Similar to many people my age, my resume is quite the hodge podge of jobs. I got married straight out of college then started having children shortly thereafter. I’ve had no real career outside of my home, but I’ve always worked from home in the fringe hours of my days.
Most of my jobs did not actually pay me, so while I put a lot of hours in, I never really considered myself a working mom. Outside of the obvious work I do as a mom.
When people asked me what I did for a living, I simply replied, “Stay at home mom.”
Writer, small business manager, non-profit administrator, amateur website developer, back office employee…these are among the many jobs I never mention.
I don’t really know why I downplay my work. Maybe it’s because being a wife and mom is my most favorite job of all. I don’t really know.
So when I started a Leadership Journey last week (for a company that actually does pay me for my work, woo hoo!) and was asked to introduce myself, I made no mention of my home life and family. It was irrelevant to the conversation. Instead, I spoke only of my professional life.
It was the strangest thing to lead with something other than being a mom.
I am enjoying stepping away from my typical mom role to invest in my professional career and look forward to writing about this Leadership Journey as I go through it. Investing more in myself is something I am prioritizing, so I can’t wait to experience this course. Because I still highly esteem my role as a mom, I know this training will help me in my home, as well.
This Journey is the coolest thing. It deep dives into how and why people act the way we do. I totally nerd out to stuff like this, so the opportunity to go through this course makes me so happy.
One of the questions my coach asked us leaders during our first meeting was to think of someone we’ve worked under who demonstrated quality leadership skills. I surprised myself when I immediately thought of a job I had long ago in college. I spent my summers working at the summer camp (or in this case, kamp with a k!) I grew up attending. I eventually worked my way up to the leadership staff and had the privilege of working under Will and Cindy Cunningham.
They led our team with humility, kindness, and genuine care for every person. I do not remember ever seeing either of them in a bad mood, and even when things got stressful, they handled it with a smile and hard work. Every staff member felt an important part of the camp because the Cunningham’s valued the opinions of others. We met every morning to plan out the day, and even though they were ultimately in charge, we collaborated on how to make the day awesome. They had a way of making me feel known, heard, and loved. I enjoyed every moment of working with them. Their example has had lasting impact in my life.
After thinking about quality leaders, my coach asked what we hoped to get out of the leadership journey. Everyone else’s answers are confidential and will remain that way. However, you know I overshare everything about my life.
The first thing I hope to do is to identify blindspots in my own life. There are a few people in my life who have fairly substantial flaws that unknowingly impede their relationships with others. People matter so much to me, and I would never intentionally hurt a relationship. So I want to discover what parts of my personality aren’t so great and work to improve myself.
The other major area of improvement I want is to work on my responses to neutral stimuli. I have literally never received bad news over the phone, yet every time my phone rings with an unknown caller, my stomach sinks. I automatically think it will be bad news. My emotional visceral response is so ridiculously out of proportion to the event. I have no idea why this happens, but I don’t think it’s healthy. And this overly emotional response happens in other areas of life, as well.
In sharing this, my coach (who doesn’t personally know me outside of the class) mentioned in a very kind way that my answers seemed negative and wondered if negativity was something I struggle with.
At first, I was taken aback a bit. I consider myself an optimistic, hopeful person. I usually see the good in situations and people. But as I thought about her words, I realized that I have become negative over the last few months and years. I am not negative all of the time, but I am more often than I want to be.
The upside is that as quickly as I said I hoped to identify blind spots, one became glaringly obvious. The downside is that I don’t want to be a negative person.
The place this negativity has manifested itself the most is in my very own home. I believe that the mom determines the atmosphere of the home. My kids have been fighting more than usual and have had snippy attitudes. Part of this is the age of my children, to be sure, but I also had to admit that my bad attitude was definitely affecting everyone.
I processed this with a group of close friends. With their wisdom, I realized that most of my negativity has stemmed from boredom. My plate is full. And my life is never dull. I have more responsibilities than I have brain space for. I am surrounded by four people with needs all day every day. So I assumed I am exempt from boredom.
But as I thought about it, my life is mostly predictable these days. Which is quite the departure from the previous decade of my life. For years on end, I had one major life event after another. My life was a whirlwind of change. And then one day, it settled into a normal, predictable pattern. I love spontaneity and change, so the dailyness of life can be very taxing on me. Until my Journey highlighted my negativity and just how much my ordinary days were wearing me down, I did not recognize this issue in my life.
I thought back to Will and Cindy, the quality leaders I valued. And I knew I wanted to emulate them and lead well with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I had to get rid of my negativity.
When life is hard and parenting is wearing me out, a date with my husband or time with friends is what makes me happiest. So I texted a friend to hang out the next night. She and I caught up over dinner then met up with a group of friends to hang out afterward. We laughed a lot and stayed out way too late. Which was what my heart desperately needed.
I woke up the next day, and I could tell the negativity that had plagued me for so long was lessened. I realized that I had not enough prioritized spending time with people. The everyday tasks of life and responsibility of raising kids without much needed breaks was breaking me. And needed to change.
The best part about remembering how much I need time with friends and away from my kids is that I am a much better mom when I return home. I can’t give what I don’t have. If my emotional, physical, and spiritual resources are exhausted, I have nothing to offer my kids. But if I invest time in myself, I have so much more to give everyone.
Even though I can’t control the actions of my kids, I get to determine the atmosphere of my home. I get to decide if I respond in kindness or anger. I get to decide if I am patient or annoyed.
And I have decided that, no matter the circumstances of my life, negative is not something I want to be.
I would not have guessed that so much health and healing would come from one simple comment my coach made to me. This was only the first session of my Journey, so I cannot wait to see what else I will learn.
It’s your turn! Tell me about the qualities of a leader in your life whom you admire. I would love to hear from you!
If you’re interested in experiencing this Journey for yourself, I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re a leader in your company (or in your home), this course will improve your effectiveness in working with your team. And who doesn’t want to be as awesome as possible?
(In full disclosure, I am an employee with PeopleTek, Inc., but the views expressed in this article are all my own. You know I always promise to be honest, and I wouldn’t take the time to write about something I didn’t find valuable to you.)