Those who know me will tell you that I only have one volume. Loud. I’ve tried to fight it but it is just part of who I am. Corporate pod dwellers (unknown to me) have opened meeting room doors that I am in and told me to be quiet. I have even been “shushed” by a fellow (again unknown to me) passenger (sitting two rows ahead I might add!) on a flight to Wellington. So it was a delight to hear Stacey Shortall speak at a Mother’s Day event last week. Even though she was speaking to 300+ people in a school hall, she declined a microphone. I liked her immediately.
Stacey is one of those speakers that make you wonder what you have been doing with your life. I was already aware of her work as the founder of the “Who Did You Help Today” social movement but that only scratches the surface on the impact she has had and is having on the greater good. The thing that most impressed me was her clarity of purpose. She has a belief that we all have crossroads in our life and that it is vital we have people who care about our success at these crossroads. Some are lucky enough to have lots of people at their crossroads but some have very little.
Stacey’s projects have been all about loading up people into the life’s crossroads of those who really need someone in their corner. More people at crossroads for children through the Homework Help Club. More people at the crossroads for mothers in prison through the Mothers Project. And more volunteers being matched with not for profits so they can show up at someone’s crossroads through Help Tank. If you get a chance, check out these projects and sign up for one.
Upon reflection, it was this bold and simple articulation of her purpose that was so inspirational to me. It is rare to meet someone who is so crystal clear about her “why” (as Simon Sinek puts it). and many (including me!) would be envious of this clarity. So it was a pretty cool morning all in all last week. Well, that and the fact that she owned her loud voice. Like a boss!
Some years ago, a journalist living in New York decided to complete a project. Her project (and later her bestselling book “The Happiness Project”) was to spend one year experimenting with different techniques to make her happy. For example – month one was going to sleep early, month 2 was clearing clutter, month 3 was being nice to her husband and it went on like that. Last week I was reminded of this book and specifically the second splendid truth – pictured above.
I had recently been to a parent teacher interview for one of my children and had come away feeling really pleased that the teacher had my child’s best interests at heart and really cared about getting a positive outcome. I reflected on this to a friend and she suggested that I should pass my positive feedback onto the principal. So I wrote an email to the school’s leadership team passing on my thanks to the teacher and recognising her commitment. It felt great to write that email! I was smiling when I was writing! But it got better as I smiled even more when I got the replies from the team and the teacher. I felt good. I made myself happy by making someone else happy.
Do it today!
Recent events have got me thinking about that question that most mums have at some stage. And in my case – on an ongoing insane basis. Should I be working or should I be at home? What is the right thing for the kids? What is the right thing for our family? What is the right thing to do for me? So, I stand corrected – it’ actually multiple questions.
Last week I came across this article about Trinny And Susannah (from What Not To Wear fame) and it made me thing – man, even famous, rich people have this problem! It was the same kind of epiphany that I had when I realised that despite having a full time chef, trainer, and shrink – Oprah still can’t lose weight. There is no hope for me (but that is a whole other topic for a whole other time!).
It is another reminder that this question of can you have it all – is indeed a question perplexing all women – rich, poor, successful, fat, thin, I’m not unique. I’ve come to a realisation on why I think this question is so frustrating. So here goes – the women who have this problem are used to being able to solve complex problems everyday at work. They are bloody good at it. They get paid to do it. I get paid to help big brands solve pretty tricky problems. So why can’t I sort out this? Sometimes I think to myself and sit down with a blank piece of paper “Ok – how hard can this be. Lets just have a think about how this could work. We could do day care for DD, after school care for DS and DS and maybe a student to help me 4pm – 7pm. But I would still have to get out of the house by 8am with lunches, uniform on, homework done, school slips signed, fights quelled. And leave work on the dot at 5pm. Arriving home with tired children who are hangry (and so is their mother). Hard at the best of times. And then there is what happens when they are sick, school holidays and other such challenges. So they you go back to the nanny idea. But should I really be the one taking DD to the ballet? Who is toilet training her? Should I be spending time with DS to improve his reading? But actually – I like working so do I really want to leave that behind and lose a little bit of me?” And thats the sideshow happening in my mind. I’m meant to be clever. And I can’t work it out.
Don’t get me wrong – I have a fantastic life and I am so lucky as I truly do have a choice of whether I work. But it does kinda screw with your mind. A lot!