One of my clients who is also a solopreneur and a busy mom was telling me that she struggled with managing work life balance. Like me, she works from home manages a household and has small children and a partner who works out of the home.
She never feels she has enough time for work and tries to frantically finish what she’s doing while her husband is walking in the door. She felt disconnected from her partner and her kids but didn’t know how to manage it all at the same time with so many demands.
I asked her what she does when her partner walks in the door, does she say hi but keep her eyes on her screen or does she close the laptop and engage with him?
I read recently that one of the biggest predictors of longevity in a relationship has nothing to do with compatibility or how much you’ve gone through together, but something so small that you probably have never even thought of it.
It has to do with bids for connection and responding to them.
Bids for connection can be as simple as looking back and smiling when you feel your partner looking at you, kneeling down to your kids eyelevel when they’re telling you a story, or putting your phone down when your partner asks you a question instead of answering while scrolling.
These bids for connection are what bind us to each other, they are small, and often imperceptible. I heard that couples that are really good at giving and receiving bids for connection can do 200 in an hour. Yet they are the glue that keeps us together reminding us that we are seen, heard, and valued, and isn’t that what we all want most?
While I was drinking my Earl Grey tea this morning (no milk, no sugar, like a psycho), I mused about these bids for connection. A lightbulb went off and I realized that this is true for every relationship in our lives. Not just our spouses and children, but also the relationship we have with ourselves.
Early on, I was taught to abandon my own needs to respond to other people’s needs first. I saw it modeled in my mother who was the ultimate martyr who never did anything for herself. I learned it from my culture who told me that “good girls” aren’t selfish and take care of everyone before themselves (because there nothing worse you can say to a woman than call her selfish – multiply this times 10 if she’s also a mom *eyeroll*). And I learned it in every job I had which were predominantly roles filled by women like serving, retail, and reception. We’ve been taught we are an afterthought, like extra guac on your nachos. Who am I kidding, extra guac is never an afterthought!
But I also learned it in smaller ways like “knowing” I was walking into a bad situation but didn’t want to “hurt” anyone’s feelings. Regardless of the hair standing up all over my body like pins and the electric current coursing through my veins. Saving THEIR face was more important than saving myself.
Or saying “yes” to things I didn’t want to do, or have time for, because I didn’t want to set a boundary and potentially upset or disappoint someone else. So, I’d disappoint myself.
Or waiting for someone else to speak up first because I was afraid of looking like a know it all and take the spotlight from someone more “deserving.” So, I’d let someone else get the glory of what was my idea first.
The cost of missing the cues for these bids with our relationships is that it dissolves trust and connection. We essentially deny our loved ones the most important thing that keeps our love nourished and fed.
What happens when we deny these cues to ourselves? When we ignore our gut feelings, don’t eat when we’re hungry, or follow through on promises to ourselves?
We learn that we can’t trust or count on ourselves, it diminishes our self-confidence, and reinforces a story that somehow, we are not good enough. We reinforce a story that we are not even good enough for US to care for ourselves. Fuck. Ouch.
Connection is key to all growth, safety and security. We know this just by watching our kids. When our kids feel connected, they feel safe enough to be courageous and join the other kids, try the new meatballs, and get on the ice with their new skates.
When I feel disconnected in my partnership, the first thing I do is start making bids and make damn sure I’m looking for his and responding to them.
Why aren’t we doing this with ourselves? I believe most of our stress, anxiety, and overwhelm stems from the choices we make BECAUSE of our disconnection to our Selves. If we were truly connected, we wouldn’t say yes to baking cupcakes at midnight for our kid’s kindergarten class, we wouldn’t worry about making someone feel uncomfortable when we felt we were in danger, and we would pee when we had to pee!
The beautiful thing is that just like the bids with our partners are small, so can the bids with ourselves. Like, making small promises to ourselves and keeping them, not putting off our bodily needs (like eating, sleeping, drinking, and peeing) until the relentless To-Do list is checked off, and taking moments out of our day to bring a hand to our hearts, closing our eyes as we connect to our breath, and remember…yes remember the magic of who and what we really are.
If this resonated with you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Also, forward this to the women in your life who need this reminder. There is a whole system that has created this narrative, and we all need reminders of the Truth that is within us.
PS. If you want some easy small ways to give yourself some love, grab my FREE Self-Love Practices For Busy Mom’s guide that is full of my favourite ways to reconnect, renew, and remember who you are. Click here to grab it now!