We have so many roles in our lives, and it can be hard to balance them all. Each role needs to have a turn and transitioning from one role to the next takes a certain amount of intention, especially if you’ve recently added a new role, like being a mom.
Whether you realize it or not, when you swipe in at work, you step into the role of “professional.”
When you pick up your child at daycare, you step into the role of “mother.”
When your partner is home with you, you are “wife” or “partner.”
When your mother calls and you actually answer, you step into the role of “daughter.”
If you aren’t paying attention, you can easily drag one role into another. If you aren’t careful, your roles can start to blur. That’s when things start to get messy.
Now, to be clear, we are always all of our roles. No matter what I am doing, I am Lucy’s mom. But, when she is at school and I am at work, I am not in the role of mother. If her school nurse calls me, I quickly pop into mom role.
But I cannot be more than one role at once for very long—not without sacrificing my unique ability to be brilliant at each role.
I can’t be a good mom to Lucy in the evening if I am still wearing the role of a professional. If I am thinking like a Lactation Consultant, I am not thinking like a mom. If I am worrying about a patient, I am not worrying about Lucy.
So, here is what I do to help me “switch gears.” This may work for you or it may not. Maybe try it out and see.
- I wrap up the first role as much as I can. If I have to take work home, I decide exactly when I will do this work. I say to myself, “Katie, this is done for today. You will come back to it tomorrow.” Or “Katie, you need to stop now. You can finish up this little piece from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm, but nothing more.”
I transition. A transition for me is when I pay attention to what my thoughts are and let go of whatever thoughts or worries are hanging around from my day. I deliberately choose what I want to listen to while I transition. If I don’t want to think about work, I don’t put on a marketing podcast. If I don’t want to obsess over the world, I don’t listen to news. If I am feeling wound up, I put on chill music. If I am beat down, I put on something more inspirational.
Sometimes this step is very difficult and painful for me. Sometimes, I literally say to myself, “It is okay to let that go for now. Let it go. Let it go.”
- I mentally prep to step into the next role. I say to myself, “Katie, here comes Lucy. You are mom now.” That means no work texting or calls. That means my brain needs to stay quiet enough to hear what she is saying to me. I encourage thoughts about what our evening at home will entail and let go of thoughts about work tomorrow. Work stuff pops up and I slip sometimes, but I try to pull myself back.
- I step into the role. The kid shows up, and I am Mom. I think about Momming and I act like the Mom I aspire to be.
- Repeat process.
Okay, so maybe some of you are reading this and saying, “Yeah, Katie, I know I should be present with my kid and not answer work emails. I do that.”
Well, then, fancy pants, how about your role as Self?
How do you step into the role of Self without letting the other roles creep in? If you haven’t read “How to Shower Like a Boss Mom,” do it now. None of this role switching worked for me until I started to get good at the most important and most neglected role of all. The role of me.
Oh, one more thing. The exercise of being conscious of switching gears is difficult. Be easy on yourself. If roles slip into one another, just notice it without judgment and course correct.