I am mentally being pulled between two lives. Help!

This article first appeared June 18, 2010.

Dear Aunty B,

I am a breast-feeding mum who is also running a small business. I can’t even begin to describe my life to you as I run between one and the other. But it is actually the mental strain that I am writing about. When I am expressing milk at work it often won’t come because I am so distracted with the business! Then when I am in a budget meeting I find that I get all weepy and start to express milk while struggling to focus on the figures.

I feel exhausted physically and like I am being pulled mentally between two lives. I am the first to admit I am a Type A personality and an overachiever, but now I am cutting so many corners I feel like no one is getting the best of me: my baby, my husband or the business. But the real problem is that I can’t see this getting any better.

I look at my sister and she is still exhausted juggling it all and her children are almost teenagers AND she doesn’t run her own business. Am I striving for the impossible?

Given Dry,
Gold Coast

Dear Given Dry,

You poor thing! We have all been there and I have good news. It only gets better, I promise! Here is what you must do.

First, I want you to sit still, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Right down into your diaphragm. And focus on that. And breathe. And relax. And breathe and relax.

When you feel a little calmer, I want you to think about staying in that moment. Don’t think ahead, don’t think about the future, just concentrate on what you need to do today. There are going to be more days like this and you will learn to take it a day at a time.

Your aim is to get to the end of the day, go to bed and rest.

Tomorrow I want you to book some time off from work. At least two weeks. And no excuses. You will have done your budgets and your employees will be dying to get you out from under their feet.

Then on your holiday you are going to consider all the support structures that you need to put in place to run a family, a baby, a relationship and a business. You must be very pragmatic and have one aim: to outsource everything you can and anything you can afford to. Start with the house: outsource the gardening, ironing, washing, cooking, cleaning, driving: anything you can think of. The aim is to spend time at home with your baby and husband – not on housework. Then you look at work. What can you do to get an extra hours sleep in the morning and to get you out every day to exercise for half an hour? Do it.

The good news is you are the boss and you run the business so if you come in later several mornings a week, tough.

One trick that has worked for some very busy women I know is to lie in bed at night and run through all the balls. Which one needs a little bit more attention? Husband, baby, mother, staff member, business strategy, your health… and then prioritise that for the next day.

Lastly you are going to get used to a new phase: “It’s good enough”. The days when you could do everything perfectly and focus on one thing at a time are over. You are now part of a juggling team of people that you are coordinating and you are all trying to keep lots of balls in the air. Some will fall – so what.

You pick it up and you keep going.

One little tip: I always found that when the milk wouldn’t flow when I was expressing at work, one thing worked really well. Pull out a picture of your baby and your milk will start flowing.

Good luck!
Your Aunty B

To read more Aunty B advice, click here.

Email your questions, problems and issues to auntyb@smartcompany.com.au right now!

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