never actually asked myself that question. All I knew was that I believed I couldn’t have it all. 

Then, one day, I called my coach and explained everything. I told her that I thought I was having a time management problem and didn’t know how to juggle career and family. My coach had a different take on it. Apparently, I was busy proving my theory that I couldn’t have it all when in actuality, there was no real evidence to back my belief. My career, after all, wasn’t ruining my children. They were happy and great. 

Perhaps my theory was masking something else. 

I was using my kids as an excuse to stay small at work. I was sabotaging opportunities in the name of my children. When I got to the root of it all, my coach helped me see that, in fact, I was hiding from my dreams. 

I was a chicken.

I was way more interested in proving my theory that “I can’t have it all” than facing the truth that I was scared. Obviously, everyone gets scared sometimes, but this is the part of the pattern — my part in it — that I kept failing to see. Staying small and being scared didn’t make me happy in my career, proud of myself, or a great parent! It was actually making a mess of everything. 

Here are the following steps I took to put my chicken back in its coop and start having it all, in my own way.

  1. Design the Highest Ideal for Myself 

I wrote an inspiring vision for my career and family life. It was about having an effortless flow between my home life, family, work, and travel. I was my best in both arenas and made sure they fed each other. The more I articulated how I wanted to feel and show up, the more powerful it felt to live into this dream. 

  1. Replace My Old Theory with a New (Read: More Courageous) Theory

I set out to prove a new theory: the braver I am in my career, the happier my kids and home life will be

It didn’t take long before I heard one of my kids say to me, “I’m so proud of you” and the other bragged to all her friends that her mom was on the cover of a magazine. My kids understood! More importantly they felt that when I am expanding at work, I shine, radiate good vibes, and show up better for them. I also found that the more I worked on my parenting and marriage, the more confident I was with clients and collaborators. 

Having kids was actually helping my career! 

  1. Make Promises 

Clearly, my work-life imbalances weren’t all in my head! Some things I actually had to change regarding how I was running my life. I needed to design promises that would help me stay present, loving, and bold if I wanted to succeed in both my career and home life.

Turns out, kids, spouses, moms, clients, and co-workers like predictability as much as they like attention. Chickens (and inner brats), not so much.

What if one of the reasons I couldn’t have it all was because I didn’t put “it all” into real-time. 

So, here are some of my promises:

  • 6:30 PM family dinner, no matter what, no screens or distractions
  • If I am traveling, special evening cuddle sessions with each kid prior to travel
  • One bold action per day in my career that scared me
  • 10 PM nightly bedtime with my husband for cuddle time (by phone when traveling)
  • No being away 2 weekends in a row. No being out more than 3 nights/week
  • I take the kids to all doctor appointments and attend all performances

 

  1. Keep My Promises or Pay the Piper

The structure of promises changed everything. But, in order to make sure that I kept my promises, I designed some self-imposed consequences for myself. For example, I pay my kids $20 if I am late to dinner. This worked wonders. Suddenly, seemingly overnight, I became extremely punctual to dinner! Funny how that works. And, If I’m late to bedtime, it’s 100 pushups the next day. At the very least, my inner brat will have strong arms!

  1. Tell My Nearest and Dearest (and Then Some)

What also locks a new theory into place is going public with it and being held accountable by all involved. In this case, my family, friends, co-workers, and coach. Sharing my dream for myself and my promises allowed the people in my life to support me, particularly when my pesky mind would tell me I should shy away from a work opportunity.

Truly, it’s amazing how much articulating my dreams, debunking my bad theories, inventing new (and much braver) ones, and sticking to a simple action plan that was a match with my vision changed everything. Not only could I “have it all,” I could quit the suffering, butcher my inner-chicken, pull up my big girl panties, and fully enjoy the kid AND career-friendly ride.

P.S. Inner.U is a 12 session online course that gives you the tools to hack into your own life, hone your dreams, and have every last thing you want in the areas that matter most to you: CAREER, MONEY, LOVE, TIME, FAMILY, and HEALTH. Do this life thing better from wherever, whenever.

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