R is for Resilience. What I’ve learned about resilience and how it can help you as a working parent. This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.
Are you one of life’s copers?
When faced with adversity, how do you react? Do you cope with difficulties and bounce back from loss or failure? Can you adapt to changing circumstances? Do you have that special attribute that allows you to meet with tragedy and then move on?
R is for resilience
We’re talking about resilience of course. Although it is a skill that can be learned as any other, some of us are naturally more resilient than others. Throughout my life I have been blessed with a capacity for resilience that has seen me through some very difficult times. My parents separated (not amicably) when I was very young, and at 6 I had to adapt to a boarding school where I was the only black kid and was called ‘lady of the jungle’ by some of my teachers! My family was evicted from our home when I was doing my A Levels and although I went on to do well and to get a place at Cambridge University, I suffered badly from Imposter syndrome while I was there. (See my blog on this subject here). I then became a lawyer in the City and managed to cope with long hours and high pressure and have since juggled bringing up four kids with starting and running my own business, with all the stresses and setbacks that entails. So, If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I have resilience in spades. Without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.
A valuable life skill
But resilience isn’t just useful for the difficult times, the tragedies and the failures. What I have realised during my time balancing my working life with raising my family is that my resilience is helping me every day as a working parent. And I believe it can do the same for you.
- It helps you bounce back from parenting ‘fails’
We all mess up as parents. There will always be times when we’ve been late to pick up, missed a special event, yelled too much or dropped some other ball. Having resilience helps you to see the experience as a lesson rather than a stick to beat yourself with. It helps you to forgive yourself, seek forgiveness from others, banish the guilt and move on. Resilience is realising that a couple of parenting mistakes here and there do not define you as a bad parent when you are generally doing your best.
- It helps you overcome overwhelm.
When it all gets too much and you feel like you have to much to do, that you are doing everything badly and can’t cope, resilience can prevent you from completely succumbing to overwhelm. It can help you pause, take a breath, reassess your situation, perhaps take out your journal, ask for help, and find a solution. It can help ‘unstick’ you from your mental impasse and find a path forward.
- It gives you courage.
When you’re ambitious for your career you will be required to step out of your comfort zone, try new experiences, seize big opportunities, be assertive and take risks. Resilience gives you the courage to do these things, to keep on trying and to cope with setbacks and failure if necessary.
In all these ways, resilience is what makes my life as working parent possible. In fact, I think it’s so important that I devote a whole lesson to it in my online course. Even if you feel you aren’t naturally resilient and are inherently sensitive when faced with difficulties or failure, remember, resilience is a skill that can be learned and practised and you can definitely improve your resilience over time. It’s time to toughen up!
Here’s what I’ve learned about resilience:
- It’s an emotional muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
- It doesn’t mean you can’t express sadness or frustration. Sometimes being resilient is having a good cry, feeling sorry for yourself, then getting up and getting on with it.
- Sometimes being resilient is telling yourself it’s time to toughen up.
- Resilience is often required because something has happened beyond your control (for example, when my family was evicted from our home). When this happens resilience is finding something (anything, however small) that you can control, (in this case, my A Level studies) and changing your focus to that.
- Sometimes resilience is doing what’s uncomfortable, finding the strength to step out of your comfort zone or take a risk.
- Resilience is linked to expectation. If you go through life expecting everything to be easy (who ever told you that it would be?), it’s that much harder to cope when things don’t go your way.
- More often than not, the event, circumstances or failure that require resilience to cope with, often turn out to be opportunities in disguise because of what you learn as a result. For example, negative feedback can be disheartening, but if you find the strength to bounce back, you can use the experience to improve your performance/idea/product.
- Resilience is easier when you have a network of people who love, support and champion you.
- That as important as resilience is when you’re an adult, it’s at least as important to have when you’re a kid – and it’s our job as parents to help our children develop it – by not sheltering them from failure, leading by example, encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones, and by making sure they learn to forgive themselves.
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at email@example.com