Thursday, May 26, 2011

Message to working moms - fill your own lamp first

Oil Lamp
Originally uploaded by KNEU Photo
A common denominator among peak performers is the desire to contribute - to be of value - to customers, to the community, to their friends and their families.  Their schedules could make you break out into a sweat just reading them - how many places they have to be and how many things are on their "To Do" list.

How many places are you trying to be, and how many people are you trying to satisfy?  If you're a working mom (no offense guys, but this is true) you speed home from work to jump into your second full-time job cooking, supervising homework, cleaning, feeding the dog and driving to lessons and practices, followed by supervising baths, tooth brushing and bedtime.  If you're lucky you'll have a chance to plop into a chair to read or view a movie before you collapse into bed.  And the next morning it starts again.

All of this caring for others and their needs, although it can be incredibly rewarding, can be exhausting.  Your child steps off the bus in tears and your game face is immediately in place, soothing, encouraging, listening, distracting them from their problems.  The same goes when you and your husband finally have a chance to chat in the aftermath of dinner or during a late-evening glass of wine. 

I received one of the ubiquitous forwarded slideshows in my email a month or so ago with a tag line that really struck home:  "Fill your own lamp first."  This is so obvious and so important, yet sometimes it hides in plain sight.  When you are being a light for someone else in your life, you need reserves of the fuel that burns to produce it.  Where and how are you refilling your lamp?

Perhaps a bubble bath behind a locked bathroom door does it for you.  Maybe you manage to exercise daily to boost your energy and let go of your stressors.  Maybe a solitary activity like gardening or crafting, just because you like to do it, fills your reserves.  Or perhaps you take a class, or go out with your girlfriends to recharge and refresh.

If you are feeling overburdened and overwhelmed, is it because your lamp oil level is low enough that the flame is flickering?  Pushing the flame to burn longer isn't an effective strategy any more than you can coax your car to drive just a mile further when the tank is empty.  You have to fill your lamp FIRST.  Not last, but first.

That's the only way that you will be able to do what it is that you are called to do - to be a light in the world.


Lynn Marie Caissie said...

Makes me thing of something I've heard recently in my travels:

'In the even of a loss of pressure in the cabin, oxygen masks located in the panel above your head will drop down. Fit it over your nose and mouth and secure it with the elastic around your head. Adjust the elastic tabs.

'Remember to put your own mask on first before helping other with theirs.

'Thanks for flying with The Summit Blog today'


Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

Lynn Marie, that's exactly the idea! Even in the case of the oxygen mask, when I've flown with my girls, especially when they were little, it gave me pause to think about whether I could bring myself to put mine on first. The initial inclination is to assume the posture of "I'm stronger than they are" - until you run out of air and are now incapable of doing what needs to be done.