Purpose is easy to say but hard to define.
The meaning of purpose is different for everyone because it embodies what motivates you.
For me, firstly, it means my children; they are the reason I get up in the morning. My purpose in life is to give them all the love they need. Having an environment where they can express themselves and know I am there to support them is critical. I want to help my children make the right decisions while allowing them to grow and do what makes them happy.
On the flip side, I have a career that I love. Here, I am driven, successful, focused, and passionate about realising my professional ambitions. My career has enabled me to travel the world, work with people of different nationalities, and I am proud of what I have achieved. I want to show my children that you can do anything you set your mind and heart to, and nothing is off-limits.
So, you could say that I have two purposes in life, and I before this year, I believed I was doing a great job at both. That’s ALL changed!
Am I a horrible mum?
My eldest child started Prep this year, the first step in her school journey, and I couldn’t be prouder of the little young lady she is becoming. Honestly, when I look back, I have no idea where the last five years have gone, and just thinking about it makes me cry.
Family circumstances forced me back to full-time work when my children were six months old, which on some days I admit I regret.
But what brought my feelings of inadequacy to a head was the brutal reality that crystalised the first morning I left my daughter at the door of her classroom, crying not wanting me to leave.
I am a mum, but I am also an employee, and truthfully, at times I’m not sure I can do both. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’m not pleading a feminist angle here, but in our society we often feel that we are expected to work as if we don’t have kids and parent as if we don’t have a job. Maybe we put a certain amount of this pressure on ourselves, but I personally feel it is a true perception experienced by many, many working parents.
This week, navigating my daughter’s first full week at school, I really felt that I wasn’t on top of things. She was a bundle of emotions – nervous, scared, and yet excited at the same time. When I dropped her off, she cried and wouldn’t let me go. What hurt were her eyes that were saying; “please don’t leave me, I’m scared”, and all I wanted to do was feel as if I had the time to linger long enough for her to feel more secure.
Every day this week, I’ve had her teacher untangle her from my arms and legs and console her while I walked away. As a mum, it’s devastating – no parent likes to see their child in tears. While I know that this happens for many families whose little ones are starting their school journey, and even though I know that just a few minutes after I leave, she will be okay, it doesn’t stop me feeling like a horrible mum for succumbing to the pressure of needing to rush away to get the work on time.
In tears, I called my mum for comfort. I’ve never stopped leaning on her for support, and she had some great advice. “It’s a transition for you both. Your daughter is navigating her first steps at school, and you are seeking to balance full-time working with being there for her.”
Coping with life’s pressures
The truth is that most days I come to work looking tired because my children have been up all night, making them extra tired and causing them to be irrational and in tears when I drop them off because they don’t want me to leave. At other times one child, or even both, may have been sick overnight, yet I still have had to drop them off at daycare and school because I have to get to work. Things like this can make it difficult to fully concentrate at work, which only leads to even more anxiety for me.
You see, I’m the kind of person that needs to feel like I am successful in all aspects of my life. But at the moment I feel like I am failing both at being a mum and a great employee. I realise that there are lots of dads in the same boat – working full-time to provide for their children and feeling torn between home life and work life.
I used to stay at home to look after the children, however, with changed circumstances, I now need to work to provide for my kids. That’s my reality, and I’m okay with it, but it has raised all these interesting anxieties to wrestle with that I wasn’t expecting and that are sometimes overwhelming.
Any career also has its challenges and mine is no different. I manage a fantastic team whom I try to inspire every day. But in amongst my plans and strategies, I struggle to put that nagging concern about my daughter and what she is going through out of my mind. I know that she needs to work things out on her own, so she can learn to confront her struggles and grow, but knowing this doesn’t make it any easier or stop the worrying or the drain on my energy levels.
This kind of drain on our physical and emotional resources is a reality for so many working parents. If these feelings are not proactively managed, they can cause even strong capable people to fall into the rushing flood waters of the anxiety and depression epidemic sweeping our nation.
How Braveheart Freedom Fighters help catch people before they fall!
Managing and overcoming feelings of anxiety can be a constant struggle for me, just like swimming against a ranging river. I’ve been exposed to many amazing charities, organisations and people that throw an essential lifeline to those who are in the throws of struggling with anxiety and depression. And this support is both critical and appreciated. But it makes me wonder; ‘how can we stop people from becoming overly anxious and depressed in the first place?’
What I mean by that is, what if we educate people on how not to get sucked into the floodwaters, and this is what Braveheart Freedom Fighters (BFF) is all about.
The BFF not-for-profit takes an upstream, preventative approach to anxiety and depression – equipping people while they are well to stay well. Research shows that one of the significant pressures on families, and especially mothers, is finding a balance between having a career and being there for their children, particularly in times of trouble or sadness.
There is a reason we find it difficult to separate work and personal life. According to many expert research studies undertaken, both men and women have secondary psychosocial triggers across both their private and work life that, if stimulated for long enough, can lead to anxiety and depression. By proactively equipping people while they are in the right frame of mind, we can make sure they are resourced to better deal with issues as and when they come up in life – and boy, do they ever! We believe that if we adopt this kind of preventative approach it will allow us to get in front of the global anxiety and depression epidemic.
One of the first steps we take with Braveheart is to stop separating work and personal life, because it’s obvious that, as humans, both of these affect us enormously. Instead, we teach organisations and individuals how to take a holistic view and how that impacts business and family success. If we help people in their work-life, it will positively affect their lives outside work. Conversely, if we help people in their personal life, it will positively impact their work life!
Jacqui Broadhurst, Co-Founder and General Manager of CodeSafe Soutions, recently wrote a post that sums it up perfectly, and which has helped me profoundly:
“Profit is only really worth it if we have a healthy next generation to leverage it. That will never happen if we do not honour the vital role parenting plays every.single.day.” – check it out here!
This stage of my life is a little ‘muddy’ at the moment, but I’m clear of the flood waters. I feel so grateful for being on the Board of the amazing Braveheart Freedom Fighters charity –because it is teaching me that it’s okay to feel this way. Its teaching me that it is normal to have healthy stresses in your life and also how to use them as an opportunity to grow.
But BFF has also equipped me with the resources, well in advance of this years’ onslaught of stresses, that are enabling me to get through the struggles I’m facing now.
I encourage you to forget about the paradigm of only helping employees and managing work-related mental health risks. If we also support employees at home, it can have a massive impact on not only business, but our general communities.
After writing this, I found myself reconsidering what my purpose in life was…?
Of course, my main priority will always be my children, but I realised that I also want to help other people out there that are in my exact position, whether they are a stay-at- home mum or dad, full-time working mum or dad or anyone else that needs to hear this. Everyone has a purpose in life, and sometimes it gets a little muddy, but stress can be good for you, if it’s at a healthy level. When we are equipped with the right resources, we are able to recognise healthy stress and to see it as an opportunity to grow.