When I had my first kid, I was responsible for employee safety for a division of a manufacturing company. On the eve of the arrival of kid #2, I accepted a promotion to be the global safety director for the parent organization. I was leaning hard into the idea that I could do it all. When I returned after maternity leave, I had very few role models to look to on how to balance my professional life and motherhood. Most executives at that level were older with older or grown children. Most were men and a large majority had wives who were not working in executive roles or outside of the home. Everyone was super supportive. Everyone said to take time when I needed it. Everyone said they understood when I needed to leave to pick up my kids from childcare. Everyone said don't worry about it when kids were crying or interrupting an evening business call. Everyone said the right things, but no one seemed to be actually doing them. No one was leading by example. So, you guessed it, each time I needed the time or had to put down the phone to tell the kids that "mom was on a work call" my inner critic chimed in questioning whether I was committed, whether I was doing the job as good as others.
I knew I couldn't change my leaders or my peer group, but I could change it for my team. So I started being very clear about why I was away from work. I made it visible on my calendar. Rather than hide it, I shared it. I was explicit about where I was going to be and why. I wanted to accurately portray how hard the work-life balance was and what it looked like when you made decisions to put family first, the trade-offs and yes lots of FOMO in both directions. I wanted to try lead by example not by lip service.
Flash forward two years. I am writing this blog as a new business owner and personal trainer. Spring Break is next week. Spring Break #2 in the pandemic. Yuk. My family is not yet eligible for vaccination, we're still taking precautions (we've made it this far without illness or even a serious exposure I am not messing it up now!) and definitely not into crowds.
With no beaches, airports, or theme parks on the agenda - is this break even worth taking? I admit it, I've been asking myself this question. On the surface Spring Break this year is just more of the same. As a solopreneur, I'm the marketing, finance, ops and sales team all in one. Is a break really right for the business? But then I dug a little deeper and thought about what I would tell my clients and friends to do. My inner critic (who was much more helpful this time) reminded me that...
"actions speak louder than words"
Spring Break is worth taking. Mental breaks are worth taking. Physical breaks are worth taking. So, (drum roll please) here's what I will be breaking from next week:
1) Social Media.
Yep, this is my last post until I return. I didn't work ahead, I didn't schedule posts, I don't want you to think I am working. I want you to know that I am taking a break. The new solo business owner, woman and mom in me, feels this is important. Social media is a way we connect professionally and personally but studies show it can lead to depression, low-self esteem, body image issues, anxiety and unhealthy comparison. Let my absence say not that I don't care about you but that I also care about myself.
Rest and recovery are essential for muscle growth and repair. I insist on them for clients. I want to be able to exercise for my entire life and over training is real. Instead I will hike, bike and walk with my family at a slower pace. I will take time to soak in the environment and the experience.
3) The To Do List.
I love my list. I love my calendar. But I also know that empty space in my day and in my mind leads to some of my best work. We are more creative and productive when we create "blank space" in our lives. There's science behind taking a break from work or even just a project. Thinking work takes place in a part of the brain called the prefontal cortex. It keeps us focused, on task, is the voice of reason and willpower and responsible for decision-making. If we don't give the prefontal cortex a break, through play, exercise, naps or connection with others - we risk poor decisions, procrastination, low motivation and decreases in productivity and creativity.
This may not be my dream spring break but it will still be a much deserved, necessary and important break for my mind and body. I hope you'll follow suit!
Happy Spring Breaking to you!