School holidays/work responsibilities/studying – an almost impossible mix?
Impossible – only if you are a parent who strives to achieve a high level of input/output in all of these areas simultaneously; and expect to feel deliriously happy all the time.
Speaking with other working mums the word ‘guilt’ almost always creeps in at some point during the conversation.
I say ‘creeps’ as guilt is such an insidious notion – one that only serves to undermine any achievement and create a state of misery for all concerned.
Research has shown that the life expectancy of working women has not been reduced; that having meaningful work to do is associated with higher levels of psychological wellbeing; and that working and caring for a family does not necessarily cause higher levels of stress or ill health.
Also, recent research into the experience of parents has indicated that the level of happiness drops to its lowest around the first birthday of the child(ren) and remains low until around the fourth birthday. It has been suggested that around this time parents tend to feel more content with parenthood and no less happier than their years BC (before children!) Whereas we remember the incidents associated with children that make us happy – their first words and steps; school and sporting achievements; and perhaps their own marriage and parenthood; these incidents are rare pearls in the overall experience of parenthood as far more of our time and attention is actually tied up with the more monotonous elements of care and nurture.
Constantly having to put the needs and wants of those in our care before our own is an on-going challenge for the majority of us; although like any other skill it can be developed.
However those striving for perfectionism often experience higher levels of anxiety and eventually depression. Irrational feelings of guilt are a well-known symptom of depression and eventually serve to debilitate if untreated.
Twenty years ago whilst studying sociology I stumbled across a book titled ‘A Good Enough Parent’ by Bruno Bettelheim. This empowering concept has stayed with me throughout my own experiences of motherhood, serving to encourage me back on track when I have wandered off down some pathway signposted ‘self pity’; and was recently reinforced by Daniel Gilbert’s ideas in ‘Stumbling on Happiness’.
As it follows that your level of happiness will necessarily impact on the wellbeing of those in your care, I believe that this is one of those juggled elements that needs to stay in the air…
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Helen Noble aka The Juggler is a mother of 3, living and working in Pembrokeshire. Having previously lived in other parts of Wales and the UK she has settled here with her family and continues with her balancing act. Helen has worked in psychology and law and believes that if you can see the problem clearly then the solution is firmly within your grasp. However, she knows how tricky it is to keep all the balls in the air at the same time and is up for sharing ideas and offering suggestions to help.