Walking into a sixth grade classroom for the Great American teach-in, I noticed a beautiful boy with light blonde hair so fair it was almost white. He had sparkling blue eyes and flawless skin. Looking at him, I thought of my own son and how quickly he was growing -- a toddler one day and practically grown the next (or so it seems).
I was scheduled to speak to six classes about publishing and this was my last session of the day. Trust me, I was ready to go! I began by sharing two business books I had previously published and then my current writing project and life's work, Get Your Girl Back.
One of the kids raised his hand and said, "What's that book about, Get Your Girl Back?" Oh boy -- how would I explain this in terms that sixth graders could relate to?
I delicately began to tip toe around my words...
"So you know how your mom drops you off at the bus stop or school and then goes to work?"
Most of the kids were nodding and saying "Yes..."
"She might work 9-5 or 9-6 then she comes home, right? But then she starts working again. She makes dinner, cleans up the kitchen, maybe does a load of laundry, and helps you with homework?"
I was surprised -- the kids were moving forward in their seats and hanging onto my every word.
So, I continued: "Without meaning to, your mom can get kind of grumpy, maybe yell at you, unintentionally -- because she's really tired and without even realizing it, short on patience."
The kids were nodding their heads and even saying "yes" out loud.
"Well, my book is to help your mom because she doesn't want to be like that. She doesn't want to be tired, she wants to play and talk with you. Believe it or not, she wants to have fun too and do the things she once did as a girl, at your age, before life stepped in and forced her to grow up. The problem is, your mom isn't sure how to actually do this because she has so much to do in a day that all she really wants to do is sleep!"
I treaded very lightly and explained that I was that mom at one time, but that I had found a way out of the daily grind. My passion and book, Get Your Girl Back, was to help their moms do the same.
As a mom of two, I was floored by how tuned in these kids were. Every eye was on me-the boys, girls and even the teacher was leaning in and listening closely to every word I said. It was as if they understood EXACTLY what I was talking about (in truth I thought this topic would be over the kids' heads).
I Have a Question...
Then, the blonde boy I saw when I first entered raised his hand to ask a question. "I don't have a question, but you know the moms you were talking about, the ones that go to work all day?"
"Yes?" I replied.
"Well my mom, she's like that. She works from 9-6 and then she comes home and gets her laptop out and works for another couple hours... she's like that mom you were talking about."
It wasn't exactly WHAT he said but HOW he said it that tore at my heart. There was sadness. He also just realized what his mom was going through. I could see an awakening in his expression... not just as "his mom" but as a woman. For the first time in his life, he was on the outside looking in and saw his mom differently.
Mom and son, trying to make their way in the world, with hopes, dreams and a desire to create a good life.
I had chills.
I looked this boy straight in the eyes and said, "Your mom loves you more than life itself."
He looked so sad and broken... it took everything in me not to cry. I continued "Your mom is probably under so much pressure she doesn't even realize that she's not spending time with you. She wants to play and laugh with you, she just doesn't know how."
In my mind, I was replaying the thousands of conversations I've had with working moms over the last 20 years while consulting with them in business. As a speaker and professional coach, their barriers were rarely work-related but instead personal and when left unresolved, were reflected in declining work performance.
I looked around the room... I still couldn't believe the way this boy was opening up, in front of an entire class. Yet the truth was, it was just him and I having a conversation about his mom. He didn't care what others thought or might say, he was processing what his mom's life was like not in relation to himself and his needs, but her life and her needs, what she goes through and seeing her in a different light.
Surprisingly, the other kids were still with me, in the heart of this most unexpected conversation they got it: Their mom is supposed to have it all figured out, whether working outside the home or not, but the truth is, she doesn't.
I went to school to teach kids about publishing and walked out having learned that kids are much more intuitive than we think -- that we need to talk to them about the realities of being a working woman in the twenty first century. The truth is, most of our grandmothers didn't work outside of the home, yet 40 percent of women today are family breadwinners. In this span of time, no one's provided moms with an instruction book on how to juggle it all and hard as we try to hide it, we're not doing a very good job. While we have "more," women are less happy today than at any other time in history.
Rather than acting like we've got it all figured out, it's time to start talking about our struggles so our kids understand what we're dealing with, our husbands get why we are tired all the time and as women, we can have more empathy for one another and start focusing on solutions that bring relief to our lives.
I also learned that I'm not just fighting for women, but for kids too and no matter how hard the fight, I must press on and continue to stand up for women who can't or won't stand up for themselves. I will never forget the look in that boy's eyes nor the sound of his voice... so desperate to understand why his mom spends so little time with him. I'll never forget the kids, hanging on my every word because for many, I was talking about their mom too.
Can we talk about this?
No matter how this blog affects you, whether it makes you angry with me for speaking the truth or hits a nerve because you can relate, what I most want to do is start the conversation. No one wants to be "that mom," who works all the time, spends little time with her kids, yells at them when they try to talk because she's in the zone checking emails, deep in thought and not even realizing what she's doing -- isolating herself from the people she loves most. But many of us are doing this exactly!
If we want to see change, we have to start speaking the truth without fear of being judged. We must help one another by talking versus judging; showing our own vulnerabilities versus acting like everything is perfect in our lives. I was once "that mom" but am proud to say that I'm not today. I'll start the conversation by offering six small steps I took that led to others and ultimately transformed my life.
1. Breathe. Seriously, take a deep breath- in and out, in and out and slow down for just a moment. You have to breathe!
2. Take inventory. As a woman, you were probably raised to believe you could have IT all and you've been killing yourself trying to get IT. Do you even know what IT is? How will you know when you have IT? Are you missing what matters most in an effort to attain IT all?"
3. Prioritize your life. Get real about what matters most to you. Are you honoring those priorities? If not, you're probably out of balance, unhappy and unfulfilled. List your top three priorities and consider what adjustments you can make to get them back in order.
4. Take charge. Consider changing your focus from having IT all to YOUR all. It probably doesn't take a lot to make you happy. I'm talking about real happiness, deep in your soul. So what does it for you? Build YOUR all around the priorities that matter most. Make a short list of what you want in life, what I call "YOUR all" and rather than trying to have what everyone else has, pursue what matters most to you.
5. Make Changes. If you don't like your life, change it. Minor modifications can create huge ripples in your happiness. What two or three small changes can you make this week?
To the boy's mom
While I felt for that young boy in class, I feel for his mom too. Being a working mom is not easy. To her and other moms feeling overwhelmed I would say: take a deep breath, it's going to be OK. As the year closes out, take inventory, prioritize your life, get in charge and make small changes that move you to a better place as you enter 2015. If you're already there, support and uplift moms who haven't got it figured out yet. Post your ideas in this blog's comment section or on the Get Your Girl Back movement Facebook page. Let's talk about this today so our daughters aren't still talking about it tomorrow. Together, we can be the change we wish to see.
Written by Traci Bild- Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur. Get a FREE Get Your Girl Back "Dream Journal" and spend some time off-line filling the pages with the hopes and dreams you hold close to your heart. Go to www.GYGB.com and click on "Free Downloads."
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