An open letter to my fellow women doers and makers.
I should know better.
The thing about ‘doing your own thing’ is that before you can afford to follow the advice of all the sage entrepreneurs – those who say hire the best talent you can afford, delegate tasks – you wear about a million hats on any given day. You’re building a pipeline, navigating your marketing, envisioning big ideas, evaluating potential revenue streams…and that’s just at work.
If you have a family, you lie to yourself that on Sunday when you give the nanny a day off, cooking, cleaning and spending connected time with the kids counts as a day of rest.
Newsflash – it doesn’t.
There is a reason why in some jurisdictions, women get financial support for staying home with the children and their spouses actually pay them an allowance to be SAHMs.
But let’s hold off on ‘the best talent you can afford’. Unless you’re venture backed, hire is a completely foreign concept. As it is, you’re trying to keep yourself afloat and relying on what we like to call cliché work while we build your big audacious dreams. (Aside – cliché work is what puts food on the table while you experiment, pivot and build your business into the enterprise that you envision).
So, when my body was giving me all the signs to slow down, I was responding with something akin to ‘slowing down is for the birds’, ‘I am superwoman’ and a few other fallacies. And then my system, in one fell swoop, crashed. Let’s forget for a moment that I am the same person who advocates for balance, and for taking good care of our bodies so our bodies can take care of us.
Healer, heal thyself.
So while I was lying there, gadget free, staring at the stark hospital ceiling, not caring, for the first time in months that I was slipping behind on my numerous projects, I had an ‘aha’ moment.
Actually, I lie.
It was not really so much an ‘aha’ moment as it is coming into a reckoning. That my legacy, my vision, would still be viable whether I took a day or two off to recharge. That I was not in a race with anyone but myself, which is really a kinda silly reason to work yourself to the bone. And then I remembered something that I heard on a podcast a short while ago.
Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.
It occurred to me that I wasn’t respecting the process. The sheer amount of blood, sweat, tears it takes to build something from the ground up. And most importantly, the time.
Instead, I was paying more attention to my type-A personality. The absurd combination of impatience, drive, competitiveness, next-goal addiction, conscientiousness that is a recipe for cardiac arrests and stress- related ailments. Can I just turn it off? No. But I can catch myself when I’m holding my breath (and like Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi hearings, do a quick yoga exercise). And I can remind myself that it’s never really that serious. And that I am no good to my son, or my business, on a hospital bed.
And most importantly, now I know that if I don’t consciously schedule downtime into my day, it is never going to happen. I’m training to become a lady who lunches.
So, don’t be surprised if, in the middle of the day, you find me at the nearest Java sipping coffee like I could not have a care in the world. After all, isn’t that what ladies who lunch do? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been one. But I plan to perfect the art of.
Tania Ngima, 2015 YALI Fellow