Originally published 25/08/2021
Today I did something very difficult – I actively stepped away from one of my commitments.
I am a person who likes to be busy. I run The WOW Network, the only network in the UK which supports, guides and connects with LGBTQ+ women in the workplace. I also have a full time job in the rail industry as a strategic project manager, I have 2 primary aged children with additional needs, support my ADHD wife with her mum who has dementia, I mentor anywhere between 4-7 people at a time, I lead a work LGBTQ+ group, and a I am chair of a charity.
When I write it like that it makes sense why I am constantly tired, often overwhelmed and tearful. Add to that lockdown, and a second charity board, and the balance between busy and over busy has been tipped.
I took a long hard look at myself, my feelings, my attributes, and what I was giving to each of my commitments. I admit I took the easy way out – I resigned from my second board as I felt that there was someone there with many of the same attributes as me – except with more time and energy, she was executing them so much better than I was. I also looked at my working hours, personal priorities and career priorities. It is so easy for me to say ‘Yes’ when someone asks me to do something, especially if I have a talent for it, like mentoring. But I realise that this takes up a great deal of time and I am taking steps to reduce the number of people I am mentoring, to ensure I can focus on me and what I need.
If I’m honest, I haven’t been as involved with my children as I could be. I get so much joy from doing the school run on a Friday, the chance to talk without screens and interruptions. But even there, the lines have been blurred with meetings on my phone, quick calls to check something or problem solve. These things can – and should – wait.
Time with my wife has also not been a priority. Our children need careful managing and meltdowns and persistent defiance is very common in our household. So again, planning and prioritising this relationship is an important step into reducing my stress, enriching my life and making time for those who matter is key.
So why am I writing this? To justify my actions? Probably. To ensure I fully take in what I have been saying? Maybe. Perhaps it is to try to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes as I do.
My core being, indeed everything that I do, whether it be in the workplace, as a mentor, as a mother or a leader, is to ensure that the support, guidance and role model is there for women like me. Everything that I do is what I would have wanted when I was 20 – 30 – too afraid to come out, then too afraid to speak up and get what I needed, then too oppressed to strive and succeed at work.
I can’t fulfil this promise to myself unless I can be that authentic role model. And that starts with – looking after me.