For something a little different this week, I’m joined by life coach, psychologist and new author, Fiona Craig.
Her new book Stuck In A Rut covers all the ways women become trapped in routines or lifestyles that aren’t necessarily the healthiest or happiest for them. I spoke to Fiona leading up to Mother’s Day, to discuss her own journey as a mother and career woman and what she’s learned about the female of the species.
Underneath our Q&A is the chance to win your own copy of Stuck In A Rut.
Hi Fiona, thank you for chatting today. I’m curious to pick your brain (she says as she wrangles child off floor and wipes up milk with a chux wedged between her toes), so let’s get straight into the nitty-gritty!
I wrote Stuck in a Rut to touch the many women out there trapped in a life that hasn’t turned out the way they expected or would’ve liked. They may feel disillusioned that the goals they’ve pursued haven’t brought them happiness.
Each week I get five emails from mostly women and they typically start with,
I’m stuck in a bit of a rut; I lack confidence, motivation and direction. I recently married and am the mum of beautiful twins. The last three years have been an absolute whirlwind for me and I need help getting back on track. I feel unmotivated and overwhelmed. But I do know I have a lot of potential and just need help unlocking it.
Having got myself out of a relationship and career rut, I wanted to support and inspire women to break free and become unstuck. I’ve created a 12-step system and the book includes a downloadable workbook that will give readers the knowledge, strategies, skills and self-awareness, to pull themselves out. Rescuing yourself is extremely empowering, and it will give you the confidence to go on and pursue your passion and life’s purpose.
2) As a life coach and psychotherapist, what are the traps you see women falling into?
The traps that mothers, girlfriends, career women and mumpreneurs, fall into is the pressure to work hard, stay busy and succeed and this pressure comes at us from managers, husbands, friends, culture and societal norms.
Women have many more balls to juggle, so can feel stressed, tired and disillusioned with life so I really share some very important tips on self-care to prevent burnout and mental illness. Women are far more accommodating than men so have difficulty setting good boundaries and saying “no” which can stem from their beliefs of how a “good girl” ought to behave.
3) Without giving too much away, can you give top three tips to get yourself out of a rut?
To get out of your rut requires a process of self-reflection. Often it’s the beliefs, negative self-talk and rules we live by that undermine our ability to make better choices.
My three top tips are:
1. Challenge your beliefs – Look over your parenting and experiences because this is where your first principles and convictions that we generally hold true and do not question were formed. Our belief about ourselves has been repeated and confirmed in our minds. It’s the emotional memory of any negative beliefs that stay with us that keep us stuck in ruts. They conflict with our present day values and priorities because they are now out dated. This negative thinking stops us from moving forward and becomes the blocks, resistances, habits, excuses and obstacles that keep us stuck.
2. Live by your core values – Values are what’s important to us, and a very important part of our decision making process because we use values to justify our intentions and actions. When you know your high priority values, you will be able to set your goals and achieve them. When we are NOT aligned with our high priority values, we continue to receive conflicting messages, both overt and covert, of how we should be acting a certain way. Rather than listen to ourselves, we can be pushed into adopting cultural stereotypes and belief systems as truths. We can feel trapped into doing things in life just to fulfil someone else’s belief of what they need from us. When you tap into who are you you can stop lying to yourself, stop caring what others think, and give yourself the freedom to live honestly and authentically.
3. Check what habits are keeping you stuck – a habit is a learned behaviour that you do automatically over and over again. It’s the more destructive and negative habits like overeating, procrastinating, poor time keeping that are like success saboteurs and keep us stuck in patterns of negative thinking and behaviours that block our chances of moving towards our dream career, life or relationship.
4) How do you identify the fact you’re in a rut?
You’ll know if you’re in a rut if you are feeling dissatisfied with life, have lost your mojo, or if your life seems of such little significance that you’re not inspired to bounce out of bed. If you do stay in bed you will lie awake many nights trying to figure it all out but just can’t seem to see a way out, that will tell you’re stuck in a rut. It’s endless and soul destroying. You could feel like a mouse trapped in a running wheel going around and round in circles.
5) Can you comment on “supermums” – ie, a mythological creature, or something actually attainable?
In Chapter 3 I talk about the rise of the supermum which results in mother guilt i.e. that endless list of feeling guilty about the state of our home, having fun, looking dishevelled, not spending enough time with our partner or the kids, forgetting appointments, not attending school events, not earning enough to support our partner.
Mother guilt slowly creeps into our consciousness as we become conflicted with the choices we make. These may sound familiar: “I have to work but I want to be there for my child” or “I want to be a stay-at-home mum but feel guilty that I’m not contributing to the mortgage.” Then we might say to ourselves: “I’ve damaged my child”, “I’m not a good mother” or “I’m not there all the time”.
I’ve heard stories of mums striving to be the supermum and then falling in a heap this is because, when actioning these choices, we soon realise we are contradicting our own expectations and beliefs.
Supermum complex can be tied to perfectionism and setting goals either too high or low. It can also rear its ugly head when you stop to take a break. That’s a cue for guilt. You should be working. By constantly distracting ourselves from the nasty guilt we associate with being busy, we surrender to an endless cycle of doing and forgo our own needs. We disown these needs, lose the ability to tune into our own bodies and become driven by the mindset of “we like to be busy because we feel useful and productive”. We are getting all the lists done, ticked, and are getting ahead. We feel great – until we crash. Being busy isn’t always the same as being productive. Sometimes we are like hamsters on wheels, so around and around we go until we burn ourselves out.
We don’t have to become martyrs to give our kids the best. Rather than burnout trying to be something you are not look hard at your parenting, priorities and create an image of the kind of mum you want to be. Be honest and realistic, basing your image on your present lifestyle.
6) How do YOU manage it all?
There’s no one magic formula or one size fits all. How you create a good work-life balance for yourself is considering your biorhythms, values, desires, beliefs about motherhood, and priorities so you are congruent to your true self so you won’t feel conflicted with your day-to-day choices.
My typical day starts at 6am with yoga stretches, I cook my son a good breakfast, we walk as a family to the train station (Buddy, our Cavoodle too). That’s quality family time. Wave my son off to school and then walk Buddy for 90 minutes and then start working from 9.30am on emails.
Career and motherhood is about making choices and accepting that there will always be sacrifices and trade-offs. I currently choose to walk with my son and we take the family dog, Buddy, along too. For many years we’d walk at 8.30 am, which meant I didn’t get to work until 10.30 am, but our family time together was precious so I worked more in the evening. Client time from 11-3pm. Then 3-5pm I have energy lows so rest and then walk Buddy. Son comes home 4pm and we have early dinner before I see clients 6-8pm.
Then, this year, he started high school and it changed to 7.30 am – better for us all. You need to mitigate the things that are least important to you.
When creating your life balance blueprint, think about the following: -
- Eliminate technology distractions by turning off your smart phone alerts.
- Keep your work and home life separate.
- Avoid multitasking in the home or office.
- Older kids take responsibility for keeping their room clean, and packing their school bag.
- Create To-Do lists and get the most important tasks done first.
- Say NO and set better boundaries with family & friends.
- Kids have a bedtime and getting to school routine in place.
- Outsource to anyone that can help you with the home or kids.
- Exercise and eat healthy foods.
- Schedule in some REST time, ME time and FUN TIME with the family.
Ironically your life balance blueprint is less about “balance” and more about the choices you make that determine whether you feel successful in your career, and fulfilled in your personal life.
Fiona has five copies of Stuck In A Rut to GIVE AWAY, email Fiona at firstname.lastname@example.org and write “SUPERMUM SABOTAGE” in the subject heading and you could be a winner!