Do we have to deal with the guilt?

Motherhood. Work. Career.Busy kids. Home front. Chores to run. Meals to be cooked. Homework supervised. The list is endless.

The balancing act also involves plenty of guilt. For most mothers, dealing with guilt becomes a pre-occupation. You feel guilty about the time you spend away from the family, at work or in pursuit of work related travel. You feel guilty even when you are there with them, playing an active role as a mother and a wife because you believe sometimes that you are not spending as much time as you should. You feel guilt if you try to catch some Me time all by yourself. In the endless guilt trips you secretly take yourself on, you are never doing enough, never enough to be the perfect mother.

Let’s get that straight – None of us, how hard we may try or try to congratulate ourselves, will never be the perfect mother. Nor the perfect wife. We can only try to do our best under the circumstances. And you need to deal with that guilt. You need to be determined enough to put an end to the toxic thoughts that constantly try to press you down with the pity party. Well, the pity party is long over and you are trying to do your best, give your family the best you can give.

Sometimes, you may not really be up to it. All of us get that day off feeling. You are in the middle of a rush school day and there’s lunch boxes to be made and clothes to be pressed, your daughter gives you that look with hair ribbon in her hand and the clock is ticking. You secretly wish you could get away to a spa tucked away in some serene valley, just for the day.

Sometimes, it is one of those days when irritability teams up with a bad mood to set you apart in a category of it’s own. You yell and you fuss and later when they have all gone, you feel guilty. You need to be kind to yourself. Often enough, we have to learn to be not so hard on ourselves ; whether in being nice to our kids and husbands and colleagues , we tend to overlook ourselves.  

Take yourself out for a treat. It’s alright to indulge in some shopping, pampering and self-care. Just don’t over-do it. Some of us have life long pamper parties we never seem to leave. I try to catch up with some friends over coffee and talk of nothing important in particular, just some girl conversation that never seems dull but is always refreshing. We talk about our careers, our children, our husbands and our diets. And we go back to our homes, feeling good about all of that chatting.

No one ever promised an easy ride for a career woman who happens to be a wife and a mother with a full household to run. We need to strike a balance, a mental one that does not point us out to ourselves so often that we are on a constant roller coaster of guilt. The balance we all seek can only come when you learn to deal with the guilt in a positive manner.

Your kids may be older and your home chores lessened, but as a senior career woman once shared with me, the guilt has never left. In fact, she says, she has to constantly deal with it from the past tense to the present. You were never there when the kids were growing up is a favourite guilt line. 

The best way to deal with guilt is swiftly and consistently. You need to start telling yourself that you are doing the best you can. Keep talking – to yourself – you need to heat that positive voice in your head that can successfully counter the negative one. We need to deal with ourselves before we try to deal with the world and good luck. 

WHY WE DON’T TALK ANYMORE…

It reminds me of an old Cliff Richard song but there’s a whole lot more to it, in relation to the social relationships we lead today. We seriously don’t talk anymore, we go on social media. Our opinions are shared and shaped by Twitter – our conversations with our friends are on Facebook. Now Facebook is great and I absolutely love it because it gives me the opportunity to share information with my friends, many of whom I haven’s seen in years and found never have found if not for the Facebook. And the sheer power of social media can be exhilarating. But in the process , we have sacrificed the beautiful art of writing letters and communicating with people face to face. Sometimes I wonder whether it is worth it.

Technology is wonderful and allows us to engage with others in more ways than could be imagined. Our opinions can be shared, our pictures uploaded instantly as it happens, can be viewed by friends and commented on. We no longer need to show albums or photos to friends and relatives who visit. We can share it all. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a photo developed. The down side is you don’t have any photos to share in print, they are all on the iPhoto stream!

Whether in building a business, a community or a family, meeting someone face to face and exchanging ideas cannot beat any tech related system, whether via social media or the web. The face to face encounter can generate new relationships, give opportunities to touch and transform lives and ensure that as humans, we can and keep the connections that are important. Sharing a cup of tea or coffee, engaging in conversation – these simple but profound things make relationships special. Especially for those of an older generation, nothing brightens up their day and renews their hopes in life than visiting them in person. No amount of gifts or e mails can satisfy the longing in the human heart for good company – in person and not on Skype.

We are developing relationships with devices that could reach dangerous proportions, the experts warn. The other day, I saw on the web a warning from none less than the Silicon Valley Czars who would naturally want us to spend all our time entangled in our devices. Disconnect once in a way from your devices and social media, it said ; in other words, try going outside and watching a sunset instead of checking status on FB.

Technology is wonderful and has empowered individuals like never before to engage with the world in ways we couldn’t imagine in the years gone by. I can connect with anyone in the world at a mere mouse click and that empowers me as an individual to make my opinion known m make purchases and participate in whatever that’s going on in the world without leaving my chair. But does that make me an active member of my community, in my family, in my office?

Inter-personal skills and relationships make the world go around. We benefit from the conversations we have with our spouses, our colleagues, our children, our friends and our parents. Sometimes a stranger can turn into a lifelong friend. Sometimes a look or one word is enough to seal relationships. We cannot expect technology to do all the connecting for us.

We must make an effort to spend time away from our devices and spend time with the people around us. We need to have a balance between using technology and meeting and talking with people.  More importantly, we need to impress upon the next generation who were born wired, to talk and connect human to human and not via devices. Someday, they would benefit.

 

A new year. A new sense of direction. Where to?

A new year is at its toughest point when it is back to school. Getting my soon-to-be seven year old off to school has been a bit of a tough call, as it usually is after holidays.  She is now in school uniform, in Year 3 and suddenly, getting five white dresses, petticoats and red ribbon tied hair all ready every morning is becoming a small challenge.

Back to my topic at hand – a new year beckons a new direction but unless you know exactly where you are going, where to? There are so many possibilities out there. What is your goal for the year – have you realized that 2014 has already started to slip through our fingers? I just realized that in two weeks or so, January will beckon February and then on and on.

A new year can spur us on to visualize new ideas an plans even though most tend to shelf it after a while. What about getting into that work out mode – it’s time you realized that exercise is wonderful when you build it into your daily routine. What about getting a project you were always going to do, finally done? There is always light at the end of the tunnel if you are willing enough to go there.

A new year is the best place to start for those wanting to start their own little business ventures. I cannot help but come back to the entrepreneur because I believe personally that all women are talented and are perfectly capable of engaging in something useful and profitable. Every time I hear of a yet another venture started by an enterprising woman, I am thrilled at the prospect – of the many avenues it will open up for her business.

A fresh new year offers many possibilities. Many avenues too.  It is up to us to make use of those possibilities. We can spend it away, just like we have always done, going through the days until days become months and months become a full year. Or we can promise ourselves we would make this year a different one, one in which we chose to go out and do something different.

As always, the choice is ours.

 

WHY THE ‘I’ IS IMPORTANT IN THE SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENUERIAL MATRIX…

 

Busy lives often means tight careers and even tighter personal spaces. It’s a tough battle to keep everything on the burners all at once but that’s the standard formula for today’s busy woman – whether she is powering a rewarding career or is an entrepreneur who must put in an insane amount of hours per day. Still, children must be taken care of, home chores done and family held together through it all. When all is said and done, the one last on the list is the woman of the house. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is perfectly alright to consider yourself important too. If you are not up mentally, physically and spiritually to meet the challenges of life, then chances are that no one around you , whether family or colleagues will be, either. Over-worked, depressed and demotivated women (or men) are likely to take wrong decisions, break easily and allow themselves to spiral downward in face of adversity. There is no better individual to be taken care of once in a while than you yourself. But for most women, that’s the hardest thing to do.

Experts recommend that you spend some time on yourself everyday – they call it the ‘Me time’ to recharge, regenerate and recover from the daily hum- drum of life. The ‘Me time’ can be spent in prayer or meditation, reading, sitting down, being pampered in a salon or simply sitting down by yourself with a good cup of tea. The idea is to unwind and give your systems a chance to clear the clutter and calm down.  Some companies and organizations encourage the concept of “me time’ where top executives actually get some time off during the week to engage in ‘me time’.

Finding the time to spend doing nothing is also considered vital in keeping the work sanity balance. A Saturday afternoon can be set aside for the doing nothing session. Ideally, this portion of time must be totally unplanned and kept for spontaneous activity such as watching a movie, going shopping or just hanging around. Although we can and often do get into a work mode by default, it is important to keep this part of the week to do nothing on purpose. It can be rewarding once you fit it into a busy week and before long, you begin to enjoy the stress-free half a day that really enables you recuperate from an insanely busy week.

Spending time talking is also a key therapeutic element in achieving the successful work-life matrix. Whether it is the kids, ageing parents, the spouse or colleagues, spending some amount of time connecting is important, especially in today’s highly entertaining environment of social media , smart phones and the internet. With all those communicative devices, we increasingly find ourselves checking our smart phones while waiting for the bus or our turn at the doctor’s or the supermarket counter.

We no longer make polite small talk that used to turn strangers into friends and acquaintances into colleagues – we can easily be content with our speakers connected to our smart phone playing You Tube videos or music. Or check Facebook status. Making conversation is a dying art – I remember reading that following the power outage caused by the infamous storm in New York, a mother discovered that her children actually could not make conversation with other children of the same age when they had nothing to do when their electronic gaming devices and smart phones went out and could not be charged. In fact, we would do well to realize and discover that those who could make conversation an interesting choice are likely to make new social and business connections easily than others.

Do we spend time recharging, researching and updating ourselves in our chosen field of work? This is an important area – for an example, doctors are expected to update themselves regularly on status of research findings on various relevant illnesses and other heaps of information that flows steadily from on-going research projects. For professionals and others, updating today is no longer a tedious task given the plethora of information available on line at the click of a button. But it is vital that we choose to find the time to update ourselves regularly. Otherwise, we can become like software that is not updated – we lose track of the new developments, the new trends and innovations and thereby, lose the edge in keeping ourselves relevant.

We should find the time to challenge ourselves by never giving up on thinking new ideas and concepts. There is something fundamentally powerful about innovative ideas whose time has come. If not for brilliant ideas, half of the most successful products and services would not have been created. From Facebook that started out as a social network among friends to eBay and Google, some of the web’s most powerful companies and of course Apple, among others, ideas evolved into a powerhouse of growth and financial success.

In a nutshell, keep looking for ways in which you can allow yourself to stay as sharp as the knife that has been consistently sharpened. That’s the only – and the smart way to stay on top of things.

THANKSGIVING – A WHOLE LOT TO BE THANKFUL FOR…

The Season of Thanksgiving is not only upon the USA but also upon the rest of us in the Christian world. I tell myself that despite the wars, the bombings, the attacks I see everyday on my TV screen, despite the bad news of newer, tougher bugs, more and more incurable diseases, I have a lot to be thankful to the Almighty for.

I am thankful that I have good health on my side. I maybe tired and stretched out at times but I am healthy, my feet are healthy enough to take me places and even though I wear glasses, I can see. My hands work and so do every part of my body and I am deeply thankful for that. I can exercise each morning and jog and I am thankful for the ability to do so. My husband and my children are healthy and that’s already a lot to be thankful for.

It is easy to murmur and complain – our world is getting selfish by the day when you see the order of things. Suddenly, taking photos of other people and other things are not as interesting as taking a selfie and posting it on Instagram or Facebook. We are obesessed with ourselves – our bodies, our careers, our selfish indulgences. And yes it is easy to complain when things are not exactly going our way. It is at such times that we need to remember the little things – and of course the big things to be thankful for.

Be thankful if you have a roof over your head. Food on your table. Clothes on your back. And family to come home to every night. So many people in so many places around the world lack so many basics that everyday life sounds like a fairy tale for most of them struggling to make a living. Poverty is no longer exclusive to the developing world but is also relevant in the developed world. You find poor in the same street sometimes as the super rich. If you sit and count your blessings as the old hymn says, you will find so many things to be truly thankful for.

Choosing to be thankful is like choosing to be happy. We make choices and the choice we make determine what our attitudes will be like. If there is darkness around us, we can light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. We can look for the things that we sometimes take for granted and tell ourselves that they are indeed blessings.

There’s a saying – I cried for a pair of shoes until I met a man without feet. Life is what we make of it. Gratitude forms a major portion of living your life well. Some of us of course are never happy. Never content. But that’s not the road to travel – thats the road of addiction, depression and death. We need to be grateful for everything we have. Often it is life’s simplest things that bring the biggest pleasures.

Find the little things that make us truly happy – and thankful. A messy house – it means you have active kids. Soon, they will not want to mess up the house and be hooked on an X Box. Gifts to buy – means you have family and friends who love you. Chores, never ending to do ; means you play an important role in the lives of those around you.

Let us be truly thankful this Season – Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

 

LIFESTYLE ENTREPRENEURSHIP – GIVING WOMEN THE BALANCE NEEDED BETWEEN HOME & OFFICE…

They are no longer manning desks in plush offices but are in front of computers located in kitchens, store spaces, living rooms and bedrooms. They work hard but also have time to spend with the kids and take care of family chores. They run successful businesses from home but have had no need to attract venture capital funds or angel investors – their capital requirements are typically small but the businesses they have built are successful and are adequate for their needs ; money in the bank and time on their hands. They are the entrepreneurs of a new kind – the lifestyle entrepreneurs who form a new wave of women who want to run their own businesses and also manage their home fronts at the same time. 

Lisa Griswold is one such woman in Atlanta. Forbes recently cited her as one of the growing breed of lifestyle entrepreneurs. She runs Pixie Vacations, a travel agency that offers Disney destinations. Lisa works from home, is successful and has plenty of time to spend with her daughters and participate in their growing up.

Women like Lisa typify a new breed of women who seem to have a totally new take on entrepreneurship. A totally different view to that held traditionally, mostly by men. These women want entrepreneurship on their own terms,  that of a blend achieved between home and work.  

Enter lifestyle business. From Martha Stewart, the original lifestyle guru who built an empire on the strength of it to Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow whose web site Goop has become a major lifestyle force on the web to reckon with. I recently read that the Trump heiress Ivanka also wants to get on board the lifestyle wagon and was creating her ‘own’ recipes on line. Mega stars aside, lifestyle ventures are relatively easy to start in your own home and has the potential to turn into a financially viable venture.

Typically, a lifestyle business will yield a decent income for the founder and not much beyond that – not many have a focus of going public or growing into a powerhouse. But then again, not many women who start lifestyle ventures want to go there, either. They are comfortable and happy with the level of success that still allows them to earn a decent income and manage their homes and be on hand to participate actively in the growing up of their kids.

Erin Albert , author of Single. Women. Entrepreneurs , Director of the Ribordy Center for Community Practice Pharmacy at the Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is one such woman who started two ventures herself and has spent a lot of time researching entrepreneurial women. Erin believes that women want their lives to fit to the flow of their lives. They want to be there when the kids come home. They need to be home to help with the homework so they may not be able to sit in at meetings round the clock but they can and will get the work done. Even if it is at the kitchen table, once the dishes are cleared. 

More and more women believe that working long hours does not automatically translate into success. The majority of women engaged in entrepreneurship of this kind feel that striking a decent balance between work and home is not only important but also is central to leading successful lives.

According to Erin Albert,  many women entrepreneurs are able to take bigger risks because they are self-funded. They need to hold both sides of the candle so to speak and want to be able to be in control of the growth of the business and their personal lives. Erin says that women entrepreneurs who are successful do not want to build businesses that rule the world or grow into a mega house of success. Their model is not necessarily Apple or Google. Just a successful business that empowers them financially, while fulfilling their dream of building a successful career.

According to statistics in the USA, the growth of women owned firms during the past 16 years is supposed to be 1.5 times higher than the national average. More and more women and entering businesses on a regular basis. And their efforts seem to be paying off.

Nina Hale, CEO and founder of  Nina Hale Inc, a social media and search engine marketing agency in Minneapolis , says that women who are building businesses that reflect their own interests are growing.

Nina prefers to work with local companies so she can reduce travel and find time to spend with her family.  She is committed to a 40 hour week for herself and her staff and when the limit is reached, they pull back. Her model differs from the typical social media and SEO agencies who put in 60 hour work week but she says she is content with her success. Her company is financially sound and turns in a regular profit and is debt free – she does not plan on fuelling growth with risk and big loans.

Lifestyle businesses or not, many women would jump at the opportunity to be able to build a career that allows them to work while spending adequate time with the family. Making money is vital but so is being hands on for the kids. Striking a balance between the two is old and dated as a concept but still valid for women everywhere, not just the ones cited here. And can it be done? Yes it can. 

HOW SAFE ARE OUR KIDS FROM THE PREDATORS ON THE INTERNET?

Just yesterday, I happened to read about a unique on line project that was staged by a Dutch based children’s charity. They posted a computer generated image of a cute ten year old Filipino girl on line ; according to the researchers associated with the project, the web literally exploded with over 20, 000 requests from predators who wanted her to cater to their sick fantasies – and they were more than willing to pay. Not just the researchers but each one of us who is a parent has reason to be shocked by this bit of information. Not because of the sheer number of the vile individuals out there stalking the web but because not everyone who solicited sexual favours from the computer generated image aptly named Sweetie, was the typical cloak and dagger secretive type you would expect a child abuse psycho to be. Most were from the otherwise normal, standard ranks of people who have families, regular jobs and lead supposedly normal lives.

It seems the anonymity of sitting behind a computer screen brought their inner beast out. Their secret personality, dark and dangerous but well concealed behind a facade of normalcy, could be as dangerous as the ones choosing to harm an innocent child physically. On line child abuse one of the hardest tasks the world’s law enforcement agencies have had to deal with.

My concern, as a parent of a bubbly soon-to-be seven year old girl, is if we as parents are doing enough to ensure our children are safe. What mechanisms do we have in place to make sure the internet coming into our home is safe enough for our children to surf. What of the occasional intruder, the stalker who may be from you own locality or an unsuspected friend from a social network? What of the cyber sexual predator who can offer tempting monetary offers to poorer kids and their families in hundreds of developing countries around the world – how ready are we to deal with these horrifying issues?

Playing the vigilante role for a parent never ends , more so on the web. Fighting the ugly, dark and dangerous under belly of the internet that is one stinking mess of pornography and sexual perversion is undoubtedly tough. There are groups of parents who have taken on the job of policing and branding the perverts – with mixed results. When typical police actions delay, it is natural that parents want to take up the task of luring and finding the culprits who stalk young children.

What we need to remember is that taking care of children goes beyond just taking care of their needs – as a mother, I have always believed that you need to go beyond the ordinary everyday chores motherhood and raising kids involve. Become a vigilant – you need to be able to watch out for signs and be alert. Are there changes in behaviour patterns – is a child different than he or she used to be? How are his/her internet habits, have they changed or not. Keeping watch starts right in our homes, where we can and must be vigilant against cyber sex  predators who often find ways of getting through despite filters.

A parent recently mentioned that in their house, the computers are placed in  a public space, facing everyone. It seems to be a good idea, rather than having the kids on computers on their own, in the privacy of their rooms. It is ironic that we watch out for intruders who may enter our homes or our lives in person but neglect to watch out for the predators who enter our homes and the lives of our children on line.

What about children from unfortunate circumstances, who may be easily stalked on line – are there ways for vigilante groups to monitor such instances where children maybe lured with money to offer sexual favours. Just as law enforcement agencies deal with sexual offenses in person, the policing of the internet and its shameful display of perverted pleasures must also be dealt with.

On the whole, children need more supervision when on-line. That is the bottom line.

A Daddy’s Girl remembers…

Yesterday, I dropped into a shopping mall, a snatched moment of a busy day. I ran into my father’s younger brother who was also shopping with his wife. I came face to face with my uncle – and for a moment frozen in time – saw my father, whom I lost this April, in my uncle’s face. I smelled my father then and there and tears threatened to roll down my cheeks. I hugged my uncle and tried to hold my composure, trying even harder to fight back the tears. 

Losing a parent is never easy. Even though you may be, as I am, an adult child who has had to deal with aging, cranky parents on a daily basis. Looking back, all the little things that made me irritated with my father, are now touch points of love for me. I would give an arm and a leg happily to see and hear him do those little things just once more. When my mother who is still left mourning the loss of her life’s partner of almost 50 years, does one of those irritable things like phoning a few times just to mak sure I have understood what she meant, I try to be gentle. I try not to snap, even though I am in the middle of a very busy day.

I was always a Daddy’s Girl. I shared his love of writing and reading. He introduced me to the wonderful world of books early on. I was writing, hammering away on his beloved black ancient typewriter, from as far back as I could remember. It was in my blood. There had always been things in my day that I just had to put out into words. And I would.

It is the little things I miss about my father. He smoked – until he passed away. I used to be irritated when I smelled cigarette smoke coming from downstairs, where he would sit in my office and smoke as silently as he can. Today, I would give anything to see the left over ashes from his cigarettes  on my otherwise immaculate portico. Rushing through a busy day of having to manage a publication, regular columns, a PR company and a household with two active kids and a busy husband, I would have very little time for my father’s little escapist routines – the regular drink he had. With my mother, I would scold him for the little bottle in his pocket. And fumed every time I had to fork out some money for him to indulge in the only bad habit he had. He would laugh or shrug and go away. He never held grudges against his princess. I would give anything to smell his breath laced with alcohol today. I would not lecture to him about drinking in his old age. Instead, I would hold his hand and press a note of money into his waiting palm.

My father was gone before I could fathom what his loss would mean to me. That’s how death comes – stealing, stealthily, discreetly. You deal with the logistics of the funeral and you cry but that’s not how grief comes. It comes like a flaring tornado, it comes like a soaring tsunami wave and knocks you out flat at the most unexpected moments. The first few months were terrible. I mourned in private, discreetly, catching myself crying , my memories of him triggered by a photo, a book, his signature on one of the books he treasured. I was careful not to cry in front of the kids – my six year old daughter who is also a Daddy’s Girl, would ask me very seriously why I was crying. She could not yet fathom why or how her mother would mourn her grandfather so long.

My father passed away on 10th of April, one full week after his 80th birthday. As I type this in October, having celebrated my first birthday without him, the grief has become quieter but is there. Like what happened when I bumped into my uncle, it would come in softer but definite waves, and it would be very difficult to hold back the tears.

My father doted on my son – at fifteen, my son is a tall oarsman and rugby player who as he grew up, did not spend too much time with his grand father as he used to. To my father, until the end, his favourite grand son was still the five year old chubby little boy who loved playing with his friends in the kindergarten of the school by the sea.

Looking back, I believe that all daughters and sons should find the time – however difficult – to spend with parents who are aging. It’s tough but you will miss them when they are gone, all too soon. Savour the special moments – give them your time. I remember my father making sandwiches for me when I was schooling – it was a treasured chore for him. He would slowly take the bread out, butter the slices carefully and add the paste. Later on, as I made sandwiches for my children, I would make some for him as well. He would slowly walk home with the sandwiches I made and share them with my mother. They had their differences but they shared everything. She sits alone sometimes, missing him terribly. When she cries, I try to be the brave one.

I close my eyes and tries to visualize his white hair, his gait and his booming voice sounding through the house calling me as he walks in. It hurts, deep, to know that I would not see him again in this life but there is hope in the eternal. Someday, I will see him face to face.

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” – Shakespeare