Burnout… part 2

Today I am continuing with the series I started last week on burnout. In my previous post I wrote about some of the symptoms of burnout. If you did not get a chance to read that post, you can find it here. Burnout…Part 1.

This is a 3 part series. Today I am going to talk about the causes of burnout. You might have identified some of the symptoms in last week’s post. Lasting resolution to any challenge lies in identifying the root cause and dealing with that.

Causes of burnout can be workplaces related, personality related or family related and at times a combination of all the above.

Workplaces causes

1. High pressure work environments- Some work places are high pressure in nature. Think of medical staff who work in emergency rooms or chefs who work in extremely busy kitchens. (I am sure you can tell I watch certain tv shows 😂😂😂). Even outside of such environments, most workplaces have high pressure periods when the workload increases. Repeated exposure to high pressure environments or failure to manage the high pressure periods at work can lead to burn out.

2. Too much work can also lead to burnout. Add to this unclear work priorities and you are sure you have a totally burnt out employee.

Personality causes

3. Certain personality types are likely to suffer burnout compared to others. Think of OCD perfectionist. I have heard people talk of their OCD as if it’s something to be proud of and yet it’s a disorder. Until my twins were born I was this type of person but I quickly learnt that my sanity was more important and 80% perfect and done was better than delaying whilst waiting for 100%.

Family related causes

4. In the personal home and family space, one can also pass through periods of pressure that could easily result in burnout. Financial pressures, caring for sick relatives are some examples of periods that can exert enormous emotional pressure and result in burnout if not handled properly.

5. Now can you imagine a combination of the above on one person?? 😥😥 High pressure period at work that is accompanied by an intense period of pressure in the personal space of a person whose personality is prone to burnout? That is a recipe for disaster.

In my next and final post on this series, I will share how to deal with situations that cause burnout and thrive as working moms. Until then, stay calm and in control.

MumInStilettos

Burnout…Part 1

This was one of those very intense weeks for me. Not in the sense that I had a lot to do, but more in terms of the depth, intensity and the demands what I was working on put on my brain power. Weeks like this happen often for most working mothers and before you know it and without even realizing it you are totally burnt out. The situation is more compounded by the fact that we are still primary caregivers at home and once we get home from work we still have another shift commonly referred to as the double shift.

Based on my experience being a very ambitious working mom, over the next few posts I will be sharing more on this subject. I believe in self care first which enables you to then look after those you love and do amazing work whether you are a professional or running your own business or both.

So how do you actually know you are experiencing burn out? Well, like I said, I have some experience here. I am a working mom of three children under 7. There was a time the twins were newly born and our oldest was a two year old who took every opportunity she got to remind me that she was also still a baby (😂😂 I don’t even know how she knew how to say that).

The symptoms will obviously differ from person to person but include some of the below:

1. Waking up tired regardless of how much sleep you get.

2. Making silly mistakes.

3. Being irritated by things that normally don’t rattle you.

4. Forgetfulness

5. Loss of appetite

6. Insomnia (the opposite of 1) above

7. Physical and emotional exhaustion and general lack of energy

8. Lack of concentration.

The list above is in no way exhaustive. I therefore invite you to also share some of the symptoms of burnout that you have experienced.

In my next post I will share some of the ways I have handled burnout.

2019…my year of #boldmoves

2018 has come to a close. This is the time when most people are pumped up about the changes they want to make in their lives and the goals they want to achieve in the new year. This probably explains why gyms are full in the first weeks of January yet this somehow fizzles out as the year progresses.

I am a firm believer in goal setting. However it need not be done on the 1st of January. Any day is a good day to start something. Below are a few suggestions on how to deliver on your 2019 goals/ resolutions. (I am not bothered about semantics. The important thing is that you are working on achieving something that is important to you)

1. Write them down. This is extremely important. Don’t just have them in your head and expect that something will happen. The act of writing down is a commitment you are making to yourself and allows you to come back at set intervals to review your progress.

2. Once you have written them down, put them somewhere where you can see them often. I have always written mine down in my journal but this year i am doing something different that i saw from my niece. She has a white board in her bedroom which has all she is working on at a particular time. As she achieves her goals she ticks them off and adds new ones. So in addition to writing in my journal, i will have them somewhere where i can constantly see them.

3.Break down each goal/ resolution into smaller building blocks that will ultimately lead you to the big goal. The smaller blocks should be specific, measurable, achievable and time bound. For example, if you would like to start a business in 2019, your smaller building blocks would include tasks such as writing your business plan, registering the company, open bank accounts for your business and so on. As you tick off these smaller tasks, you will be building towards your bigger goal.

4. Find an accountability partner that you trust and can share these with so that they can hold you accountable and also encourage you when you face challenges. It is also possible to have different accountability partners for different goals/ resolutions. Your accountability partner on your weight loss journey need not be the same person as the one for starting your business or achieving a certain career goal. It is well and good if you find one person who is a able to do this but it is usually not the case.

5. Commit to a schedule for progress review of your goals on your own as well as with your accountability partner.

6. Finally get up and actually ‘do something’.

7. Whilst at it, remember to enjoy yourself.

I have declared 2019 my year of #boldmoves. I will be making some really bold moves that i will share with you on this platform. Remember to follow me here to receive updates and be inspired as we ‘journey together’

Muminstilettos

What are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving is an American holiday that started around 1619 as a celebration and thanksgiving for the good harvest. This year the holiday is being celebrated on Thursday 22nd of November.

I really like the idea of giving thanks and gratitude and actually setting aside a day to do this. In the busyness of life, sometimes we forget to take a step back and appreciate the good things that God has blessed us with. Not everything might have gone according to your plan but the fact that we are still here is something to be grateful for.

As we plan for the new year and bring the year 2018 to a close, do not forget to give thanks to God for how far He has brought you. You might not be where you wanted to be, but you are definitely not where you started from.

What are you thankful for today?

Muminstilettos

Why I Consider Motherhood A Stretch Assignment

A stretch assignment is defined as a project or task given to an employee which is beyond their current knowledge or skills level in order to “stretch” the employee developmentally. It challenges the employee by placing them out of their comfort zone in order to learn and grow. Whilst not proposed by an employer, i consider motherhood a stretch assignment. At least it has been for me.

The day our daughter was born six year ago, a mother was also born. I had never walked this road before so it was beyond my knowledge and skills level. Just when I thought I had mastered handling an infant, the terrible twos came with tantrums, and when that stage had passed, it was time to start school, more like one curve ball after another. As my children grow, I am also growing as a mother. I have developed important leadership competencies since I became a mother and I bring these with me to the workplace.

You see some people will have to read a book or attend a course on how to develop these competencies and wait for situations to present themselves in order to apply their theoretical knowledge. I am not implying that there is anything wrong with this approach. I am simply highlighting a more applied way that some might have a blind spot for. Mothers  and other primary care givers out there gain these competencies in a practical manner. The motherhood curve balls are always coming and mutating such that if I do not respond with agility, the situation could deteriorate…but let me not get ahead of myself.

Stretch assignments are usually linked to development of specific competencies and below is a list of the important leadership competencies that I believe mothers bring into the workplace.

  1. Negotiation skills – Our three children are aged 6, 4 and 4. Trust me when I tell you that nobody negotiates like a toddler. Daily I have situations that present themselves where any one of them or sometimes all of them have their own goals and intentions which are completely different from mine and I have to go through a negotiation process of seeking common ground to reach a mutual agreement whilst avoiding a third world war in our household. As mothers go through the negotiation process with their children daily, they are perfecting this very important competency. If the roles you have require a lot of negotiation, then consider a mother. It could save or bring your company millions of dollars.
  2. Conflict resolution – When the negotiation does not go as planned and the situation has deteriorated to a dispute and tears, then its conflict resolution that is needed and as any mother will tell you, we are highly qualified for this too. It’s from issues like I want to watch Paw Patrol and she wants to watch Sophia the First to You gave him a blue car and you gave me a yellow car but I also want the blue car. I always smile at the end of it when the twins are giving each other a hug after mummy dearest has “handled it”. And if a mother can do it at home, she can do it at work.
  3. Managing expectations – My eldest daughter taught me this one in an unexpected way. I actually wrote a post about it back in 2016 which you can read here but the brief summary is this. She had her first sport day at school (this was also our first sport day as parents). The conversation in the morning went something like this:

Me I am so excited and looking forward to your sports day.

Her But mummy when we were practicing others were faster than me.

Me (caught by surprise and not sure at all what to say)… Just do your best and have fun

Sometimes I am also caught by surprise by the questions and comments i get from my children but i have also learnt to think on my feet… but i digress, back to managing expectations. So my husband and I went for the sports day which by the way happens during working hours so if you want the benefit of what mothers bring to the workplace, offer them flexibility to attend important events such as these.

The races began and finally it was our daughter’s turn and like all the parents, we were on our feet cheering. To my wonderful surprise our daughter was first in two races and second in the 3rd race. I had an opportunity to talk to one of my daughter’s teachers who confirmed that during the school practice sessions, our daughter had not really been the fastest. When she told me her friends were all faster than her, she was not under promising. She was just telling me what had transpired. Obviously it was unintentional on her part but my expectations for the day were managed. I also believe despite this, she still wanted to do better and still believed she could and hence her really great performance…. well according to me her mother.

I was obviously happy and learnt a very important lesson from this incident and that is to manage expectations, a necessary quality in the workplace, needed as you lead your team and when you manage upwards. No under-promising or saying what you know cannot be done because that is what they want to hear. And by the way,  no employer will ever mention that they want you to manage their expectations and yet it’s an important skill for success.

4. Walking the talk – What I have learnt as a mother is that I have to walk the talk and not just be a “do as I say” person. Children will do what they see and not what they are told. It cannot be about putting rules of what should be done, and not do it yourself. One of my Line Managers who made a very great impression on me was very consistent when it came to “balance”. Most of the time he was out of the office by 6 pm. He would pass through our office and remind all of us to ensure we got home before the kids were asleep and we had helped them with homework. It’s extremely powerful when employees see workplace leaders model the behaviors they are requesting from them. As a mother and primary caregiver, I can be trusted to walk the talk in the workplace because I do it daily at home such that now it comes naturally.

5. Receiving and giving feedback – Receiving and giving feedback is important for any successful team. It’s easy to give feedback when it’s positive and even easier to receive good feedback. My children have taught me to receive the not so good but necessary feedback. Any mother will tell you that most times when young children give you feedback, it’s not even done in a considered way. Most times it’s brutal. When my children gave me feedback about my culinary skills, it stung but I received it and invested the time needed to improve in this area of my life. Not only can I receive negative feedback with grace, I can give it gracefully too because I know how important it is for feedback to be given in a considered manner for it to be received well and acted on.

6. Agility – When the curve balls keep coming, agility is the key to survival. Nothing teaches you agility like motherhood does. Sometimes the nanny does not come back from the weekend, sometimes the meetings take longer when I should be picking the children after school and sometimes one child falls sick when I  am on a business trip. When things like this happen, I do not panic, I calmly activate appropriate strategies, like leveraging my support structures to help. I liken the curve balls to the V.U.C.A world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) in which businesses operate today and who better to help a company navigate this than someone who has handled this before and still handles it often, a mother.

7. Teamwork – Teamwork comes naturally to me as a mother. I am not trying to be a lone ranger out for individual glory. In motherhood world, this is not possible. I have a “tribe” of trusted friends, helpers and advisers to help me as I navigate motherhood and yet I am fully aware of my own individual role in the whole process. Most workplaces are made up teams and I know about the chemistry that is needed for teams to succeed. You can trust a mother to build a great engaged team.

Here is what I am advocating for:

  • When you have a mother who took time off to look after her children and she is now re-entering the workforce, remember she developed some valuable competencies during her time away. She might have a gap on her CV, but this is by no means a gap in her leadership capabilities. Give her a chance.
  • When you have a senior position that you need to fill and one of your candidates is a mother, remember being a mother has already taken her out of a comfort zone and has allowed her practical development of critical competencies. It has stretched her. Give her a chance.

Motherhood is one unending stretch assignment. When you think you have mastered one development stage, the next one comes and you are stretched again. When you thought you had gained experience from child number 1, child number 2 and child number 3 will be completely different individuals requiring you to re-evaluate what you thought you had mastered. Isn’t this the agility needed in the corporate world?. Have I convinced you to consider motherhood a stretch assignment? Let me know in the comments section.

Follow me on my blog www.muminstiettos.com

Love and blessings

Mum in stilettos

I wish I had known….

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Before I became a mother, I had my own perceptions of what I thought motherhood involved. I never really understood the decisions and choices that mothers around me were making and therefore made judgments that when I look back I had no basis for making. Hey I am only human…

I remember visiting my sister during one of my college semester breaks. By then she was married with a little beautiful baby girl. I expected life to go on “the way I had always known it”, like we would go shopping, go to the hair salon or get our manicures and pedicures. To my horror, when we went shopping all she wanted to do was shop for little girls clothes… can you imagine how boring that was for me a nineteen year old varsity girl who had no interest whatsoever at that time in marriage, let alone in little babies….honestly, I concluded this was not the sister I had always known and she was now boring…

Well, fast forward more than a decade later and I am the mother of not one, but three amazing little people that I would walk to the end of the universe for. My life as I knew it changed the day I became a mother six years ago. Today’s post is like my confessional of all the misconceptions I had.

  1. I wish I had known that my workmate was telling the truth when she did not show up at work and her reason being her nanny had not pitched. I wish I had known that emergencies like this do happen when you least expect them to and at the most inconvenient time.
  2. I wish I had known that when my sister had that slightly bulgy tummy six months after giving birth, it was not because she was “letting herself go” or had given up on her looks. She really was trying her best to shed the post baby weight and what she needed from me was support and understanding and not judgment.
  3. I wish I had known that when you are the source of food and comfort for a little person, when you are sleep deprived and trying to figure out the whole mothering thing, you prioritise differently.
  4. I wish I had not judged that lady whose child threw up on her in church and she just did not have another change of clothes for the baby because he had already done the same thing twice already. Oh dear…
  5. I wish I had known that shopping for pink dresses and cartoon character clothing is just as important and that for sure long “stick on” nails are not that practical when you are a nursing mother and you need to wash the baby clothes on a Saturday when the nanny is away. Forget washing machine coz ZESA, ESKOM, Kenya Power and ZESCOM are not reliable at all. Trust me I know.
  6. I wish I had known that the sleepless nights I experienced during pregnancy were probably a “rehearsal” of sorts for the sleepless nights I would have nursing my twins. Maybe just maybe, I would have been in a better psychological space.
  7. I wish I had known that priorities change once a baby is born.
  8. Despite all the preparation, all the books I read and advice I got I wish I had known that my life would never be the same again and that experience is indeed the best teacher.

Seriously though, balancing or juggling or whatever you prefer to call it being mom, a professional woman, a wife and all other roles that we have is not easy. The mothers around us need our support so please do cut them some slack. If you are already a mother whose children are older, do not forget too quickly and also remember every mother’s experience is different. Let’s be there for each other.

I know I am not the only “sinner” here. Please do confess your misjudgments and misconceptions about motherhood before you became one.

Love and blessings