Recently, I had an interesting experience that made me pause and reflect on something important to me. I was meeting a friend for coffee and we started discussing my book proposal about women, work, and the balance of relationships.
After listening to me describe my book, my friend drew a funny little diagram (hers is the one that is circled). Here’s the actual drawing of the diagram to the right. It’s a little wonky because it was just scribbled on a piece of scratch paper, but the concept is absolutely spot on.
The diagram, she said, shows how we as women structure our subconscious in such a way that we don’t consciously realize we’re putting our partner and children above ourselves, and our work or career becomes a distant third.
It absolutely amazed me that my friend spontaneously came up with this diagram because she herself is divorced and hasn’t had kids, but she saw this pattern as an observer of other friends in relationships.
The Problem & The Solution
We called her diagram “the problem set” and then I drew a “solution set” with the woman in the center of her universe and 3 spokes, each equi-distant from the woman – her kids, her partner, and her career – in a dynamic equilibrium.
Now I myself have a kid and a spouse and work, so when I wrote this, even I felt my subconscious knee-jerk reaction say, “Oh, that’s so controversial.” But think about it… is it really?
Even in an emergency 32,000 feet in the air, the experts tell us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. They understand that we have to care for ourselves before we care for our kids or our partners (or even our pets). So why do we struggle to understand that?
As I sat and looked at our “problem set” and “solution set”, I heard the nagging voice in my head berate the idea… You can’t put yourself first… that’s so selfish… what will people think?!?
I realized at that moment that we hit upon an important issue, one that needs to be addressed in a conscious aware manner.
My friend and I both agreed that the healthiest and happiest women we knew that had partners and children that were healthy and happy as well, had reached some sort of dynamic equilibrium and balance. These women did put themselves first in their own internal universe.
It does sound controversial, but I’d like to hear from you… what do you think about this idea? And if you agree with it, how do you practice it in your own life?