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The Secrets of Successful Working Mums

By Galia BarHava-Monteith

Successful Working Mums or SWOMs seem unflappable, in control, calm and they just get on with things! They are also great to be around, they have wonderful energy and generally seem happy and content with their lives.

It’s not like they don’t face challenges, in fact some have faced incredible personal and professional challenges and have at times dealt with great stress but they are able to contain that stress and deal with it in a proactive and in-control manner. You are unlikely to hear these women complain incessantly. In fact one of them has a motto,

“Don’t complain and don’t explain.”

Priorities

All the SWOMs I know are extremely clear about their priorities and are really disciplined at enforcing them. And they all prioritise themselves first and make sure they take the time to look after themselves: they exercise regularly, they get regular massages/facials/ nails. To some of you this might seem like common sense. If only that were true! So many working mums feel incredibly guilty about caring for themselves. They feel they should be putting everyone ahead of themselves. Unfortunately, some of them also make (intentionally or unintentionally) other working mums feel guilty for looking after themselves. I remember one telling me “It must be so nice to have the time to go to yoga twice a week…” For a second I felt guilty and then I reminded myself that it is yoga that keeps me going.

SWOMs prioritise time with their family and their partner and they make the effort to invest in these incredibly important relationships. They build their personal and psychological resources that way. Some SWOMs have regular dates with their partners, others diarise family holidays at the start of every year, leaving nothing to chance.

SWOMs also know they can’t be super-women and they know how important it is to outsource aspects of their lives to others, be it childcare, cleaning, cooking, washing or ironing. They know they can’t do it all, and they don’t feel guilty about it!

There are consequences of course. Most SWOMs are very selective about their social lives. They don’t attend many events and there has to be a real purpose and meaning to the events they choose to attend. They also choose their close friends and associates very carefully, and tend to surround themselves with supportive and positive people. This leads me to the next theme I’ve observed.

Positivity

SWOMs strike me as very positive women. That is not to say that they are raging optimists, not at all, but they do look at life as a series of opportunities. They are not ones to linger on the wrongs of the past or their own faults. They have a ‘get up and do it’ attitude.

They are very careful about who they associate with. Most SWOMs have friends who are supportive and like-minded. They don’t tolerate toxic friendships for long.

You won’t hear SWOMs whinge or complain even when they are faced with huge challenges. They don’t indulge in self-pity or self-disclose their difficulties. It is this ‘getting on with it’ behaviour and attitude that makes them look ‘unattainable’ or even ‘scary’.

Because successful working mums are very aware of how precious their time and energy is, they would much rather invest it in doing things that are productive and engaging. They are ‘builders’ and they are engaged in building and contributing. And that leads me to probably what is most important about their ‘recipe’ for success.

An Engaged Life

One of the cornerstones of Positive Psychology is the notion of the three ‘lives’. In his book ‘Authentic Happiness’, Professor Martin Seligman outlines the three types of lives, namely the ‘Pleasant Life’, the ‘Engaged Life’ and the ‘Meaningful Life’.

The Pleasant Life is all about satisfying our desires. It’s about lovely holidays, good food and wine, and great company. Yes, at the time it feels good, and having pleasantness as part of our lives is important, but the thing about the pleasant life is that it habituates. Seligman provides the analogy of eating great French Vanilla ice cream. The first mouthful tastes divine but by the end of a huge bowl it tastes like cardboard.

The Engaged Life is the life in which people are able to use their signature strengths frequently at home or work. And the Meaningful Life is when people get to use their signature strengths doing something they believe in and view as bigger and more important than themselves.

All of the SWOMs I know lead the latter types of life, and most lead a meaningful life. They do work they believe in, and they use their signature strengths doing it. Are they busy? Absolutely, but they get a lot done. The more they do, the more their resources are built, and the more content and happy they become. They direct their energies at doing work that is meaningful to them, which also allows them to use their signature strengths.

Finally, all the successful working mums I know have definitely one common denominator – they are organised.

Organised!

There’s no getting around it. It seems that to be a successful working mum, you really do need to be organised. Even though some SWOMs are in very senior roles and outsource some of the more mundane aspects of the household, they are still on top of their own and their children’s lives. They are the ones that RSVP for the birthday parties, organise their own children’s parties, sign the kids up for piano lessons etc. The way they keep on top of everything is by being organised with a capital O. Successful working mums make the effortful look effortless, together as a couple, and as a family.

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