Why are all the women I know so tired? Regardless of age, occupation, country, single, married, with or without children? Even the time of year doesn’t seem to matter.
Does it have to do with the amount of things we have happening around us or is it the mountain of work that goes into maintaining each aspect of our lives? Ding, did, ding. You won!
Yes, what you may or may not realize is that there is a sneaky maintenance tax that lies within each and every wonderful and mundane thing you may have in your life. And the tax man always collects.
Remember all of those things you wanted so badly? The career, the hobbies, the partner, the kids, the PTA role, the life abroad? Well, they each come with a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment, but they also come with them a full set of things that you need to do to maintain their existence. There is no easy way to just “have” those things in your life.
Whether we all like it or not, life keeps going in one direction or another. You’re either keeping things afloat, letting them drop or helping them get to the next level, but there isn’t a static moment that will exist in perpetuity without some effort on our part to keep them there.
Everything comes with a cost and a maintenance fee
We all know the upfront price of obtaining the type of life that we desire. There are so many books, movies, seminars and blogs (ha!) that discuss in detail how to obtain all of the things we want, but what about when you get it? Well, that part isn’t so simple or so glamorous. It’s the grind. It means doing a lot of tasks that aren’t glamorous and can be downright unpleasant but necessary (I’m looking at you diapers, 4th grade math homework & expense reports)
As I look around at the life I’ve built, I am so proud of all of the things that I am blessed to have. And I know that they are a blessing. But now that these things are in my life, I must add the maintenance to my schedule too, if I want to keep things running at an even keel and definitely if I am trying to continue to see them grow.
So if we all know that life in general takes a whole lot of maintenance to keep up, why aren’t we pouring equal amounts of time, attention, advice and tools to support one another in the work that this entails? Why are so many tools & celebrations geared towards the “getting” and not on the “keeping”?
Self-maintenance? Why do you need to maintain yourself? Is this just self-care gone mad?
So many aspects of maintenance as a woman focuses on the external. Once you are done with hair, nails, waxing, gym, clothes, doctor appointments, and anything else on the long list of what it means to be a modern woman, is there any time for anything else? Most days the answer is emphatically NO (as you collapse from fatigue)…
Yet, I find that the more I focus on the external without the quiet time to check-in, the more I’ll fall apart.
For me, the self-maintenance is about writing, reading, meditations, asking myself the hard questions and finding times to turn inward. Even though that might mean time away from my other responsibilities. Sometimes I only get a few minutes, but those minutes are sacred and I feel the difference when I don’t give to myself first.
As a mother & wife, I know that I have to fill myself up in order to be that source of energy & support for everyone else.
Just like budgeting my paycheck, I always make sure to pay myself first. I spent many years doing the opposite with my attention but I refuse to be left with pennies after paying everyone else with my time & energy first.
Once we get that dream job, the celebration ends and the actual “job” part of dream job begins. This is often an uphill battle to keep up with new expectations, teams, cultures, goals and insights. So many times you see people step into the roles high from the fan fare of getting to the place they so badly wanted and the reality of the amount of effort they now have to exert flatten their spirits & results.
You often see people in this position continue to jump quickly to get that “new job feeling” before they really figure out how to make the first position work for them.
Is it that the dream job isn’t so dreamy or is that the reality of all things when we err on the side of romanticizing the experience into a Hollywood movie, instead of reality.
I am a huge believer in leveling my expectations with what really is. It’s not to say that I am not hopeful that there may be some unexpected joys, but I’m also clear that there will be things that honestly aren’t what I love to do, but come with the territory.
Pairing: Something that I’ve found helpful is pairing the interesting with the monotonous aspects of work. If you have 15 things to get done, can you try to do some of the most annoying first with the stuff that you enjoy right after? This way you get through what you need to and enjoy the fun stuff right afterwards.
Tasking for two: Doing the hard work alone is less than ideal, but somehow becomes a bit less of a haul when you have someone to share the pain with you.
Don’t know if this is simply a distraction tactic, but I swear it works.
Batch it: Take all of the things you don’t want to do together and just knock it out at once, instead of completing those lackluster parts of a job in a drip fashion. The trick is that once you batch all of these tasks together, they actually take a lot less time than what you’re imagining they will and this frees you up from thinking about them all the time.
Kids take an inordinate amount of maintenance and this isn’t just the work of simply parenting. This is about caring for the special relationship that you have outside of the very transactional, I need you to do x, let’s make sure you get to y or have you finished the homework for z. Life can become so overwhelmed with the tactical logistics of parenting that it makes you forget to enjoy the moment.
This is about how they are emotionally, questions they may be struggling with, issues that arise within their friend groups, what else they may need from you or would like to contribute. We often try to figure this out during dinners together but so often it’s the hidden subtext that comes out at the strangest times.
Parenting can seem like you are constantly running through American Gladiator, just hoping that you don’t fall into the water and yet, if you don’t put the work into maintenance here, everything else starts to fall break apart.
I have found that there are tons of tools focused on maintenance for parents (as so many of us wander through this stage wondering if we are doing this right). The glitch here is that we are all time-poor the maintenance can be ignored for quite a while, but it’s actually the stuff that kids will remember when all the classes, after-school activities and playdates are long forgotten.
Wait this too? Oh yes, this especially.
Many of us grew up on the fairy tales of meeting the handsome prince or beautiful princess, which after a brief obstacle, led to happily ever after. Some of us are still hoping that this is partly true. And I am not down on love. I have found that it is real and expansive if you’re lucky to find the right person and that person is equally interested in making a relationship work. But that’s just the start.
If you want to have a big life, it comes with loads of maintenance. But it’s so easy to get lost in maintaining the “life” and ignore the actual relationship that should be at the base. Work, kids, travel, schedules can all start to take priority and at the end of the day you aren’t left with much but two very tired people.
We have to actively keep trying to put our relationship on that very long list and hold firm our time for each other.
It’s just too easy to let it slip so you can just relax at the end of a busy day/week/month.
But as many couples as I have met in the U.S. or here in Singapore, people are still reluctant to speak about how they maintain their relationship in a real and practical way, until its almost too late.
Part of this feels like we treat asking people about how their relationship works or what they do to make it work almost as if we are asking them how much is in their bank account… none of your business!
Then everyone wants to hear about the crash report, almost as a way to mitigate against the issues that may have taken another relationship down, but never as people are just actively living in a relationship.
I’ve never seen a group of women lean in more than when it comes to discussing the demise of someone’s relationship. Almost as if they only knew the issue at hand they would be able to inoculate themselves from experiencing the same fate.
But I think if more of us spoke about the reality of the time & maintenance that we put into our relationships, there would be a much more realistic view of who is the right partner and a bit more grace for a relationships natural ups and downs.
On our current expat journey, we constantly have to check in, even more now than before this move. The agita of change can bring even a good relationship to a difficult place. It brings up so many more issues that need to be explored as we both keep rapidly changing as have our roles within the relationship.
Plus when you move away, you shrink your circle of outside family & friends for a while, which puts that much more strain or expectations on your inner family unit.
These are the things I wasn’t fully expecting. But we both keep showing up to find a way forward. Knowing it’s very different from when we said “I do” but at the same time the commitment, support & love is much greater now than ever.
How many tune-ups do you need?
Each relationship needs tune-ups. Some more often than others, but thinking the answer is zero will just put you in a ditch wondering “what just happened”?
I try to look at each of these times as mini-resets that need to happen to ensure you are on the same page with others or yourself. We all keep changing at a much faster rate than we care to admit and even if you don’t notice the change, it’s happening.
And once you notice that a relationship might need more repair than you are offering it, schedule it in. Life will take you away with all there is to do.
Create and hold the space for the maintenance needed. I promise these are appointments you’ll want to keep.
And remember that anyone you see that’s killing it within their role at work, home or family are putting in a ton of maintenance to keep things running smooth. Take that into account and know the work is a given.