In the beginning of her new book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington describes her own personal wake-up call: a fall she took in her office, resulting in a gash above her eye and a broken cheekbone. The cause? Exhaustion and lack of sleep, something I -- and many other new moms -- can relate to.
She then goes on to question society's current definition of success -- equated with money and power -- and puts forth a third metric to work toward; one focused on well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. The success that we currently know is harming us, she writes -- physically, mentally, emotionally and in other ways:
Women in stressful jobs have a nearly 40% increased risk of heart disease, and a 60% greater risk of diabetes. In the past 30 years, as women have made substantial strides in the workplace, self-reported levels of stress have gone up 18%.
The statistics for women are alarming and indicate that our measurement of success needs to change. As I continued reading while nursing my twins and watching my toddler, I thought about whether someone like me could find the time to actually thrive now, not just when my kids are in school full-time. I'm a working mother with my own career coaching business and three boys under the age of 4 at home. The idea of focusing on my well-being, let alone sitting down for more than 30 seconds, initially felt impossible. I wanted everything at home to be under control while also stopping at almost nothing to delight my clients with white glove service. However, I've learned this mindset is hurting, not helping, me.
The only way for me to thrive today -- when my toddler feels the need to continuously test my limits -- is to redefine how I view success. Generally we reflect and reconsider aspirations on the cusp of a big change such as a major move, death or birth. I have experienced all three in the last several months and have learned that life is fluid, and if you live it rigidly, you will drive yourself into the ground. The key to thriving with a toddler and twins is to prioritize how I want to measure success.
Here are four takeaways I've realized are crucial for thriving, especially for new moms who feel as though they have too much on their plates. It takes some maneuvering but it is possible to live a third metric life.
1. Pencil in Time to Redefine Your Success (Lock Yourself in the Bathroom if You Must)
I could have said "Pencil in Me Time" time but my type A personality is so hooked to continuously striving towards goals that I felt "me" time needed some repositioning. The next time your kids actually sleep through the night, put aside that chore you think needs to be done now and instead pick up a pen (or crayon). Take the time to identify and write down what's important to you and how you can cut out or reduce what's keeping you from what matters. Don't be afraid to to be introspective. In order to thrive, we have to get rid of the excuses that prevent us from self-reflection. Whether it's 15 minutes or longer, the point is that in order to find satisfaction in life today, we need to be realistic about what it will take to attain our new definition of success given our current environment.
2. Become Comfortable With "No"
This is something many of us are guilty of -- saying "yes" when we really want to say "no." "No" can be an uncomfortable word; it's abrupt, it's final but sometimes it's necessary. Your toddler says it; you say it to your toddler. Say it to others, too. Saying "yes" to everyone and everything is exhausting and stressful. Even thinking about it is exhausting, so why do so many of us say "yes" so often? We have to become more comfortable with picking what we do and what we don't. In order to refill our time with what will lead us to success and do what is best for us, we have to be willing to say "no."
3. Think Like Your Child(ren)
Your child feels as though life has so many possibilities. We, too, felt the same way. Unfortunately, as we grew older, those possibilities seemed to fade away and the options we allow ourselves now get increasingly smaller. The good news is that it's never too late to reclaim the limitless imagination and open-mindedness we had in our youth. If you feel as though you're busy and exhausted for all of the wrong reasons, pause and channel your inner child to remember what brought you the most joy. It will help provide guidance in your life and that sense of wonder that Arianna speaks of.
4. Trust Your Support System
As a mother, I know I have an endless amount of anxiety when it comes to my children and their safety. I don't trust just anyone in their company, but I also recognize that at times I don't give enough trust to those who deserve it. For those with a support system of family and friends around them who are willing to help out when needed, this is a situation in which you should say "yes" to offered assistance. Continue to be mindful of whom you trust but allow yourself to lean on others. You'll be a more patient parent after you've had some time to yourself. This will help give you the balance you need to thrive and live a healthier lifestyle.
I am still working on these takeaways myself but am already finding that what once seemed impossible is not only possible but necessary. If I don't redefine success today then I will miss out on enjoying my kids at this stage. By letting ourselves get lost in appointments, meetings and obligations, we risk missing out on enjoying what's truly important in life. So how will you thrive today as a new mom?