My wife, Michelle, and I moved to our farm a few years ago. Michelle continued her corporate role, mostly working from home, while I took on the Mr Mum role so that I could spend more time with our children.
It didn’t take me long to learn that looking after two small children was a full time job.
At first I had this idea that I would home school as well. Hmmm … that lasted about a week. Thank goodness there was this cute little country school just 10 minutes down the road. Problem solved.
Initially it was a bit overwhelming to be honest. I had come from a pretty full on corporate role managing several companies and 50 plus staff.
You would think that looking after 2 small kids would be a breeze … but oh no! There was the shopping and cleaning and washing and hanging clothes out and bringing clothes in and folding and ironing and packing lunches and getting meals and washing up and school P&C meetings and girl guides and events and swimming lessons and piano and dancing lessons and playing and home work and and and …
I would fall into bed at night exhausted.
Suddenly I had a whole new appreciation for this role (here’s to all the mums … and Mr mums out there). It took me weeks (possibly moths) to find a bit of a routine. It all started to come together. I was able to drop 1 child at music lessons and then race around and do the whole week’s shopping in less than 30 minutes then run back and drop the other one off whilst I did the mail and banking and all those other chores. Efficiency was the name of the game if I wanted any time to myself.
I was loving having time with my children. We got horses and chickens and ducks and cows. We got a dog and built a tree house and went exploring and swimming in the dam and creeks. We went fishing and bike riding and camping. It was wonderful but there was little satisfaction in the Mr mum role and I began to wonder why.
It’s a thankless job. No one really says, “hey thanks dad for doing the shopping this week” or “thanks for washing my clothes for me.”
And what was even more discouraging was the fact that I never actually finished anything. Take the washing for instance. I would gather all the dirty clothes up and take them out to the laundry. Wash them, hang them, bring them in, fold and put them away. Job done. But no. By the time I had done this, the washing basket was already full again. It never ended!!!
There was no sense of completion. No reward at the end of that job. No thanks. Nothing. Just another full basket of dirty washing.
After a while this became a bit depressing. This constant, thankless process that just never seemed to end. It felt like there was no success in what I was doing because it was never done.
At this point I had a chat with my wife who had been there and done that. I said that I felt like I was failing. She asked why and I said “because I never feel like I finish anything. I just get the washing done and there is another load to do.”
That’s when she reminded me that I had set my gauge for success on completion rather than on process. One of those aha moments!
I found the joy that was missing. It was in the doing not in the completing.
I remembered that success was not a destination.
It’s more a way of life, a way of being. It’s how you show up in the world at each moment.
You know the Zen saying, “before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”
After two years, I have shifted gears again.
I’ve established my mentoring and consulting business and I am working with some fantastic corporate clients.
Now I have an entirely new appreciation for the Mr mum role. I love the work that I am doing, I love spending time with my children and I really enjoy the washing and the cooking and the shopping and …
When I look back over the last couple of years, much of the inspiration for my new business actually came as I was hanging the clothes on the line, as I stood under the Hills Hoist with the sun shining on my face and simply disappeared into the moment.
I know how important it is to enjoy the journey, enjoy the moments.
After all, that’s all we really have.
“Try not to become a man of success but a man of value.”