I recently had the absolute pleasure, as founder of this illustrious website, and privilege of speaking to a group of women about running a business, from home, whilst raising a family.
Ironically, given the timing and what with my recent Internet-less-and-running-a-business-whilst-moving-house scenario, I was to talk generally about running a business whilst raising a family, and more specifically about stress and ‘having it all/doing it all’.
A topic, tip, suggestion that has been doing the rounds of the ‘net over the last six-ish or so months, is the idea of “lowering your standards” or “lowering your expectations” as a mother, to ideally avoid, but at the very least, reduce the stress you are experiencing.
As I’ve touched on often over the years, kids are about as controllable as a tornado – or the weather in Melbourne. In fact, they are more erratic and less controllable than Melbourne’s famous weather.
They do make mess, have tantrums, throw food, refuse food, and are perpetually incapable of finding their shoes, even though they need them at the same time every morning.
The concept of “Lowering your standards” (or expectations – the two words appear interchangeable within this advice) is that if you are hell bent on having an immaculate living are, where nary a speck of dust may be visible, much less 48,000 LEGO pieces, for example, to perhaps lighten up a little and stop beating yourself up when this doesn’t happen. Because it won’t, or if you are constantly striving for such, you will stress yourself out so much and won’t have any time for anything else between haranguing the kids to tidy up their ‘mess’ and running around dusting and mopping and vacuuming etc.
The “lower your standards” comment is to suggest that you be more accepting of mess, and be okay with the house not being as you’d like it to be in your head.
It’s not all bad advice, but I must be honest, I don’t really like it.
And it is something that was one of my key points during this talk about running a business from home; where your desire and expectation may be to achieve certain things, to perform certain activities in a particular time frame, and to basically get stuff done as you imagine you will get it done.
The problem I have with “lowering your standards” and “lowering your expectations” is it feels, to me, like you’re expected to “settle for less”.
Perhaps I’m being a little pedantic about the wording?
I much rather, and highly recommend, instead of lowering your expectations, to adjust the expectations to better suit reality.
The reality is – as above, kids make mess, play with stuff and don’t put it back, nor even really give much thought as to where they’re playing with their stuff, forget things, refuse food, etc etc.
When you’re running a business and raising a family at the same time, the reality is that newborns tend not to sleep much, that you are fully responsible for the energy consumption and nutrition of children up to around the age of two years, where they are then capable of obtaining their own food, albeit not necessarily what you would choose for them.
Two-year-olds demand attention, three-and-four year olds just like to be near you, primary school aged kids need adult supervision …
That’s just the kids and their own little needs. There’s much more happening in your life besides that – including, but not limited to the equally important needs of your partner.
Adjusting your expectations to adequately perform what you able to perform on limited sleep, multiple interruptions, and unfathomable occurrences that happen whilst you are otherwise occupied is not, in my opinion, a lowering of standards.
Take, for example, getting up one morning and donning a nice, light, short sleeved flow-y top, shorts, sand sandals. You style your hair in such a way, and whack on a bit of makeup.
You look out the window and instead of the sunny, warm, lightly breezed day you expected (or vehemently wanted), it is cold, dark, chilly and there appears to be lashings of rain.
Do you stand there, stamp your foot and yell “I WANT A SUNNY DAY!”
No. You turn around and either change your attire if you’re still intent on heading out for the day, or you alter your plans to suit the day; perhaps the walk along the beach is replaced with hot chocolates, a DVD and curling up under the blanket …
Whatever. You haven’t “lowered your expectations” you have simply “adjusted to best suit what you are faced with”.
Why, then, women with children who run business persist in yelling and stressing themselves out, and persisting with attempting to plough through their to do list at precisely the time they are relatively confident that their two year old is about to lose their shit because their DVD has finished and they want food, or any of those things that kids of various ages to, and that are mostly predictable, and then feel guilty about it is beyond me.
Much like the fluctuating whims of the weather, children will also impact upon your expectations for the day.
Just like you manage the alterations in the weather, so to is it not only essential to adjust your expectations to better match what’s actually happening in your day, it’s also important to realise that one is not all that different to the other.
When we change our attire and or day to best suit the weather, we’re not ‘lowering’ anything and we’re also not feeling gut-wrenchingly guilty about it either.
When you have kids – and whether you’re running a business or striving for a home that is Better Homes and Gardens acceptable – you’re not lowering your standards when you need to adjust to best suit the reality, and nor is there a need to feel bad, guilty, or otherwise inadequate as a result.
Can you do something for me? Can you please ‘adjust’ rather than ‘lower’ and stop feeling shit as a result? Thanks!