Imagine the scene if you will.... Its a quiet Wednesday afternoon and I have taken myself off to my local spa for a spot of R & R.
As I sat sipping my green mint tea flicking through the pages of a glossy magazine a headline caught my eye. "What Successful Women Are Doing Every Day". I had a feeling that number one on the list wasn't going to be read magazines and drink tea, but as a business owner I was intrigued to read on.
Despite the glossy pictures and enticing stories of being whisked around central London on the back of a motorbike, having a PA to book last minute flights to Paris, the glamour of the gorgeous clothes they wore and the effortless style with which they wore them..... there was a dark undercurrent that gave me a chill even wrapped up in my fluffy toweling robe.
What cost success?
You see I recognized the tales of the long hours, obligatory if you want to get to the top and stay there. The climate of always being "on", checking emails at every opportunity and making time at midnight to play catch up on the non-urgent stuff. The cold hard reality of running on your adrenaline to keep up, if you stop it takes far too much energy to get momentum again.
The successful women being shadowed for a day in this article where also mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends.... but there was only a cursory mention of this life, of the successful multitasking of watching breakfast news in bed with hubby before sharing a car ride to school with the children. There were jovial comments about the exercise bike-come-coat hanger or the unused gym membership but otherwise the full day was all work.
I was disappointed as I was hoping that in 2015 there would be something more of" life" in these successful women's work/life equation.
I am deliberately not using the term work life balance here as I feel that it is such an over worked phrase. What we are really looking at are work life choices. Many women will cry out that they have no choice but to work every hour that they can, in these precarious times when job security is low and the cost of living is high the pressure is on to keep afloat. Women are contributing more than their fair share to household incomes, often being the main income generator. There is no denying that. But that doesn't mean that we don't have a choice.
Do You Know How She Does It?
Do you remember the comedy I Don't Know How She Does It back in 2011?
The main character had become a victim of not making choices about her work life equation. A busy wife, mother and business woman she found herself buffeted and bruised by guilt, shame, ill health, lack of sleep and lack of sex until eventually it wore her down. Oh how we laughed at the trials and tribulations of her day-to-day life. Except that for many women this is a tale that is dangerously close to the mark.
There is a growing body of evidence that prioritizing work over everything else is bad for your health both mentally and psychically. More and more women are being diagnosed with health conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to high blood pressure and heart disease, even pre-diabetes have been connected with chronic stress. Every year this list seems to grow longer as the impact that negative stress has on health becomes clearer.
So How Do You Do It?
Well, that answer is very much an individual one. There is no one size fits all when it comes to any aspect of health and wellbeing. It is a choice that every woman needs to make for herself.
One area that almost always makes it to the bottom of the list of priorities for busy women is R & R. Taking time out to rebalance, reset and ready ourselves for the challenges ahead. Taking the time to have a massage, take a yoga class or even just read a good book in the bath...all of these actives are on the wish list but somehow never make it to the top of the priorities list for many busy women.
Most women are vey good at putting everyone and everything else higher up the priorities list than their own health and wellbeing, the women in the magazine article certainly seemed to.
I found it a little sad that role models for what female business success looks like are still being hailed as these "super women" who appear to put life and health towards the bottom of the priority list.
The Tide Is Turning
Thankfully the tide seems to be turning, we are now starting to see senior women in business champion the need to include R&R in their lives not as a matter of "nice to have" but rather prioritize it as "Need To Have". Making time for themselves to rebalance and recuperate and in so doing make themselves stronger and healthier for life and business.
I know from personal experience, having suffered from burnout many years ago, that when you don't have your health you really don't have anything. I made my choice then that I would have balance in my life as a matter of necessity. I now choose to have less stress and more living.
So I for one shall continue to make time to enjoy the occasional spa day without guilt of the specter of the "super business woman" who is jetting off building her empire while I lounge and sip my tea. At the end of the day we all have to make and own our choices...I'm happy with mine.