It was a Saturday afternoon as we squelched through the muddy fields surrounding a local National Trust house. Ears muffled, scarves wound round our throats, gloved hands shoved into pockets. Thick grey clouds blanketing the sky; the threat of yet more wintery showers. And yet, despite the inclement conditions, a bizarre sense of freedom pulsating from both of us.
In the four years since we started our business, the only Saturdays we’d had off were the ones where we were physically out of the country, which can be counted on one hand. The very concept of strolling around the local countryside during a peak trading time had, until now, seemed not only untenable but downright foolish.
But between us as we tramped through the woods and past throngs of bewildered sheep, trotted our ridiculous Doberman puppy, absolutely revelling in the chance to adventure with both of her humans. She couldn’t care less that it was freezing, that sleet was imminent or that the hungry and thirsty of Warwickshire were filling our pub waiting to be fed and watered. She’d got the scent of something super exciting in her massive nose and she was off.
It seems silly, really, to think that it had taken the addition of a dog to make us slow down, calm down and step back. We definitely fall into the 38% of people who have missed important life events due to a bad work-life balance. [Source] (I’m that bridesmaid who missed the hen party, he’s that son who had to be recalled to his hospitalised father’s side, we are that couple that systematically forget everyone else’s birthdays…) and it would seem that it hasn’t occurred to us to change this set-up.
We worked so hard to get our business going and we fight to keep it afloat every day. When you are that determined to succeed, the thought of going for a walk to get some fresh air simply doesn’t occur to you.
You hear so much about how freelancers and self-employed dynamos set up on their own to avoid the 9-5 grind, but I wonder how many of these, like us, now work at least twice as many hours a week and have forgotten to weight the life side of the work-life scales.
Is it a fear of failure? An addiction to the hustle? Is it bad management or lack of support? Is it because we care too much to stop? Is it because in 2016 HMRC released statistics showing that self-employed people earn 40% less than an employee, with over half of freelance warriors having less than two-thirds of the median monthly income of a securely employed person? [Source] It doesn’t really sound like living the dream does it?
For me personally, the reason I’d never been to a stately home on a Saturday afternoon was because I simply cannot let go. It’s not that I struggle to delegate (although I probably do), but that I have impostor syndrome I think. I feel massively anxious about not working. I get huge waves of guilt for letting my team do their jobs. I don’t want anyone to ever see me as the boss who doesn’t do anything. The worst view a person could have of me is that I’m lazy or idle. I believe in leading by example, so it goes against the grain for me to let myself have time off, to relax, to do anything that isn’t work.
However, as the rain began to descend diagonally form the heavens, the actual realisation hit me: I’m allowed to stop sometimes. Not only that: we have assembled a really good team who are quite capable of managing without me, so sometimes it’s probably better if I actually let them get on with working rather than trying to do everyone’s job myself.
Instead of working to obsession, I’m now attempting to find little chinks of time and fill them with genuinely pleasurable things. In addition to the need for walkies and the great outdoors, another good thing about the smelly puppy is that I like to have a bath every night so that I don’t stink of slobber and that 20 minutes of soaking is my new favourite way to decompress the day. I evidently suck at the ‘self-care’ concept but am slowly (so slowly) beginning to realise there might just be some currency in investing in yourself.
This was all literally such a revelation to me that I had to practically shout it through the sleet to my husband as we packed the pup back into the car, happily knackered from her adventure. It turned out he had been trying to tell me the same thing for a while now, but it seems the puppy isn’t the only one who needs to be taken out for walkies to get a grip on life.
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Slowly but surely you helped to breathe life back into the place. You filled it up with love and laughter. You have dragged it back from obscurity to place it back into the heart of the community.
Like so many others, we got into this trade because we love sharing these little boltholes with others and watching you enjoy them and make memories to cherish between these walls. We do it because we like a bit of banter whilst pouring a beer. We’ve always believed in doing the best we can with the circumstances we’ve got.
Time to whip up a quick homemade soup with whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge.