Make life work: play to your strengths

What do you want to change?

Things aren’t working in the Wilde household. They haven’t been for a while. A number of times, when I’ve told Sean how hard it is to be a stay-at-home-mum and how stressed I am, he’s come back at me saying “well you work and I’ll stay home with the kids!” I always laughed a cynical laugh and told him he wouldn’t last five seconds – but lately I’ve changed my mind.

You see, neither of us is currently playing to our strengths. Sean is self-motivated, organised, and (bucking the stereotype) great at multi-tasking. He can whip the house into shape in half an hour, where I would take 3 hours to do half what he achieves. He can get things done even with the kids around, and is great at getting our preschooler involved in things like cooking and cleaning. He struggles in his job because he is limited to doing what his bosses order him to do, which is not always the best or most efficient way; he strives for perfection and autonomy, and feels frustrated that he can’t have them.

I work best when I’m on my own and have a clear sequence to follow – familiar tasks are the ones I do best, and I will go all out to ensure something is done to the highest possible standard if I have the freedom to do so. I am motivated by reward, and the prospect of bettering my life in some way. I have a strongly entrepreneurial spirit, so self-employment has always appealed to me. I find it a real challenge to multitask and to stay focused when I have the kids around, and so many different tasks to keep on top of; most days I fall into bed completely exhausted and so stressed I have to consciously relax my muscles and unclench my teeth. I love my kids, and I love being Mum, but after 3 years of full-time parenting I’m feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.

Time for a change

It makes sense for us to change things up. If I went to work, Sean could stay at home with the kids: he would have the house tidy and the chores done; he’d cook good, wholesome meals each day; he’d play with the kids and get them involved in different activities. (I can really only focus on one of these things at a time, so I end up doing a bit of a poor job of it) Meanwhile, regular time outside the home doing something purposeful (rather than being outside the home and having a coffee and trying to recollect my thoughts before heading back into the lovely chaos of a two-kid family) would give me fresh energy to make the most of my time with the kids and help out around the house. Weird how it works, but trust me, it does!

How to make a change

The question for a long time has been, if I were to start working, what job would I do? I don’t have any useful qualifications, and scant work experience that predates the parenting gig. My résumé is so unimpressive I’ve debated whether I should actually supply one if I applied for a job, or just put in a cover letter with dot points covering what a résumé would usually contain. If I entered the workforce, I’d have to earn at least as much as Sean does, and he has a Certificate III and several years of chef experience, with excellent references.

This is where the idea of playing to one’s strengths comes in. I have previously set up a little home cleaning business, in the street where we lived at the time. I letterbox dropped flyers to half the street, and ended up with two regular clients, which was fine for that time, and encouraging that they kept me on. I greatly enjoyed working for myself in a job where I performed the same jobs each week in the same way. It was uncomplicated, and the physical workout beat going to the gym – at least I got paid at the end of the workout, as opposed to the gym that I paid to go to!

And so it is that I have begun the process of starting a proper, professional home cleaning business. I am currently raising the funds needed for equipment and start-up costs. When I have the necessary equipment, I will seek out friends who are happy for me to clean their houses in return for a good review on Facebook, then set about creating a regular client list. When everything is in place, Sean will be able to shift to the stay-at-home role (with the possibility of continuing to work part time, depending on where things are at then).

If you’re not happy with the status quo, change it!

The above statement is definitely one of those “easier said than done” things, but it’s important to consider if you’re unhappy with some aspect of your life. If you’re feeling unsatisfied with what you’re doing, you’re probably not playing to your strengths. There might not be an immediate solution – for us, this problem has been bugging us for a while – but if you apply yourself to think creatively and persistently about what you might do to change things, then when an opportunity does arise, you’ll be primed to take advantage of it.

Keep seeking the good life – even if it means making some big changes!

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