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I wasn't expecting that!

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We expect to need resilience in the tough times.  When the proverbial hits the fan.  When our backs are against the wall.  When we face the lows in life.  But what about when we come up against the highs?

I believe that resilience is fundamental to our experience as working mums.  With it we can truly thrive….even through the tough times.  But what if it’s just as important in the good times too?

Well last week I had an unexpected lesson in this.  Every day is a school day ehh! And it felt such an important lesson that I thought you’d appreciate it too.

Lesson 1: A month ago my husband and I discovered that a (childfree) trip of a lifetime that we’d booked at the beginning of the year for his 50th birthday and our 25th anniversary had gone to the wind.  The company we’d booked it with had gone into administration and we’d lost everything…….with no way of getting the money back (and believe me we had tried)!   This included first class airplane tickets….a very indulgent treat that we’d never experienced before.

After our initial shock and disappointment my resourcefulness kicked in.  I tried every means within my control and influence to rescue the trip away.  When it became clear that, despite my best efforts, we weren’t going to get the holiday back I allowed myself to let go of it with relative ease.  

Conclusion:  Yay girl you’ve got this resilience stuff nailed………But I may have celebrated a bit too soon! 🙁

Lesson 2: Fast forward to last week.  It was 11am on Monday morning and I received a call from my husband… “Nicky, have you checked your emails?”  Puzzled as I hadn’t, I simultaneously opened my inbox while listening to my husband say “We’ve got our flights!!”

We’d received an email from the administrators letting us know that they’d managed to track our flights down for our trip of a lifetime.  And they were due to leave in less than 48hrs!!

What should have been good news turned into a tailspin for me.  My husband was over the moon to hear that our trip away had been given a lifeline.  I, on the other hand, went into a nosedive. 

How could I possibly leave the kids at such short notice?!  How could I possibly rearrange my work and pack for this holiday at such short notice?!  All my ‘stuff’ that I thought I’d got in check came to the surface:

  • My mother’s guilt! – how could I possibly do something for me and my husband?!  Put our needs as equal to our children’s?  How could I leave them for a few days with loved ones whilst we went away?!?
  • My need to be a people pleaser!  – how could I ask my mother-in-law to look after my children at such short notice?!?  She’s going to hate and judge me!
  • My need to be strong and independent – how could I ask others to help me with my job as a mother?!  It’s my responsibility and my responsibility alone to raise my children isn’t it!?!
  • My perfectionism! – I’ve not planned this holiday to near perfection as I didn’t think it was coming.  I haven’t got the right clothes!  I haven’t had a pedicure! I haven’t got time to defuzz my winter hair growth!! I haven’t lost the half a stone that our culture tells us we need to in order to look ok in a bikini!
  • My need for control! – I’ve not planned this holiday to within an inch of its life.  I don’t know any of the details.  I’ve not figured out my plan.  I can’t possibly be so irresponsible as to say yes to this opportunity
  • My inner critic went into overdrive – I mean she had a field day.  She was in her element!

So what should have been a positive – us not losing all our money and the trip of a lifetime – actually turned into a guilt and shame storm (to borrow a term from the brilliant Brene Brown).

I could go into more detail about the tailspin but that’s for another time, to keep the story short this tailspin went on for 24hrs and I nearly let it consume me.

Conclusion:  Resilience is just as important for the good stuff as it is the tough stuff. Anything that’s VUCA (term coined from the military – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex or Ambiguous) can catch us out.  And my word motherhood is full of VUCA stuff isn’t it!

So if you want to ride the good and the bad in life it seems resilience is key!

The reason I share this experience is that we often think that if external factors in our life are better then we’d be happier. But this experience taught me that’s not always the case. Life continues to remind me that it’s what we do on the inside that matters more than what happens on the outside.

Luckily with all my training I’ve got some pretty good strategies and tools to catch myself when I’m in a tailspin.  But it doesn’t mean I don’t go into one.  It just means I can recover more quickly before I crash! 

I’ll be sharing more of these resilience strategies over the coming weeks in the private Facebook group Wisdom For Working Mums’ Village.  So if you’re not already a member come over and join me, and I’ll fill you in on how I recovered from the tailspin.  Plus other hopefully useful strategies to thrive as a working mum….come rain or shine!

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