You know that nursery rhyme:
“Monday’s child is fair of face…”
Well, I’m a Saturday’s child, and if you can’t remember the rhyme it goes:
“Saturday’s child works hard for a living”.
And boy! have I worked hard in so many ways.
I’ve always had a strong work ethic – before I became a midwife I had lots of different jobs that I sort of ‘fell into’. I always put lots of time and effort into learning the ropes and getting really good at them. I’ve also got an enormous sense of responsibility (and maybe a touch of perfectionism) that’s contributed to me putting more and more hours into many of the jobs I’ve had even when I had children.
Sometimes, in the past, I’ve driven myself so hard, taken my responsibilities so seriously, and been so poor at delegating or asking for help, that I’ve worn myself out and become ill. Sometimes physical illness but also sometimes emotional exhaustion. At those times it was very hard to meet my responsibilities which only made me feel worse.
Do you know the funniest thing?
Getting ill usually happened in my time off! I would drive myself to get the work done and end up poorly just at the start of annual leave. I bet this sounds familiar to many of you.
Alongside that deeply held idea that Saturday’s child works hard for a living was a fear of being lazy. This is probably not something that anybody who knows me would associate with me!
One time, a few years ago I developed a truly horrible chest infection – yes, it started at the beginning of a week off. Of course. It completely knocked me for six. I couldn’t get out of bed. Really. I felt so weak. Afterwards I described it as feeling like a flipsy-flopsy-baby-bunny but at the time I could hardly string a thought together, let alone a sentence.
I didn’t have the energy to sit up but laying in bed made me cough – great hacking coughs that turned to croup. What with the muscle weakness and the coughing I could hardly get to the loo in time so added to everything else was the indignity of wetting myself and having to wear pads!
I certainly was a sorry sight to be sure - as pathetic a thing as you’ve seen for a long time.
But do you know what made me cry more than anything? The one thing I wailed at my poor bemused partner about?
I kept thinking I’d got lazy!
Yes, I thought that being that ill and that weak meant I was lazy and that clashed so very strongly with my internal view of myself.
That still upsets me now in truth – in both my professional and personal lives I deal with people compassionately and without judgement and yet I see now how harshly I was judging myself – I wouldn’t have thought that about anybody else.
The thing is, I didn’t really appreciate just how deeply I’d taken that little rhyme to heart until fairly recently.
I’ve been working on self-development for decades and definitely I'm much better at caring for myself now but it was only during my journey as a women's coach that I realised just how ingrained that belief about working hard was and how it connected to my determination not to be lazy.
Now that I’ve recognised it as an unhelpful idea, much of its power over me has evaporated, it’s not working secretly in the back of my head to undermine how I feel about myself all the time. I now recognise that being gentle with myself and taking time out if needed isn’t lazy.
In fact, making sure I’m well rested and fit helps me serve others more effectively - this is one of the major things I explore with my coaching clients and, believe me, so many of us resist this at first!
The thing is there’s nothing wrong with working hard – we definitely need to take action to get anything done – but we don’t need to make living feel like hard work, like an endurance test.
We all deserve loving care and compassion – especially from ourselves – and yet so many of us who are hard-working and feel a huge sense of responsibility don’t treat ourselves as well as we treat others, we're somehow at the bottom of the list.
This is one reason why I work with women who have a tendency to drive themselves too hard – I understand where they are coming from and can help them identify what unhelpful ideas they may be harbouring from childhood then let them go so that life becomes more than just hard work.
Living doesn’t have to be hard work - let me know if you'd like to explore making it less so.