A mother’s guide: Acing the juggling act

There can’t be an A-to-Z list of how to ace the ensemble role that life has handed to us, but one can always try to ease the load. In a four-part series, I explore the many roles that women play and find ways to make them just a little bit easier.

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There’s probably more books out there on work-life-mother balancing acts than one can read in a lifetime. In fact, between social media and the internet as a whole, there is an information overload on pretty much anything and everything you can fathom—the perfect guide to sleep train your baby, the magic mantra’s to run a successful business, the 101 on a successful marriage, and the list goes on.

I’ve fallen prey to buying and reading a lot of these hoping to find some answers of how I can perfectly balance my life, but instead, they have found a lovely place on my bookshelves, and as life has passed on, I have come to realize that planned parenting, marriage advice, or how to run a successful business are oxymorons—every child, every relationship, every business and its values, and therefore eventually every home is different, and the key is to find your own way around making it happily yours. I could ramble on about how my day starts at 6:30 am when the alarm goes off, which on most days actually feels as if an atom bomb exploded in my head because of everything I have to achieve in what seems like such little hours. But hey, we are all pretty much on that same crazy ride of trying to juggle a million hats, aren’t we?

Nriti Shah, full-time mother and part time influencer (@balsamicfinegear), says, “Superheroes. Yes, that’s right. I think being a working mother takes an entirely different sort of super power. To be able to transition between the roles of a daughter, wife, mother, friend, and daughter-in-law not only requires us working mothers to be alert and aware but also empathic and loving. To be able to put our thoughts and worries on the back burner or alongside those of our families and friends is something I have learnt over time. To be there and present for everyone and yet balance our work is nothing short of amazing. Working moms are the true superheroes.”

So, I’m not here to give you the perfect solution on how to structure this crazy ride called life, but I asked her and other women who are what we could call go-getters, donning these multiple hats, on what it takes to juggle efficiently and put together this cheat sheet of sorts that’s likely to help you prioritize what matters.

Be selective

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve naturally become a lot more discerning about my decisions in general. Whether that is about the quality and purpose of family holidays, the training I’d like my work outs to be centred on, the new dishes on the menu at my cafés, even the quality of flour in my kids morning pancakes. I’ve felt, when you think through the selections of your life consciously, you naturally get better returns. You feel better and so does your family, your work place. Simple things like eating dinner early and getting up early is a good start. Putting your phone away once you are home from work so your family can get your full attention or not reaching out for it as soon as you open your eyes in the morning has worked wonders for me in just being more present.

Rock your cheat days

Throw away your guilt like an old shoe. It’s no good for you. You need to reward yourself and often. Find your guilty pleasure—be it a spa day, mash potatoes, or mindless TV. Ensure your spouse and kids also find their guilty pleasures so they find balance and escapes from their routines too. This adds a ‘collective selfishness’ and creates bonding, humour, and a way to recharge yourself for the next green light.

Listen and talk

Listen to what’s being said, understand what’s hiding behind the childish tantrums (and it’s often not your child), the meltdowns, and the prolonged silences. Listen to it all and find time to analyse it. Never respond emotionally or at least try not to. Awareness creates choices and people always try to be the best version of themselves. Believe this. Everyone is allowed a bad day. You too. Give each other at home and work some time-out. And talk when the water simmers down. Children of all ages love attention. But be careful to know the line between giving attention and being indulgent. I often see moms and wives caving in just to make peace. That’s a zero sum game. You’re making yourself into a well manufactured doormat. We all respond to risk and reward—set some rules so instead of a power play there’s an environment of conversation and positive shifts. Assumption is the worst thing you can practice. Compassion is the mother of your juggling act.

Me time, you time, we all need this time

Find that one thing, for one hour that is for you. For me, I found my love in fitness. From the drive on my own with my favourite music on the speakers and singing on top of my lungs, to starting my class and the high you get when you finish—it really fuels my mind and soul for the rest of the day. It makes me feel strong and it gives me happiness. So find your thing and stick to it. You will find routine is priceless.

Grudges are for grannies

Don’t live in your own history book of anecdotes and egos. They will only give you a false sense of righteousness and probably early wrinkles. Stay focused on what you can control, the present and use your past experience to declutter what’s to come. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? How can you leverage that more as you move ahead? These are far better questions to ask yourself. One thing that always works for me and I recommend you try is this—any questions you ask that starts with why takes the person into a place of blame and excuse that reside in the past and are counterproductive. It makes you and others hold grudges. Why didn’t you finish your homework? Start your questions instead with how. How do we ensure you finish your homework on time? This opens new windows to the future and doesn’t push your child into a corner.

Ayesha Chenoy “Founder of RepIndia & Author of To, The Bravest Person I Know said, “What we need to remember is that something always gets a little bit more attention on some days, that nothing is perfect and that is okay. We are doing our best, and frankly, everyone deserves a standing ovation for being so brave.”

But, the juggling cheat sheet for mother’s done, I have to ask—isn’t it funny that there is always so much talk about “working mothers”. What happened to the fathers? And is it not high time that co-parenting, co-housing, and co-operation to chip in 50-50 really comes into play. Can we drop the assumption that the mother will pack the suitcases, the wife will order the dinner, and the working women will sacrifice that meeting to make it to the school PTC. Can the real D-A-D-D-Y please stand up? 

Ambika Seth is the co-founder of CAARA and a mother of two.