Surviving Summer: How Your Tribe Can Help

I think most moms have a love/hate relationship with summer. Sunshine at the pool, vacations, and family time. It’s wonderful when the kids are out of school and the house is full, warm, and loud. But what about our lives? Our work and personal responsibilities have not changed. But instead of having the hours between 8 and 4 to get-stuff-done, we have the added responsibility of the fun, enrichment and entertainment of the growing hearts and minds of our kiddos 24/7. I have far from perfected the summer work/life equation, but in my years of trying and failing, trying and almost succeeding, and trying again (and again), I’ve realized the one thing that makes it all easier is relying on your tribe.

girls playing summer

Asking for help isn’t easy. PMS (perfect mom syndrome) is real (thanks society!), but it isn’t possible. So let’s let that one go, shall we? New society mantra: “We can have it all. Just not all at one time.” Now that we have that covered, we can be open to being honest with ourselves and each other, and comfortable with asking for help.

Lean on your tribe and let your tribe lean on you. I call it “reaching out and reaching back”. You would be there if someone asked, right? You recognize the reach out and you reach back. Your tribe is there to do the same for you. Summer is the perfect time to ask for the help, support, or affirmation when you need it. Here are some “Surviving Summer Tribe Tips” to help you reach out to your tribe:

1. Play-date swaps

Sometimes asking for help is easier when we know we can reciprocate. The “I’ll scratch your back if you busy calendar to do listscratch mine” mind-set is easy to get our heads and hearts around. Have a meeting or desperately need some time to yourself? Make an arrangement with a good friend in the same boat. She takes the kids for a few hours, a few days in a row, or a whole week, and you return the favor. I have a friend who can work from home and so can I. Our projects and “intense times” flex, so we are able to look at our calendars and say, “Hey, I have a busy week in June. Would you be able to take the kids that day (days, week) if I can take them for a day (days, week) in July?” We have dubbed it “Cousin Camp”. The kids love it, and so do we!

2. Work/Play-date together

Go to one another’s house, let the kids play and each of you relax (together or separately), or get some work done. So much of our lives revolves around our kids, so the likelihood that you have found a “kindred spirit mom”, who you like and your kids like to play together, is pretty high. If you’re lucky, they are also a person who doesn’t care if your laundry is done or your floors are vacuumed. The beauty of women together is that we intuit what one another need. There have been times when both my girlfriend and I are heads down at the dining room table and working away when one of the kids comes in. Depending on intensity and deadlines, one of us will get up and take care of things while the other gets-stuff-done. It’s a beautiful thing in every way.

3. Share the struggle

women laughingSummer is hot enough without wearing your stress jacket everywhere you go! You have to learn how to take it off. It’s important to share your frustrations and built up stress with your tribe and not insulate it. That’s why girlfriend dates are so important. Whether it’s for dinner, getting pedicures, grabbing coffee, sitting on the couch with a bottle of wine, or just a phone call (yes, those still exist), find time with your tribe. See each other, hear each other, feel each other. Take solace in your friends with similar struggles and obstacles. Validate each other’s frustrations, and share your own strategies. Take off that damn stress jacket and cool down.

4. Say “yes” to you

I will never stop saying this. Saying “yes” to you is the best gift you can give to others. Schedule time for yourself this summer. relax sleep rejuvenateIt’s rare that you have free time, so when you do have it, use it for rejuvenation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shut the door behind the kids only to turn around to my quiet house to… fold laundry, do dishes, or pay bills. What!? No. Stop it. This will not give you the energy cushion your need to get over the summer hump. When you find free time, use it for you. Get to that yoga class, paint your toenails, go for a run, or (gasp!) take a nap. You heard me ladies: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO NAP. Do whatever is going to refill your cup, not continue to empty it.

Are we perfect mothers? No. Never will be. And that’s okay! “Balance” is a myth if it’s summer or not, and while we do love the family time, vacations, and oddly comforting chaos of summer, it’s okay to admit that it’s hard and we kind of hate it too. Luckily, if we reach out to our tribes, they will be there. And when they reach back we will tribe it right back to them!

Can you relate? Have you figured out some ways to take care of yourself this summer? Comment and share with THE tribe!

Trusting Your Inner Voice – How Do You Find It? Why Should You Use It?

Speaking Up

Flashback to a conference room table. Seven men, two women sitting side-by-side, and a presenter are gathered as a professional peer group. Introductions are being made by the leader of the group. He starts with the man next to him, says his name, his company, and what he does. He then proceeds to the first woman, says her name, that she is the girlfriend and better half of her boyfriend, and moves on to the next woman to introduce her as the better half of her husband. He moves on through the rest of the group, introducing each man and including their company and skill-set.

The second woman is older and more experienced, and the introductions of her colleagues is starting to be drowned out by the blood rushing to her ears and her inner voice is saying, “This is wrong.” while the voice of doubt chimes in, “Maybe I heard that wrong or am overreacting.” supporting the voice of society whispering, “I don’t want to sound bitchy.”

Things come back around to the group leader who is preparing to have the presenter speak. “Excuse me.” says the older woman. “I’d like to take just a moment to make sure our presenter has the same background information about everyone at the table.” The ocean sound in her head has cleared with only one voice remaining. She proceeds to share the professional profile of the young woman next to her as well as her own. When she’s done, she smiles, says thank you, and gestures to proceed. No anger, no fist pounding, no name calling. It just needed to be done.

Afterward, the older woman is talking to a male colleague from the group and asks if he noticed the skewed introductions. Nope. Again, the heat rises in her ears in a combination of disbelief, frustration, and anger. Maybe she should have been more forceful, more obvious, and more blatant so that the oversight and correction would be noticed! But someone did notice.

Giving Back

Flash forward to six months after the meeting, the young woman asks the older woman to coffee. They know one another better now, and consider themselves to be friends. The coffee is casual, but the younger woman seems to have something specific she wants to talk about. “Do you remember that meeting?” she asks, describing the day of the sexist introductions. “I couldn’t believe it was happening. I questioned my own sanity and didn’t know what to say or do.  And then you spoke up for us. It woke me up to what happens to women every day, that what I’m experiencing IS real, as well as what I can do about it. I can speak up for myself, and others. Gracefully. Tactfully. But definitely, and without apology.” So, while the older woman was fuming over the fact that the men in the room had not noticed, the person who mattered – who would go forward, listen to her own inner voice from that point forward, affect change, and do the same for others – did.

Woman thinking about love and standing with blackboard behind herOne of thousands

This is one of thousands of stories women experience every day. Opportunities to support other women. Our colleagues, our friends, our daughters of birth or of our heart. Sometimes they are as unconscious as how you conduct yourself. Other times, they are as intentional as reaching out and lifting up through mentoring, volunteering, advocating, or having a work-place strategy like the women of the White House. They all start with trusting your own inner voice, then navigating the jungle of doubt, judgement, and crazy makers to use that voice in speaking up for ourselves and others.

Let’s Talk!

What have you done or experienced in finding, listening and then acting upon your inner voice? What stories do you have? What wisdom can you share? Speak up! Comment on this post or submit your stories at our website. We’re listening, and we hear you.

TEDx Videos are Up!

While the idea for Tribe of Women had been part of my life, and I had written about it for NPR’s “This I Believe”, the seed truly started growing as I prepared to speak at TEDx Fayetteville in 2014.

After the presentation, there seemed to be a buzz in the air about the importance of having a “tribe”, the pervasive culture of “mean girl”, and the role that society and feminism play in how we feel about ourselves and each other. The tribe that one finds or seeks out for oneself often looks different from person to person, but the message is the same. Non-judgemental acceptance and connection, which blossoms into leadership if you’re led in that direction.

To see how it all began, view the TEDx, “I believe in tribes of women” here. To tell your own story and share your beliefs in tribes of women, click here. To help shift the culture of women in our lives, our companies, and our world, join THE tribe here.

We hope you hear us saying We see you! We hear you! We feel you! and join us to help strengthen the bonds of womanhood in a world that seems to need a little bit more of what we have to offer.