I am a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist means not being able to start something unless you think you can do it to the level of perfect. It means that 99 tasks get ignored so that 1 task can be done to an unnecessary level of perfect. It means hoarding rather than decorating your house. It means being a workaholic to the detriment of your family and personal life.
My story is probably similar to that of many "career moms". I spent my late 20s and most of my 30s building my career. 80-hour weeks, on-call 24-7-365, numerous paycuts and lots of study, all with the dogged aim of reaching the top of that ladder. All while making babies, carrying babies, breastfeeding babies, parenting. I popped out 4 kids during that decade. Through 4 maternity leaves, I stayed tapped in to work. I could not switch off. Because I had to hold my place on that ladder.
Finally, as I approached my 39th birthday, I looked around me and realised that I was at the top rung. I had reached my career goal. I was there.
That left me lost. What ladder do I jump onto next? What do I study for? Where do I focus? I was seeking that next high, that next elevation.
My employer very kindly stepped in with the offer of a life coach to help me figure it out. I gratefully accepted and started on the journey with the life coach, determined to figure out my next career move.
What came from it was something quite different. Through the process, I learned that life is not on two axes. There is not just "career" and "family". There is a 3rd axis and that axis is where life gets filled out, that axis is where the real fun happens, that axis is for ME!
Perfectionism stopped me from exploring it, though. I wouldn't try something unless I KNEW I'd be successful at it. It was so frustrating.
'Til my life coach threw me a life-saver - she gave me the task of TRYING ten activities. Just TRY. Do them once. That's all.
And I did. I tried trampolining, writing, yoga, colouring, HIIT training, running, Pilates, running, ice-skating, running. Yes! I hit my target! Running.
Having never run in my whole life, I really surprised myself by LOVING running. Within 10 days of my first jog (which was repeats of 45 seconds jogging followed by 3 minutes walking - that's all I could manage!), I booked flights to Bordeaux and accommodation for the first weekend in September. Yes, I was going straight for the jugular - 10 months to get from Couch to Marathon. I am doing Marathon du Medoc, the most fun marathon there is - not only is it in France and fancy dress but you get handed a glass of wine after every mile!
Here I am, 5 months in, halfway through the challenge I set myself and bang on track.
My working week has reduced to a very manageable 40 hours a week. And my career is fine!
My children get more time with me and, more importantly, more QUALITY time with me. We colour pictures and my whole self is there doing it; I'm not colouring with one hand while typing a work email with the other. We have a bath together and my whole self is doing it; I'm not watching them in the bath while on the phone to a colleague. We go away for the weekend and the laptop does not come with us.
Tackling my perfectionism will be a life-long task. The small part of it that is workaholism has been dealt with, however. I will never again allow work to take over my life. I don't need another ladder. This, where I am now, is just fine.