Being a working mom has never been a cake-walk, for anyone. But parenting two small children through a global pandemic, while maintaining a healthy relationship with my husband and running a 20-client, 40-employee, Natural Products marketing agency through a global health and financial crisis is…special. It’s a special time.
With all that said, I still write from a place of great privilege. The agency I co-founded and helm has, thus far, weathered a storm of massive fire drills and industry shifts. (Food is having a bit of a moment, as you’ve likely heard, and it’s my job to help your favorite healthy food brands navigate said moment.) I have business partners, a life partner, and two kick-ass, healthy kids, in addition to my own health. So, I won’t tell you how to mom, how to CEO, or how to “thrive” right now, because we’re all facing our own unique challenges, and you should pretty much just do you.
But, I can offer a few mental shifts that have helped me, with hope they can make another mom’s life or business one tiny bit better. And because moms like lists, here are six ways to keep your mental health in check, with nothing more than mental shifts:
Embrace the middle-ground: When I look around at my team, I haven’t the faintest idea who could read before they entered kindergarten. To be honest, I don’t even know where most of them went to college. But I could venture a pretty good guess on whose parents instilled a solid work ethic, encouraged a sense of service to others, taught resilience and challenged them to think critically. Those are sure signs of long-term success. So while I’d love to spend the moments in between video calls enriching my kids’ minds, instead I take a deep breath and remember that my best is all I can do, and that watching their mom run a successful business while they color or watch Wild Kratts is, itself, an education.
Find a two-fer: Like many folks, exercise keeps my anxiety in check. It’s essential I move my body in some way every single day…and, of course, my five-year-old really needs to get his energy out, too. So somewhere along the way, I turned exercise into family time. In the mornings, we take a walk, do a video from PE Joe, or have a dance-off. Oh yes, we dance. (According to my fitbit, it’s been great exercise.) While the overachievers out there are learning Mandarin and making sourdough, my son and I have learned the dances to U Can’t Touch This, Single Ladies, and of course the Toosie Slide. The shift is this: Find something you love that was yours, and start to share with your partner or your family. The things we love get extra life when we share them with others.
Tag in your tribe: If you’re a woman who’s ascended to leadership, there’s a strong chance you aren’t super gifted at asking for help. Maybe you’ve gotten good at delegating, but now, you find yourself in a position where you even need help with the tasks you feel like no one else could do. Whether it’s your business partner, your leadership team members, your life-partner or a mentor, it’s time to lean on others as a sounding board and an extra set of hands, eyes and ears. Pick one thing on your list this week that wouldn’t burn your company or house to the ground if you asked someone else to tackle it. You might be surprised how they step up for you.
Be present, but act for the future: I tell my clients, “You’re not advertising for today, you’re fueling brand awareness to impact future purchases.” You have to take the same view of your own business – and parenting, too. Today, you’re planting the seeds of what this will all become. I can’t roll my eyes hard enough at all the people saying “No one can predict what will happen!” right now. Of course that’s true, but as a mom and CEO, your people, your clients, and your family are looking to you for the next move, so you have to make your best guess. Your ability to plan and problem solve has gotten you this far, so trust your gut rather than taking a wait-and-see approach.
Celebrate a silver lining: Pick one, and relish it. As much as I miss my office, my team, and just people in general, there is one thing I will be loath to give up: my new morning routine. The mornings pre-Covid were NUTS. More often than not, getting everyone fed, dressed, and out the door caused epic tantrums for the kids and horrible moods all around. Now, the kids sleep in. We wake up slowly. We eat breakfast together and read the paper (BIG proponent of the actual paper). Most of the time, we shower and put on pants. And no one cries…ever. It’s wild. It may not last, so Imma savor every minute.
Catch some Z’s: You can do this, I swear. For a little while in this remote life, I tried spending the hours from 9pm-midnight catching up on all the work I wished I had gotten done during the day, but I realized that the work I did at that time, frankly, sucked, because I was so burnt out from the day. Instead, I recalibrated my expectations for what can get done in a day. That shift allows me to make sure I’m in bed and sleeping for at least 7 hours a night, which has made me happier and more productive during my work and parenting hours.
The final shift: Recognize how great you’re actually doing. Remember: No one needs you to publish Pinterest boards and articles in HBR over the next couple weeks. Just find small joys, make informed decisions, shower more often than you don’t, and if you want to do your best at taking care of others, be sure to take care of you. Nothing is permanent, good or bad, so drink in the highs and hunker down through the tough stuff. Normal will never be the same, but it’ll be here before you know it.