We all know the saying, "Never grudge a man (in this case a woman) for his experiences or journey," but let’s be real, have you ever scrolled through someone’s timeline and just wonder to yourself, damn what am I doing with my life?
Well, every time I
stalk scroll through Paula-Anne’s Facebook page, I feel like she has somehow figured out a way to pack more than 24 hours in a day and has neglected to share this with the rest of the world.
I mean, here am I struggling to be a wife, keep a job and occasionally make it to the gym; meanwhile, there is Paula-Anne. How does a wife and mother of 4 find time to be a producer, broadcaster, public speaker, television presenter, lecturer, teacher, master of ceremonies for a cadre of events, voice talent for, oh I don’t know, hundreds of commercials, activist, mentor, volunteer for various projects, professional volley ball player and still find time to pick-up hobbies such as biking, diving, bird watching, netball and the list goes on? (Whew. Deep breath.)
Is this woman for real? What is she on?
So, after a while I figured I had two choices: I could continue to seethe and scowl at Paula-Anne (well at my computer screen, really) who seemed to have it all figured out, or I could ask her to share the secret. How does she do it?
Thankfully, Paula-Anne was more than happy to share with me and so read on and be inspired as she shares about juggling marriage, children, career and life.
On creating balance
Lecia: I’m just going to go ahead and say that I think that what you do is impossible, but I’m going to assume for a minute that you are in fact human, and ask, how do you manage to balance it all?’
Paula-Anne: Lol – easy answer, I don’t. I went to a workshop once ‘Emotional Wellness for Busy Moms’ by Akilah Richards and it was an eye opener for me. I loved her view that balance is an elusive and stressful concept. A more realistic way of viewing life and its requirements and constituent elements is to see it as a pie chart. Different amounts of time and attention are allocated to different things.
We will not achieve everything, and that’s okay. We will not be perfect mothers and that’s okay. We will not be perfect wives and that’s okay. What is important is that while we do our best, we remember that as women, as humans, we too have limits and needs and must therefore also take care of ourselves.
Lecia: Wow. I admire you a great deal because I think women rarely get an opportunity to truly live their own lives. You become a wife and the needs of your husband become a priority. You have children and you lose yourself as the children become your world. But, you have managed to show that you can take on the roles of wife and mother and still pursue and excel at your own interests. (Yes, I know this is a whole paragraph.) My question is, how do you manage not to lose you?
Paula-Anne: About five years ago I met a woman who took a day off every week to go to the beach. Every week. No work no worries on that day, she gave herself that time. That gave me pause. I realized that in scheduling all those things that I HAD to do, I wasn’t making time for those that I WANTED to do for me. Well I couldn’t very well get up and go off to the beach one day each week – I had kids and a husband – she didn’t.
What I did do, was to move up in priority the things that I wanted to do for me. Granted since I work for myself in large part, I was able to be flexible in that way. I have not regretted that move in the least. Now on my schedule, along with other client engagements, are appointments with MYSELF.
Lecia: Okay, So I did a bit of research and I discovered that you were always hyperactive! (Lol) Well, I mean you were always this active, managing multiple projects even back in high school. Do you think it’s a natural part of your personality to take on so many activities and where does it come from?
Paula-Anne: I have to admit you are right – I have (perhaps unfortunately), always been the type of person to take on many different things at once. Even when I try to simplify my life at times and to clear space for doing just nothing… something always comes up that I want to try or to do, or to be a part of. I now see it in my children so maybe it’s genetic— I’m not sure.
Lecia: In order to manage this hectic, crazy schedule, I imagine you must have a way of rejuvenating yourself and replenishing your energy, so how do you feed your soul?
Paula-Anne: I think I fill up on the go. I am happiest when doing something. I have tried to find that ‘quiet space’ that I hear about but yoga doesn’t work because my head is always full of thoughts and ideas. Massages are for muscular relief and need to be deep and strong – those soft ones with ethereal music annoy the hell out of me. When I go to parties – I go to dance and at the end I’m sweaty, tired and happy.
I do love to read, but haven’t made much time for that lately and have been working with audio books while driving. I think the joy I get from my activities scuba diving, riding my motorcycle, playing volleyball, and lately netball, fills me up on the go. Oh wait – birdwatching. I enjoy birdwatching especially with the kids – that can be relatively quiet, right? I make sure to make time for the things I like to do, even more so in the past four or five years. I guess I have learned to stop waiting for that vacation that never comes.
Lecia: What advice do you have for women, like me, who are struggling to keep it all together?
Paula-Anne: I think we need to be honest with ourselves about what is achievable and what is not, and about what is fair and what is not.
High standards are good, but if you are constantly unhappy and feeling inadequate, then they are not worth it. Sometimes we are not the best at whatever role we are undertaking and that’s okay, because we are human. Some battles will be lost. Being able to identify the important battles and to focus our efforts and energies on those, – THAT will help us to keep our sanity and our souls.
On being a wife
Lecia: You are a very public person (not just because of the nature of your job but you do actively engage with us on social media), but your marriage is very private. Is this a deliberate decision and why?
Paula-Anne: It is a very deliberate decision. Marriages while beautiful and wonderful have enough challenges without constant public scrutiny and criticism. The statistics for marriages in the limelight are not good. My job and persona are public. My marriage is not.
On being a mother
Lecia: Most of my friends who now have children always knew they wanted to be a mother and have always expressed that desire. While I am not violently opposed to the idea, I still have no particular desire to have a child. Do you think that the maternal feeling/desire is an instinct, a learned skill or a combination of both?
Paula-Anne: This nature or nurture question is one where I believe both apply. While I think all women potentially have the ‘maternal instinct’ by nature, the triggers differ. Some women never encounter that experience that triggers their instinct. Personality types differ and will dictate what someone wants out of life and when they want to achieve that thing – for example whether a woman wants a child or not. Once that feeling is triggered, depending on the personality, some will naturally fall into the role, and others will need some coaching. All women will be better mothers for seeking information however, whether through reading or advice.
Generally however, I think that we pressure women too much, telling them what they should be wanting or how they should be feeling about issues, including having children. We need to just live our own lives and allow them to do the same.
Lecia: Growing up in the 90s, we had house phones (cell phones were a novelty), computers were scarce (you had to go to the library to use it) and the closest thing to Facebook was the PenPal programme (yes, we wrote physical letters). Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and SnapChat were non-existent and so our parents (certainly, mine) had a great deal of control over our activities. How challenging is it to parent in this technology-driven age?
Paula-Anne: It is extremely challenging. The hardest part is accepting that this is actually a different age, the same rules cannot apply in the same way. Recalibrating my concept of focusing and multitasking has been hard especially the whole TV and homework mix. Also hard is accepting that unless we lock the kids away and only hustle them in secret to school and back, then there is no way to absolutely control all the ways in which they access information.
Our approach is to make sure that we add to the information available and establish ourselves as more credible and reliable sources than the others that exist, in the hope that the children will come to us to check anything that goes counter to the morals and principles that we hold as key. Or just to come to us with anything that they are curious about. I remember some really tough questions at different times about condoms and orgasm and lesbians, but with a little time and several deep breaths, I was able to give age appropriate and truthful answers. Of course kids will be kids – as we were, (never saints), but we think that if we raise them right then they will use what we have tried to teach as the benchmark.
Lecia: Recently, I was part of debate on whether you can both be a friend and a parent to your child(ren). Some seem to think that these are mutually exclusive roles. I think it’s important to be both. What are your thoughts?
Paula-Anne: I think you can be both but not both at the same time all the time. That is what I try to be with my children. As hard as it is, when appropriate, I try to be honest about thoughts, fears, feelings, reasons for actions, in the hope that they will understand my logic and even if we disagree, see that my decisions and actions always come from a place of love. A friend once reminded me that trying to come across as the perfect parent with all the answers can do more harm than good to both the parent and the child.
Lecia: What’s the best advice you’ve received as a mother?
Paula-Anne: That it is okay to not be the perfect mother.
Lecia: What the most important advice you’d give to a new mother?
Paula-Anne: To not be afraid to ask for help.
Lecia: I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t ask this question: how do you manage to maintain your banging body after four children?
Paula-Anne: Hahahahaha. I love sports. I am competitive and aggressive so once I get into playing mode, my metabolism kicks in. When not competing or training however I have been quite perturbed at those comfortably cushiony places that pop up. I will adjust my eating – smaller meals more often with less carbs and less sugar, and I will go to the Spartan Health Club – my gym ever since I knew what a gym could do for me. I prefer working with a personal trainer and weights and I can usually get back to a space that I am comfortable again. My slave driver at Spartan is Meloney – she is excellent.
What makes you happy?
My family, diving, riding my bike, dancing, getting sweaty.
What are you most grateful for?
Finish this sentence. The perfect life partner is… patient, expressive, caring.
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