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Redefining Success

One of the biggest things I have had to accept is redefining what success means to me. For years, I had painted this picture in my head of what I believed was the definition of success, only to realize that the image I had thought up wasn’t attainable and by holding myself to those standards, I was putting too much pressure and expectations on myself which inevitably lead to burn out.

Burn out isn’t pretty and the toughest part is that it is followed by guilt; guilt because you were a bad mom and lost your cool when your littles asked you to change the channel or make more dinner, guilt because you’re a bad friend who forgot to check in while you were too consumed with everything you’re going through, guilt because you’re a bad daughter who forgot to call your mom on a day that must’ve been really hard for her to go through all on her own, guilt because you fell asleep before your husband came to bed from work, so you didn’t get to spend time watching TV together – something he looks forward to at the end of each day.

I used to get asked “how do you do it all?” with a flick of my hair and a cheeky smile, I would shrug and act as if it all came effortlessly but if I am being honest, there were lots of sacrifices that you didn’t always see; ones I am too ashamed to admit.

But in the spirit of oversharing, here’s an idea;

Six months ago, my children didn’t have any routine – none, nada, zero, zilch. Darren and I were both working until 11 pm for our American-based client but afterwards would stay up to work on our own local clients. We’d often only roll out of bed at around 10 am but I soon realized that I could get more done if I woke up at 6am. So, I was functioning on about 4 or 5 hours of sleep which is a problem all in its own. My kids would fit in with OUR schedule – we’d make dinner when we had a gap, we’d eat at our desks, Axl would fall asleep on the couch (we worked in an open living area, so we were always in the lounge) and Eli would breastfeed, often to the hum of me typing at my laptop. I had even installed his hammock near my desk so that I could get more done between nap times. Axl would often “float” around and very quickly became dependent on technology to keep him company – something that’s very hard to type and admit.

I’d tell myself all sorts of lies to affirm that this was okay but deep down, I knew I was falling short and it took a lot of honesty and self-reflection to get to the point where I accepted that this wasn’t the life that I had pictured for me and my family and I wasn’t proud of the person I had become.

It’s tough though, here I was, thriving at my “career” and getting validation for being a badass in my own right, but then having to admit that perhaps I wasn’t doing good at all, and that while the acknowledgements from strangers were nice, they meant nothing when it came at the expense of my children’s happiness.

I am selfish. I know that I am.

Losing my job was humbling. Not only did it remind me that I am always going to be replaceable, but it made me take a step back and realize that for so long I was doing a job that made me miserable AND took me away from my family. I was not proud of the wife and mom I was, and that crushed me to my very core.

I knew I had to let go of what I defined as success if I wanted to move forward. Up until now, I had never really given it any thought and had willingly adopted what everyone around me deemed successful but when I gave it some thought, I realized that everyone’s version of success is different, and my version was far-far-FAR from where I was standing.

The person I had become thought that success was getting less sleep than everyone else, just so I could tick off more things on my to-do list. I thought that having free-time was silly; why would you possibly choose to sit and do nothing, when you could be working? The person I had become would tick a giant thing off my bucket list like buying my first car, and before fully grasping what I had accomplished, sat asking my husband… what next? I completely overlooked and ignored the small and big moments in my life, by constantly searching for the next “BIG” thing.

But how would I become more like the mom I wanted to be?

It started with small changes like creating routine and structure. We enrolled Axl into a school which has been a great help because it forced me to ensure that he goes to bed at a set time every night, and that he wakes up early every morning. It also helps that he has such a great teacher who is always so happy to give me tips and advice on how I can help both my kids with everything from; “how do you think I can still go to the gym, even though Eli hates the baby area?” to “how do you think I can get Axl to talk more?”

With Axl at school during the mornings and Eli taking his morning nap, I get to spend that time working and getting through some of my admin so that by the time we fetch Axl, I can focus on making the most of our afternoons together. I have started to include him in baking, we spend a lot of time in my garden and I have even started to do some of those annoying Pinterest crafts that we all hate to love.

(Look, don’t get me wrong, not every day is picture perfect – some days, we just lay on the couch, and watch movies because none of us are feeling up to doing anything else!)

It’s not been an overnight success story. I still fail at it, in fact, I fail every day. But every day I get a little closer to being more like the mom I dreamt of being for my boys. That’s not to say I have given up on me and MY goals, I have just adjusted them to be more mindful and realistic, and I have happily put an end to letting my work decide when and how much time I get to spend playing with my kids.

I thrive on my children’s routine and like that we all know what to expect from each day. I like how we all have our roles and play them well. I like that my children run off to their dad and kiss him good night, before we lie in my bed, singing along softly to the music. Once they’re asleep, Darren and I sit in the lounge – away from our computers – and eat dinner together. I make Axl’s school lunch, catch up on emails and do some work before heading to bed, just to do it all over again and I like that.

So, what does success mean to me? It’s going to bed feeling content that today, I gave my best.

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  • Lynne Huysamen
    Posted at 15:57h, 10 November

    Geez can I relate to this Megan – in a very big way. I was letting down my kids and myself by putting work first. I’ve also started making some really great changes to my life and the funny thing is that even though I work less hours I am still getting quite a lot done.

    I look at things now and wonder how productive I honestly was working late into the night and getting only 3, 4 or 5 hours sleep does me no favours in the morning when I have to get two kids ready for school.

    I have made some changes this year to the way I do things and yes while it is far from perfect I can see a lot of positive coming from those changes.

    My idea of success has also changed a lot – I just want to make enough money in order to cover our expenses and to be able to be home with my kids. And I do achieve that so while I do have some monetary goals I need to learn to be more happy in each moment knowing I have all that I need.

    • Megan Kelly
      Posted at 22:43h, 12 November

      Hey Lynne! Thank you so much for this comment! You are so incredibly right! The lack of sleep is one of my biggest problems as it only amplified my depression and anxiety, made me irritable and lead to unhealthy habits! So glad that you’re also making changes and seeing the benefits of those changes!