Can you just do something for me please?

I found myself saying this to my husband this morning. I’d dropped the kids at school but they needed something I hadn’t brought; my husband was going into work a little later than usual today, so would be driving past shortly. Of course, it made sense to ask him to drop it in on his way past rather than me heading out and making the journey again, so I asked him. ‘Can you drop a bag into school for me, on your way past please?’ We work together as a team, right?

The problem here is the ‘for me’. They are his kids too. He also has a responsibility for their education. We set out on this parenting journey declaring we would share the responsibility, the work. He works one day more than I do, so the actual childcare was always slightly tipped in my favour. The emotional work has continued to be largely my responsibility, though. I get frustrated with this, the idea that I have to ask him to do the things that need doing. I want him to take responsibly for noticing, for working out what needs doing and then doing it so I don’t have to always be the responsible one, in charge all the time. And, from my work with women, it seems that I am not alone.

So, where does this unequal division of emotional work come from? Are women simply better at this stuff, genetically? Do we just naturally notice all the things that need doing because it is in our nature? Or are men bred to expect to be looked after, all the family needs met without them having to worry about it, while women are trained to look after everyone around them?

From what we now know of the nature/ nurture argument, it would seem to be largely learned rather than inherited. Of course, character will play some part in this – we all know someone who just loves organising, cleaning, nurturing others without resentment – but there is no reason to suppose it is a clear gender divide.

So, how do we, as women, contribute to the status quo? Back to my original question – we ask our partners, husbands, soul mates to do things around the house, chores, things for the children – FOR US. We add in that little caveat ‘for me’ all the time.

Can you empty the dishwasher for me please? Can you pick up the dry cleaning for me please? Can you empty the bins for me please? How many times do you say it? Do you even notice you’re doing it?

The other one I hear all the time is, ‘Can you help me in the kitchen please? Can you help me sort the clothes out please?

By using this language – unnoticed, habitually – we are putting ourselves in charge of the household labour. We are stating that the responsibility is mine so please help me to do these things, do them for me.

I get how hard it is to change these unspoken, learned-from-birth habits. For me, and for my husband. We slip into these roles, these ways of working within our family without noticing until suddenly the frustration builds and I’m fed up of it.

But then I perpetuate the unspoken, unconscious responsibility by using this language. By stating and re-stating my ownership of all the household and child rearing work.

I have got so much better at accepting that I notice things that need doing around the house that he doesn’t; I have changed my language to start asking him more if there are things that need doing. Now, my next step is to start asking him without stating my ownership of the chore.

Can you drop this bag off at school on your way past please? Can you put the laundry away please?

See how simple it is? And even better, your partner will appreciate the simplicity of being asked to do something. Without the smouldering resentment coming from your underlying guilt at asking/ frustration at having to ask him, that simmers away beneath the surface and really, really freaks him out because he has no clue what it is.

How to be Kind

I mean, I’m sure you already know how to be kind. I’m sure you have an understanding of what kindness is.

We do hear a lot about ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ though; maybe you’re wondering what that actually means, and how kind you actually have to be? Like, all the time? To everybody who asks you for anything?

I am in a wonderful local Facebook group where we celebrate acts of kindness – both those we do ourselves, and lovely things that others do for us. It’s a lovely place that can really help to lift the spirits. Whenever anything bad happens that hits the news, we have a flurry of raffling off – completely free – small acts of kindness. It can be baking, delivering a meal, services like cleaning or ironing, giving away clothes, toys or any unwanted gifts. Anything that anyone has to offer – and people are very creative; even if they have little to give, they think of something that makes someone else’s life slightly better.

Can this really help you, to help others? Surely it is only the people on the receiving end who benefit?

Well, “evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health”.

Amazing, eh?

Being altruistic, in short, is when you put someone else’s needs before your own. Maybe it is simply offering your seat on public transport to someone who looks like they need it more than you; or just offering to make a cup of tea for a work colleague. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; just making the world slightly better for those about you by showing care and consideration.

Now, you might be worrying about what this is going to cost you in terms of time, energy and money. If you are always helping others, you might find you have given away all your money; you have no energy left, and no time for your own family and friends. You might turn into the classic martyr: “Look at all I’ve done for you. I have nothing left. Why aren’t you grateful?”

Of course, you need to be aware of your boundaries. We can afford to be generous when all of our needs – physical, emotional, financial and so on – are met. When we have a surplus of anything, we can afford to give to others without sacrificing ourselves.

So, if you have very little money but you do have time, consider volunteering. Bake a cake for a neighbour. Offer to help someone out if they need it, or give what is needed if they ask for help. Smile at the people around you. Make conversation. There are plenty of things you can do that don’t cost a penny but show people that you care – and this will improve your own health too!

If you have enough money but are constantly working, by all means choose to give some money to charity; although this can often feel rather distant, like a salve to the conscience. What might have a greater effect on you instead, would be to open your eyes to the real people around you. Yes, you might be busy but is there anything you can do in your daily life to spread a bit of cheer? Maybe even look at the people serving you in shops as real people – share a smile and eye contact. Make conversation – do you see a pattern here? However much you have or don’t have in a material sense, you can always make small differences to the world around you.

When to say ‘No’. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am completely human and sometimes don’t have the necessary energy or desire to be wonderfully upbeat and make everyone around me feel slightly happier. We all have off days.

If you feel like this, your needs haven’t been met – so, to try to give to others at this moment in time would put you into the realm of sacrifice. Once you are in the habit of spreading kindness, it somehow becomes easier to ask for help, so if you are feeling this way, try asking for what you need; also, try being kind to yourself.

Even if you have started the habit of spreading a bit more kindness in the world, it doesn’t mean you have to agree to everything that people ask of you! Automatically saying ‘Yes’ to everything is as unhelpful as automatically saying ‘No’ to everything. If someone asks you for something, take a moment to consider the request. Can you meet their needs as well as your own? Say ‘Yes’! If it doesn’t work for you, say ‘No’.

Above all, just be mindful of how you can make small changes around you to make the world a better place.

When we believe that our actions don’t make any difference; when we think there is too much bad in the world so there is no point trying to spread some good; we feel down, depressed, disheartened.

When we take control of the tiny influence we do have on the world, and do what we can to make the world a better place, we spread tiny ripples of goodness; we inspire others to do the same; we start to see the good in the world.

Do pop over to my Facebook page and share what kindness you have given or received!

The Mother Paradigm and Me

Once upon a time, there was a busy, successful teacher. She was passionate about her work supporting children on the Autistic Spectrum in a mainstream school; she was excited about her work with the other pupils in the school as part of the Pastoral Team, focussing on developing their ability to learn and grow; she was a great manager to her team, she really cared about their development as people as well as their professional development.

She was also a keen and passionate climber – she was strong and determined, and was a member of the British Competition Climbing Team, travelling around Europe to compete in rounds of the World Cup throughout the competition season as well as travelling extensively to climb in all corners of the globe.

Then there was her desire to learn and grow – she also started studying towards her Masters Degree in Special and Inclusive Education and found it fascinating, interesting and infuriating all at once.

And as she liked to work hard, so she liked to play hard… so many parties and late nights, hanging out with friends….

That was me, 15 years ago. How did I find the time to fit it all in?! I’m exhausted just reading it back!

Well, I recognise now that I was using Superwoman to keep it all together. Superwoman kept me going for a long, long time. I had lots of fun through those years; I had some great experiences and met some great people. But I could be hard work too, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable in my own skin….

Things changed for me most dramatically as I got to the stage in my life where I wanted to bring children into the mix. I was still focussed, passionate, I had lots to give… but how to fit it all in and find the time to be the parent I wanted to be? And still get time for the fun stuff, the ‘me’ stuff? What about how society and the wider world view women as mothers?

I was utterly confused about who I was and what I could do with my life, what I wanted to do with my life. I had no support network, no idea of even how to ask for help, or who I could ask. I had always assumed that I had to ‘go it alone’. If I wanted something doing properly, I had to do it myself.

So I embarked on my journey of learning: about myself, and my place in the world; what skills I had to offer that most fulfilled me; how to build and grow my support network.

I embarked on my journey to find a balanced life…. (to be continued…)

A Transformational Week!

Last week I spent an amazing, thrilling, truly transformational 5 days surrounded by some wonderful women.

Led by the fantastic Dr Joanna Martin and her team at One of Many, we deepened our knowledge and skills in life coaching; we delved deep into clearing out our own ‘stuff’; we supported and encouraged each other to be ready to take this powerful programme to all those women who need this support and coaching to truly transform their own lives.

I am so excited to be preparing to bring this to you all!