Archive for Prioritizing Posts

This is the 5th blog in the Mothering Matters Spring 2017 Blog Series:

Single Mom Candour – Sage Insights into the Challenges of Raising Children after a Divorce

 

“It’s hard enough parenting children when there are two parents in the picture. It’s even tougher when you don’t. Let people help you.”

– Anon single mom

This Mothering Matters blog is an interview with a single mom who has requested to remain anonymous.

Question #1: Thanks for being interviewed for Mothering Matters! How old are your boys now?

My eldest son is 12 and my youngest is 10.

Question #2: How old were they were you got divorced?

They were 5 and 3.

Question #3: How old were you?

I was 41.

Question #4: How many years were you married?

We were married for almost 7 years and together for 10.

Question #5: Can you tell me a bit about why you got divorced?

I was married to someone who, I believe, had some undiagnosed mental health issues that led to pretty disruptive levels of anger and paranoia. While we were married, we met with multiple counsellors and it became apparent the situation was not going to change.

I was faced with two crappy decisions: 1) stay in a dysfunctional home or 2) break up my kids’ family.

I took a long time to make the decision to leave, but finally was pushed to make it when I saw that my kids were starting to be affected by the dynamic in our house – in all sorts of really crappy ways. I knew it would only get worse as they got older.

I realize that marriages break up all the time but in my experience/observation, it is rarely the woman who leaves when there are kids involved. They suck up all manner of terrible things to make it work. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that there was a big reaction from my friends and even from total strangers when they found out that I was the one who initiated the separation.

Many of my friends only saw the side of him that I fell in love with…the fun guy, etc. I had kept much of our marriage reality hidden so it was a huge surprise when it fell apart. I think there were some who thought that I should have stayed, whatever the cost. I don’t think people realize exactly how bad things have to be to leave your spouse and the father of your children.

Question #6: What is your current living situation in regards to when the boys live with you and when they live with their father?

During the school year, the boys spend 60% of their time with me and 40% with their dad. In the summer, it’s 50/50.

Question #7: In addition to raising your sons, I know you also work full time. Do you work from home? How do you handle all the responsibilities that come with juggling a full time career and raising kids?

I do work from home and I work for myself. I think it’s the only way I could do it. Last year was a huge year for my business and I felt like I had absolutely no down time. When I had my kids, it was too much, trying to juggle it all. I was driving them everywhere and taking conference calls all the time – and often international ones at weird times.

The upside was that I cleared the debt that had built up since the divorce. But the flip side was that my stress levels were through the roof and I wasn’t really present when I was with my boys – I was always thinking about the email that needed answering or the deadline that needed meeting. It made me wonder why I was working so hard – what was the point if I couldn’t enjoy being a parent?

This year, I am trying to find more balance. Because I work for myself, I don’t like to turn down work contracts. So I have had to ask myself, “What is enough for us to survive and thrive – but that also allows me to be mindful and present when I am with the kids?”

This shift was partly inspired by going to a 3-day Money Mindfulness course with Tracy Theemes at Hollyhock last summer. She is amazing…the whole experience was a game-changer.

Yes, it was about money, but it also helped me figure out my core values. One of my most central values is freedom. Yet my life was bananas! I was either working all hours of the day and night or running around trying to do everything with my kids to compensate for working so much.

An eye-opener was when my kids started to wake up in the morning and ask, “What are we going to do today? Let’s get going!” They were picking up the need to be busy from me.

I finally realized that work is never over. It never ends…so I had to create boundaries.

I also realized I was living in a prison entirely of my own making. Now I am finally learning to relax and spend some time at home. It sounds dumb but that’s really tough for me to do.

But I know now that I don’t need to take every trip, go to every show, be with friends all the time, etc. to live a peak life. Just being home and baking and reading and recharging is SO important – it helps me do better work and be a better parent.

Question #8: Can you tell me some of the challenges you face being a single mom with the dad still in the picture?

One challenge is that my ex-husband and I still do not have a great relationship. When you divorce someone and don’t have kids, you can walk away. But when you have children, that relationship has to continue – potentially for a very long time.

You have to communicate with each other to make important decisions about their schooling, activities, health, etc. That can be torturous if the relationship isn’t great – and that’s typically the case if you’ve broken up (although I personally know of a handful of amicable and mature co-parenting exes).

If there’s one benefit to this, it’s that I’m reminded every week, if not every day, that leaving that relationship was the right decision.

Obviously my biggest worry is about the impact that the divorce has and will continue to have on my sons. The boys have heard and seen things between my ex and I – and between him and my family and friends – that I wish they hadn’t.

My eldest son used to feel stuck in the middle and he has gotten counselling for it, which really helped. I also get anxious thinking about their future relationships with women. If they see their father treat their mother with disrespect, what does that teach them? That is a big worry for me.

And financially, I totally underestimated how hard it would be to be a single mom. Especially starting my business, which took a while to build momentum. I have a master’s degree and tons of work experience, and yet I still find it is a very precarious financial situation to be in. I can only imagine that, for many women, divorce is completely financially devastating.

Another challenge is that when the kids are under my roof, they are under my rules. But then these rules change when they go stay with their dad. It takes a good couple of days to re-establish a routine every time they transition back to my house.

And single parenting is really difficult. When the boys are with me, I have to be good cop and bad cop. It would be so nice to have another parent there as back up, especially as they get older. It’s harder to deal with the boys now than when they were kids because they have way more tools in their toolbox!

I can see why the two-parent model exists, it makes a lot of sense. That’s what I had as a kid and still have with my parents, but unfortunately that’s just not how it worked out for me and my kids.

Question #9: What are some of the benefits?

Well, there was a huge amount of relief when I left the marriage because I was no longer in a really crappy domestic situation 24-7. To finally leave that environment was a huge relief. But other than that, no. I don’t see many other benefits. Maybe a sense of strength from having to do it all on my own?

Question #10: Do you have any concerns about yourself and/or your boys – either now or in the future – about being a single mom? I know your life is exhausting at times.

As I mentioned before, I do worry about the long-term impacts of their father and I not having a good relationship. This is a relationship they are learning from – and it’s not one I want them to learn from. So yeah, I do have many concerns about the long-term impacts. I just try to be honest with them – and not throw their dad under the bus.

Thankfully, my boys do have other healthy relationships in their lives to observe and learn from. My parents have a really stable relationship. Plus I have friends who are in healthy marriages. And my brother is as well. So all these people – and lots of others – are good role models.

And I try to be a good role model for them, too.

Question #11: Do you have any words of wisdom/suggestions/insights for other single parents?

Yes. I have advice for women who may be where I was, back when I got married. I had concerns about the man I was marrying. But I was 31 and wanted to have kids – and I think that fed in to my decision to marry him. Even though there were huge red flags, I still went ahead.

So my advice to other women is this: don’t do it. I’m not saying that I have any regrets – I am so grateful that I have my two boys and can’t imagine my life without them. But for those who haven’t yet gone down the path of having kids with someone who is raising red flags, trust me: you’re saving yourself a whole world of pain and suffering if you listen to your intuition.

Don’t ignore the red flags. There are other ways to have kids.

In regards to advice to single parents, in my observation there are two types of single parents: 1) the ones who will take advantage of help being offered to them and; 2) the ones who won’t accept help or ask for help. I fell into the second camp. And it doesn’t work.

It’s hard enough parenting children when there are two parents in the picture. It’s even tougher when you don’t. Let people help you! Let people pick up your kids from school or sports. Accept help and be okay with asking for help. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. People won’t think any less of you.

We’re all sitting alone in our own little homes, trying to do it all. But we need to help each other out – it truly does take a village. Sometimes we’re in a position to help others and sometimes we need the help ourselves. It all works out in the end….as they said in the film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.

 

The Question That Took Me to Chicago

 

MA having her first slice of Chicago deep dish pizza, WINx Chicago, Apr 2017

“What if there was no secret but there was a question? Not just any question…Life’s Most Powerful Question: What’s Important Now?”

– Brian R. Willis, Winning Mind Training Inc.

What’s Important Now?

The question, “What’s Important Now?,” can serve as a guide to help us prioritize the choices and decisions we are faced with every day. It is a question that can help us overcome life’s challenges, obstacles and road blocks.

Brian Willis first heard about the question (represented by the acronym W.I.N.) while reading the book Winning Every Day by the famous college football coach Lou Holtz. Coach Holtz used to remind his players at Notre Dame to ask themselves this important question throughout the day.

“There is a powerful lesson to be learned from ‘Coach’ for all of us,” explains Willis. “Every day during our personal and professional lives we are faced with a number of critical choices and decisions. Our responses to those choices, the decisions we make, have a lasting impact on our health, our relationships, our careers and our finances.”

In order for us to achieve excellence in our lives, Brian suggests we ask ourselves this simple, but powerful question throughout every day – What’s Important Now?

Why?

Because the simple act of stopping to ask this question causes us to briefly pause while our mind imagines the impact of the choices we have and almost immediately brings to mind the most desirable choice.

“When I say most desirable I do not mean the choice that will give us the most immediate gratification,” Willis explains. “I mean the choice that will have the most positive impact for us in our lives, based on the foreseeable future. This one powerful question allows us to prioritize decisions, choices, actions, and events in our personal and professional lives.”

The reason “What’s Important Now?” is such a powerful question is that it is about both the present and the future.

Brian Willis is a mentor of mine – and a good friend. Interestingly, our paths crossed before we did. Brian was a Calgary police officer who trained my husband, John, when he was in recruit class. After John’s death, Brian and his lovely wife, Lynda, became strong supporters of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund…and of me, personally.

Brian first introduced me to the “What’s Important Now?” question more than a decade ago. And the older I get, the more often I find myself utilizing it as a powerful tool throughout my day.

Brian recommends we ask ourselves this question 35 to 40 times throughout our day – and I suspect I am probably getting pretty close to doing just that.

Why? Because it works like a charm to help keep me on track with what is REALLY important in any given moment or situation.

For more information about What’s Important Now, please visit the W.I.N. website. And I highly recommend signing up to receive Brian’s weekly blog via e-mail.

Which brings me to Chicago…

When Brian and his colleague, Roy Bethge of the Virtus Group, asked me to be one of nine speakers at WINx Chicago 2017 in late April – a TEDx Talks style event for growth and advancement of the law enforcement profession – I immediately said yes.

Our presentations could only be 18 minutes in length…which was a real challenge! But I did it. We ALL did 🙂

And the experience of being part of WINx 2017 was amazing. It was an opportunity of a lifetime…and I am so glad I had the courage to embrace it.

All of the talks were filmed and will be shown on You Tube. Here is the link to the 2016 WINx talks.

And since I was in the Windy City anyway…

For those of you know me personally, this won’t surprise you in the least – but since I was in Chicago for work anyway, I figured I might as well extend my visit a few days to see the sights. Lynda Willis joined me and we had a blast, roaring around the streets of Chicago!

Here are a few pics from the fun portion of the program:

Unbelievably decadent Chicago-mix Garrett popcorn…cheddar cheese & caramel!

 

Looking up at the Willis Tower, Chicago

 

“The Bean” in Millennium Park

 

One of “The Faces” in Millennium Park

 

MA & Lynda on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, Chicago

 

One view from the Willis Tower, Chicago…skyscrapers galore!

 

MA & Lynda standing not so steady on the glass shelf, 103 floors up, Willis Tower, Chicago

Back on solid ground, here we are outside the theatre where we saw the Hamilton musical. OMG…it was incredible!!

Meanwhile back at the ranch…or the country kennel, as the case may be, Sadie was NOT impressed with her overly cozy canine companion!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

 

Hey Busy Bee: How Productive ARE You in That Little Hive of Yours?

 

busy bee

“Productivity isn’t about how busy or efficient you are – it’s about how much you accomplish.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

And take it from a die-hard busy bee: the difference between being busy and actually accomplishing what you set out to – in a day, a week, a lifetime – can be significant.

Oh, the things I can get done in a day! It would make a real bee’s head spin 🙂

For me, the problem isn’t getting stuff done – oh no.

My problem is getting the right stuff done at the right time…for me.

Thankfully, my magic bookstore – Munro’s Books in Victoria, BC – manifested, yet again, the perfect book at the perfect time: The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More By Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey.

Now I must confess (like any busy bee worth her salt), it was the COLOUR of the book that caught my rapidly-roving eye: a stunning turquoise with the word ‘Productivity’ in large white letters.

Productivity Project book cover

Yes, that’s right: I judged a book by its cover.

But since I obviously buzz through even bookstores (sigh), if a pretty blue is what catches my eye – and proceeds to change the way I work – then who am I to complain?

And boy oh boy, am I ever getting a lot out of The Productivity Project. In fact, I would say the book has helped me transform my work day – both what I accomplish as well as the quality of the work.

“What separates the most productive people from everyone else is that they make course corrections every week to gradually get better at everything they do.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

By making a few small changes over the past few weeks, I have accomplished more – in less time – than I had in the previous few months.

“Productivity isn’t about doing more, faster – it’s about doing the right things, deliberately and with intention.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

If you’re pondering your productivity, near the beginning of the book, author Chris Bailey delivers this zinger of a sentence you may find of use:

 “I think the best way to measure productivity is to ask yourself a very simple question at the end of every day: Did I get done what I intended to?”

– Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

A simple question, yes – but not a very pleasant one, if the answer is no…again.

Because frankly, it does get rather tiresome – literally – to work harder and harder and still not be able to answer YES to this question at the end of the day: Did I get done what I intended to?

For me, when the answer was no, as it often was, I had to ask myself: why NOT?

Was I not prioritizing and setting clear goals for the day? Or was it because, despite my best intentions, I allowed myself to get swallowed up, again, by the daily tsunami of e-mails? Or sucked into the bottomless black hole of social media?

Did I spend yet another entire work day in front of one computer or another, desperately trying to get caught up…and yet still not have managed to get done what I really WANTED to get done?

 “By controlling how much time you spend on a task, you control how much energy and attention you spend on it.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

And this is where my trusty timer is really coming in handy.

timer

To tackle e-mail, I now set aside two to three work sessions a week when I can go to town on e-mails and social media – for a pre-determined amount of time. I get the most important tasks done first and when the timer goes off, so does my computer.

“Don’t check your e-mail unless you have enough time, focus, and energy to respond to whatever might come in.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

I had been wasting an unbelievable amount of time “just taking a quick look” at my e-mails, then flagging them as unread – and then going back to answer them later on. I was doubling my work-load!

I’ve also had to accept that e-mail, like housework and gardening, is not something I will likely ever be fully caught up on. And that’s okay.

“When you are on your deathbed, you’re going to look back with satisfaction at the cool and meaningful things you’ve accomplished, not that you stayed on top of your e-mail.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

Amen, brother.

Interestingly, however, thanks to The Productivity Project, I would have to say that the one change I have made over the past few weeks that has led to an exponential increase in my productivity is this: PLAN TO DO LESS IN A DAY.

Now, it may seem counter-productive to tackle less in a day so as to accomplish more. But it works.

Here’s why:

“By simplifying how much you take on, you create more attentional space around your high-return activities, so you can focus on them more deeply.”

Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

By deliberately choosing to do less tasks in a day, I find I am actually getting more quality work accomplished because I’m not negatively impacting the task I am working on – by worrying about all the other tasks that still lie ahead in the day.

About a year ago, I got into the habit of working on my larger writing projects (screenplays, etc) for only an hour at the beginning of every workday (on a computer with no access to the internet or e-mail). Early morning is my “Biological Prime Time” – when I have the most creative energy.

So although I was working on my most important task at the best of time of day for me – with no distractions – I wasn’t putting in enough time to be able to accomplish a decent amount of work.

So, after reading The Productivity Project, I switched it up a little and tried two hours of writing every second morning. What a difference!

Plus, creating more space in between the different tasks – thereby effectively slowing down my day – is working wonders because, as a writer, that non-work time is often when the important insights come.

Now of course, productivity is highly subjective and intensely personal. What works for one person may not work for another…and not everyone is interested in becoming more productive.

Truth to be told, what motivated me to pick up the book was the simple fact that the older I get, the less time I want to spend sitting in front of a computer!

But since I do still want to get my projects accomplished (before I’m 90), I am constantly on the hunt for ways in which I can be more productive in the time I do put in.

So if you, too, are on the lookout for ideas on ways to potentially increase your productivity, I highly recommend The Productivity Project.

In the meantime, here are 5 takeaway tips from the book that you may find of use:

1. Productivity isn’t about how busy or efficient you are – it’s about how much you accomplish.

2. Rearranging your day around when you have the most energy is one simple way to work smarter instead of just harder.

3. Work on your highest-impact tasks when you are able to bring the most energy and focus to them.

4. By controlling how much time you spend on a task, you control how much energy and attention you spend on it.

5. By simplifying how much you take on, you create more attentional space around your high-return activities, so you can focus on them more deeply.

Some days, of course, are not going to be productive at all…and that is a-okay. In fact, down-time is absolutely essential in order for us to recharge. We all know that but a friendly reminder never hurts 🙂

Related blogs by Maryanne

Do You Procrastinate? Here’s a Great Tip: Think of Your Future Self

Prioritizing – What’s Important NOW?

Putting it Off – What Is Your Procrastination Telling You?

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.