I just watched this video over at Jezebel where the self-help author Marcus Buckingham shares his ideas about how professional women can be happier and succeed in their careers. (You might have seen his writings over at the Huffington Post, where he pontificates on this topic quite a bit.)
One of his basic points — which the blog post at Jezebel also points out — is that working women need to juggle less, outsource more, and learn how to focus on the moment vs always having several tracks running in their heads. (As in, making a shopping list during a work meeting.) At first look, it makes a lot of sense. A lot of my stress comes from the fact that I have too many things I feel I need to do on a daily basis — from getting work done to buying my daughter’s winter coat, organizing my dad’s 60th birthday party, sending a birthday gift to a friend’s newly born son, cooking dinner for the week, and so on. If had less things to juggle I would absolutely positively be less stressed and probably happier.
But here’s the deal: While it would be great to have an assistant do a bunch of these things for me, how many of us can really afford that kind of help? When we lived in New York City and I worked at an insane finance job, we had an amazing full-time nanny. In addition to taking care of our kiddo, she also frequently cooked dinner and cleaned up around the house, although we never asked her to do it. It was an enormous help and a huge, huge stress reducer, but we paid a lot of money for that kind of help and we couldn’t do this for more than a few years. Even more so, I realize how lucky we are to have the jobs that we have and know that a significant percentage of families out there simply can’t afford this kind of help.
And that’s where the outsourcing argument breaks down for me. Sure, it would be nice to get people to do the endless chores and things that none of us think are fun, but very few people out there can use their money to buy more time.
There are, however, two points that I think the author is making that are worth thinking about. The first is about doing less stuff, period. When it was our turn to bring a snack to my daughter’s preschool class last year, I frequently baked something (banana bread or muffins). But would it have been so terrible to buy something instead and save myself the hour late at night baking? No, and those are the types of trade offs I think all of us working moms need to make more often.
The second point is about focusing on the moment, the now, not the later. I’ll be the first to admit that during long work meetings I do think about what I have to get done that day at home or, on the flip side, think about something I need to do for work while making cupcakes with my daughter. I hate when my mind wonders like this and I know that when I am able to focus entirely on the moment, I feel better, I get more done, and what I am doing is done with better quality.
So what are your thoughts? What tasks/chores do you outsource to juggle less? What things have you given up doing or focusing on to leave yourself time for the more important stuff in life? Is focusing on what you’re doing at a certain moment the answer to feeling less frazzled and less stressed as a working mom?