One of those light bulb moments in my life, one of those with ethereal light and an angelic choir metaphorically in my mental playback was when a female lecturer explained that women may be all these things: woman, mother, girlfriend, friend, student, worker, collector (or whatever interest she had). Each one was valid; each one was important. One role was not necessarily contingent upon the other.
As a woman I had been conditioned to believe that I had to be a good daughter, I had to always give. More importantly, maternity was something which was to be held above all else and as a mother I had to put my children ahead of everything. So, whenever I put my needs first I would guilt trip: a one-way ticket to remorse and regret resort. It may partially be the Catholic upbringing which constantly leaves these feelings of guilt lurking in my conscious and sub-conscious, but another stronger factor is the media fuelled concept that we can do it all. It must also be said that men were and many still are, also fed the image of stoic strength and breadwinning heads of household. No tears or softness are encouraged. Everybody it seems has to be able to do everything perfectly.
The media tells us that men and now even women can be successful at whatever they try, and look good while doing so. So we (and I mean people of all genders here) have to take care of the way we look, somehow not age, be fit, be hands on present parents (if applicable) who can magically chauffeur their children to a variety of extra-curricular activities or to and from school/nanna/afterschool care/parties. We also have to be successful at work, always on-time and looking impeccable while keeping a spotless, beautiful home with all the chores that this entails: housework, shopping, cooking. Which all require money, a lot of it which we have to earn in a never- ending cycle to manage to keep up with our, or what we perceive as general expectations.
It is unfair to take on all this and yet we do because that is what we see everywhere. We fail to understand that everything in the media, even in selfies is carefully crafted and constructed to look perfect. But perfection does not exist. What we should do to preserve our health and sanity is stop, breath and accept that we can make mistakes: we can be late, or not buy a new car/dress etc because we cannot spend excessively, or the house can be a mess, or we had to extend a deadline, or we can just do the same gym routine or any gym session for that matter. Then we can look around and find what can make our lives easier.
What we should do to preserve our health and sanity is stop, breath and accept that we can make mistakes.
There is a lot which can help us lighten the burdens we have placed on our lives. We can stop to breathe, we can take some time to ourselves and be aware, we should definitely like and love ourselves and what we have, warts and all. Gratitude is such an enriching emotion, we should practice it and avoid dwelling on negative emotions, on being self-critical and dissatisfied.
On the practical side there are a number of things which can help. Seek and you shall find – help that is. There are free childcare services and free school transport for students. Thankfully now SEC and MATSEC exams are free. We have benefits for those with lower income and single parents. Assistance in practical forms for those who are unwell. Sharing questions and ideas with people in person or on social media, obviously being selective about the platforms and groups you do so. You would be surprised at how many are ready to reach out even with words of comfort but sometimes with something more concrete.
It is also fundamental that when pausing to take stock, we evaluate what should really be prioritised. Do we really need to work long hours instead of maybe going for a walk or a meal with our family, friends or partners? Do our children really need to go for all those after school activities, or could they only attend their favourite? Should we spend all day in a cranky mood for perceived failures rather than learn what we can, dust ourselves and enjoy the rest of our day?
We only have one life and we really ought to try and enjoy it.
About Dot Borg: Divorced, working mum, avid reader and sometimes angry writer. Loathes single socks, prone to bouts of road rage and selective amnesia.