Living with Integrity

Integrity.

/ɪnˈtɛɡrɪti/
noun
  1. 1.
    the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Some people have it. Some people don’t. Some people yo-yo up and down, up and down. Every day I wake up, I wake up with the conscious focus of living with integrity each day. In every decision I make, in every interaction with another. I promise to always stay true to myself, to do what I believe is right. I made the decision to live this way when I decided to become a mum. I’m not just living this way for me, but also for my daughter. A girls’ first role model, her moral compass, who she looks to for strength, safety and “how to”, is her mother.

The funny thing is, I’m now more aware of my friends who live the same way, by the same principles and with the same integrity. I’m gravitating towards people who hold these values highly. It’s attractive.

It’s the kind of world and they are the kind of people I want my daughter to grow up around. To learn from. To listen to. To trust. To love. These are the people constantly learning about themselves. The people with humility, grace and a really nice comfortableness in their own skin. These people aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They don’t need to know all the answers. They take risks. They explore their thoughts and feelings. They push their bodies. Instead of judging others, they encourage and support. They’re communicators.  They’re lifetime friends.

11951023_10153622872541474_409704238_n

One thing I’ve learnt though my journey of pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, is the importance of having the right tribe. Being a first time mum and a solo parent can be one of the most isolating experiences if I choose to let it be. Instead, I’ve attracted some of the most wonderful people to my tribe, my little family of love. Some of these people are old friends or family. Some are new acquaintances that I’ve instantly felt a connection with. And through this process of tribe-building, I’ve also cleansed. To say that I’ve lost friendships wouldn’t be true; to use “lost” implies a negative, something missed or something gone wrong along the way. Instead, space has been created. Space for more love, more laughter and more hugs. More support, more encouragement, more integrity. The people who have left my life have created space for more love. Love they either couldn’t or wouldn’t give. And that’s ok. Because more love is in this space. And it feels great. And my daughter feels the love too.

Whether your a single parent, a parent, a student, in a relationship – whatever your life looks like right now – take a good look at your tribe. You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. The people in your life that you put energy into – do they give you energy, positivity and love back? Do they feed your soul or leave you hungry? Anyone who doesn’t, who wouldn’t – they’re taking from you. And nobody has time for takers. So get cleansing. It’s a bristly old brush and you’ll cry, but what you’re left with when you’re done is so worth it.

People who love you.

Advertisements

The secret to true productivity

It’s been a crazy week in my household. With a team member resigning earlier this week, my workload has doubled – combining that with raising a toddler on my own comes with its challenges! Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I coped. Today, I cracked.

I took Emily out for breakfast at our favourite cafe. She’s walking now and this cafe was nearly empty with beautiful gardens for her to walk through, and rather than stop and enjoy watching her celebrate her newfound mobility, the voice in my head thought, “this is great, she’s going to tire herself out and sleep this morning for hours and I’ll be able to get heaps of work done”.

Emily, the greenthumb, running amok in the herbs.

Emily, the greenthumb, running amok in the herbs.

And of course, she only slept for 45 minutes. Less than half I’d hoped for. And instead of ploughing through my to-do list while I could, I found myself staring at my screen like a zombie.

I made it through to lunch time and that’s when I cracked. I realised that I wasn’t focussing on what’s most important to me. Instead of focussing on my why (my passion, my love, my drive), I’d been too busy thinking about work, my to-do list and all the things I’d do when Emily slept. And this realisation made me feel like the worst person in the world. My focus and my life perspective was completely off-kilter.

I cried. I cleaned my kitchen. I felt a bit better. I had a cup of tea and a vent with a close friend (PS LOVED my crazy tea!). I felt much better.

Some truths I learned today:

  1. The secret to true productivity is to focus on your why.
  2. It doesn’t matter how productive you are if you aren’t working with purpose, passion or direction.
  3. If you feel unproductive, stop. re-centre your self. What are you doing this for? Why?

 

There’s nothing wrong with saying life is hard sometimes.

For the last few week’s I’ve really been feeling the challenge of what it means to be a single parent and a small business owner. The intensity has been building and building over the past few months, as Emily not only becomes more mobile, but also more emotionally demanding of me.

I’ve been catching myself in the act of comparing myself against others – against business owners without kids, business owners with partners to help with the kids, people five or 10 years ahead of me in their business journey. And it’s been overwhelming – that kind of self-induced pressure. Why don’t I have that success yet? How much harder can I possibly work to achieve my goals sooner without negatively impacting my family and burning myself out? When Emily has seen me in moments of overwhelm, I have coached myself through that moment to explain to her that sometimes, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not a sign of failure – rather – an acknowledgement of a roadblock or something so important to you that you care so much, your emotions show.

I’ve seen and know parents who only ever show their kids happiness, calm and “togetherness”. And then when the kids are in bed, they fall apart. What lesson would this teach their kids? That showing emotion or being emotional is a weakness or socially unacceptable? I’m not sure.. but I’m teaching Emily something different. And it does go against the grain sometimes. I do have to fight that voice in my head, saying, “look away so she doesn’t see you upset, wipe your tears, get yourself together, woman!”

I want to teach my little lady that being strong means owning your emotions. That when the intensity builds in your life, you don’t have to hide it. And you don’t have to take the easy road to ease your pain – because how can you grow if you take your pain away and stay in your comfort zone?

There’s so much Emily is teaching me. When she’s upset, she shows it. Angry, she tells me. Scared, hurt, in need of help – she doesn’t hide it. Why should she? What would she gain from hiding her feelings?

Just like my little girl, who keeps falling over and over and over again… sometimes faceplanting into walls and toys – but she will never stop trying to walk (even though she must know she will fall again at some stage and that some of her friends are weeks ahead of her). And this week, despite the frequent falls and trips and boo-boos, she’s doing the incredible. I will show her how to apply this mindset to every aspect of her life. And she will continue to remind me and show me how.

And we're walking!

And we’re walking!

End of an era.

Wow. I’m feeling a little emotional today. I’ve officially finished breastfeeding Emily. Which means my baby isn’t a baby any more. She’s a toddler. She’s independent. She doesn’t survive on me for food (well, she kind of still does, but you get what I mean). I will never breastfeed her again. It’s actually really, really sad. I wish I could rewind time and be more grateful for the ability I had.

I remember getting home from the hospital, and I was all alone. I had this tiny newborn in my arms. I’d never changed a nappy before her. I didn’t want to change her clothes because it meant I’d have to lift her head. I remember looking down at her and crying because I felt so scared I would break this tiny, perfect person I’d just met. I didn’t want to bath her because I was afraid she’d slip in my arms. I remember walking around my tiny living room in circles at 3am, singing “You Are My Sunshine”, over and over and over again. I remember sleeping sitting up with her in my arms, back when she had reflux and wouldn’t sleep any other way. I remember wanting someone to come and help me so badly, but she’d just been born. How would it look if I needed help straight away. I can’t even last a week? Come on. Harden up. I can do this on my own. (Or at least, I kept telling myself). It was very, very lonely. And so much responsibility. Almost too much to handle.

But the one thing I was nailing, was breastfeeding. It was as if this was the one thing I could get right, I could do with comfort, I knew she was eating, and if she’s eating, she’s happy. If she’s eating, she’s growing. I’m doing something right. As long as she is with me, she will never be hungry. She will never be distressed. I am here.

I am so grateful and appreciative that I did have the ability to breastfeed, when so many women cannot. From her first feed onwards, she was amazing. I managed to breastfeed all the way until last week. There were teeth. I still kept at it. I set myself the goal of making it to 12 months, and I got there.

I feel like this is a milestone, not just for Emily and her development, but for me as a person as well. I acknowledge that I not only decided to have a baby as a single parent and all the challenges that come with that; I not only kept her alive for 12 months, but she is extremely happy, chilled out, adventurous, brave, cheeky and loving little girl. And I know that her temperament is a direct result of my parenting and how I have mothered her. And I am so proud of her. And of me. We’re a good team. And even though boobs are no longer involved, I’m looking forward to the next crazy 12 months of our lives together: toddlerdom.

 

My monkey today.

My monkey today.

Sometimes, being a business owner sucks.

I’m going to be honest and say that on average, probably one day out of every 30, I wonder what the hell am I doing running my own business and being a single mum. This gig is crazy. I have people asking me how I do it, and today, I honestly have no idea.

Sometimes I wish I had somebody else telling me what to do. Sometimes being held accountable is nice. It means your brain doesn’t have to work as hard. And it means a guaranteed paycheck. The stress of being the sole-income earner in my home is HUUUUUGGE. And I’m feeling it this week, as I look at my books and my bank accounts coming up to the end of the financial year. Other single mums/business owners everywhere completely get this feeling. It’s not nice.

So I daydream about what it would be like to work for someone else. I’d only have to work 9-5 which would be nice. I’d get paid the same amount every week. I’d get paid every week. I’d be responsible for a set list of things. I’d have weekends and holiday pay. And sick pay. And maternity leave. And boozy work lunches. Wow, these perks keep adding up hey.

But my 1 year old would be in day care for 5 days a week. I’d miss her standing up for the first time. I’d miss her first steps. These moments would be witnessed by an enthusiastic carer… but not me. We wouldn’t have the closeness and the bond we have now. Sure, we’d have more money, and less work-related stress. But she’d spend more of her waking hours at day care than with me. And then all of a sudden, I realise I have just reminded myself why I am in business for myself. She’s 1. She doesn’t know what money is. She doesn’t care what she wears, or how many new toys she has. She loves waking up to see me. And to be with me. And that’s what she will remember later on in life about her first years.

If you’re going through something similar, maybe thinking about what your little ones notice and care about will help you with perspective too. Don’t lose heart because today is hard. You still deserve what you want tomorrow to look and feel like. Keep going.

Friends, battles and comfort zones

It’s Monday night, and I’m lying on my couch with a glass of wine, thinking about the week past and planning for the week to come. It’s hard to believe that Emily turns one next Monday, and we’re celebrating this weekend – where did that year go? I can definitely tell you, hand on my heart, that even twelve months ago, I never expected my life would look like this right now.

My last blog post was over two weeks ago and I wrote about shit storms and how everything seems to happen at once. I’ve spent the past fortnight just taking things in my stride, digesting what the universe is throwing at me and knowing that I am becoming stronger and stronger, day by day.

One thought I keep coming back to is the power of true friendships. Since Emily’s birth, some of the most amazing, deep and even surprising friendships have sprung out of nowhere. Some friendships have strengthened beyond my imagination. And other friendships have waned. I’ve even had people stop talking to me full stop. And that’s ok – they must have their own reasons. And I get to fill that empty space with more, even greater and fulfilling friendships.

Another thought that pops into my mind is that little quote that we all see on Facebook now and then, about people’s silent struggles. This one:

When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.

When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.

Everyone has private battles going on. I sure do. Personally, right now where i’m at with my life, the universe is really stretching me right now. And boy, it hurts. The upside is, my comfort zone is expanding WAAAAYYYY outwards, and I love that about myself and take pride in my growth. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt any less.

To the friends and family who are here, active and playing a huge support role for me – I see you. I acknowledge you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And I can’t wait to celebrate my little girl’s birthday with you this Saturday. Being a single parent to a 12 month old is tough. And running a growing business at the same time adds more hurdles. But not only am I doing it, I am mastering it. Beautifully. And that reflects in the happy and bubbly girl in my life.

To the amazing women I have met through writing this blog and sharing my journey as a solo parent – I acknowledge you. I have made some life-long friendships with women who have read my blog and reached out to me via Instagram or Facebook. This fills me with so much joy, just to know that by sharing my story I am helping someone else feel less alone and more confident in themselves. WE CAN DO THIS! We can do whatever we set our minds to.

To the people who have left. Without so much as a “goodbye” or to check in to see how I’m doing. I also acknowledge you. I see you. That’s your decision. I will always offer and give friendship wheverever I go, and if you choose to embrace me once again, I will call you friend. But if you don’t, that’s ok. That means more space for stronger friendships and a stronger support network – exactly what I will be teaching my little girl to build for herself. Some great life lessons I am already passing down to her. And this makes me smile with gratitude – so I thank you also, for this opportunity and for being you.

I am powerful

Tonight, something incredible happened to me. I cried on stage during a presentation. That’s the first time in my life that I’ve cried on stage. And the emotions I was feeling didn’t include embarrassment. I felt relief, I felt pride and I felt incredible comfort. Tonight, instead of talking about social media or business, I shared my story.

I was lucky enough to be a guest speaker at the Young Women’s Forum, organised by the National Council for Women of Queensland and the Brisbane Girls Grammar School Old Girls’ Association. I was asked to share my experiences in serving others and giving back. I started off talking about the launch of my social media agency 3 years ago with $1000 in my pocket and growing it to where it is now. I spoke about working with Cherish Women’s Cancer Foundation and the amazing opportunity I have to assist them to raise awareness for their foundation, a cause very close to my heart. And I spoke about my own personal experience with gynaecological cancer, and how it played a role in my decision to proceed with my surprise pregnancy, and to be a self-employed single parent.

It was the first time that I’ve ever spoken about myself. About my personal story. And I loved it. I love that what I share has such an impact on people, women in particular.

A wonderful thing happened afterwards. A women came up to me and said how refreshing it was to hear a woman talk about choice. Too often we don’t talk about choice, and the importance of making ballsy decisions when a challenge presents itself. How choosing to make that crazy, harebrained road shapes your character and how you will navigate your way throughout the rest of your life. Something I truly believe, is that it is not the choice you make, but how you make a choice that counts. That is power.

Tonight, as I cried, I didn’t feel embarrassed. I didn’t feel vulnerable. I felt powerful.

Milestones

Emily and I have now been in our new home for 2 weeks and are well and truly settled here. It’s almost as if this is where we are truly meant to be – all our neighbours are so friendly and welcoming, friends and family close by and a real “homey” feel! This new home is full of positive energy, optimism and certainty. It’s a safe place. A sanctuary. And the first time I’ve ever had a home with this feeling.

It’s been a fortnight of milestones for Emily, too. She had her first day at daycare, and while she was fine without me for the day, the days that followed she was not herself. That was a very challenging week for me as a mum, to have her so emotional, clingy and clearly afraid I would leave her again. I’m taking this in my stride and reminding myself that I can master this challenge – the universe has sent it to me for that reason. I’ve been lucky enough to have a daughter who sleeps through the night (7pm-6am, consistently), but the last week she has been waking 2-3 times a night, sometimes not settling even in my bed. So I’m a tired mummy too. But I know I’ve got the strength, love and fortitude to power through this new experience.

Our happy place

Our happy place

It’s been very interesting watching her grow and develop – even with this separation anxiety it’s so fascinating! Her communication is advancing by leaps and bounds and she’s becoming more skilled at telling me what she’s thinking, wanting or what’s on her mind. Just now she climbed into my lap and put her arms around my neck to tell me she was ready for bed! READY FOR BED! 9 MONTHS OLD! What a clever cookie.

I’ve reached a few milestones too. I’m learning to let go. To stop trying to be something – an idea, a person or a concept, and to just be. I used to feel the need to be a certain person – as a control mechanism, as a way to control my life and to please other people. Now I am learning to just be me. Nothing or nobody else. And to feel comfortable in that. In my self. And with that comes the new feeling of knowing that it’s ok for other people to be uncomfortable with that. That’s their choice. All I can do is be.

And so I am.

New Beginnings

So I’m sitting on my couch, in the dark and with a glass of wine as I write this. And I feel like a kid at Christmas. Tomorrow I am going to pick up the keys for our new townhouse!

My 9 month-old daughter has more crap than I do. As you walk through our front door, your eyes are literally BOMBARDED by the obscene number of plush toys, Duplo, teething rings, plastic toys and rattles. Our book shelf looks like it vomited books overnight. My child has marked her territory well. I’ve had enough. So tomorrow, we are moving house!

In the past, moving house has been a stressful event (the last move occurred when I was 30 weeks pregnant!) but this time round I am full of excitement. Our new home ticks all the boxes for me and my little lady. And it has the right energy… it’s a place where I can feel creative and really get stuck back into working on growing the business.

My little helper

My little helper

We’re not just moving for the space. We’re also moving for the support. In a previous blog, I wrote about how I felt unsupported in many ways, and my realisation that I was looking for support in the wrong places. I’ve opened my eyes and found where the support is coming from the most…. and funnily enough, the majority of those incredible people all live really close to each other! It sounds really simple, but basically we’re moving to be physically closer to those supportive people – even if we still don’t see them as often, simply knowing they are close by will make a huge difference to my belief and reassurance that there are people who love us unconditionally and will always be there to lend a helping hand or a hug. I think this feeling is also building the amazing powerful energy of our new home… we don’t even have the keys yet and it already feels more like home than where we are now!

I’ve chosen to make decisions that I believe will result in a happier Emily and a happier me. Moving from one side of town to the other for happiness is a big deal! But if it makes me happier, makes me feel more supported and less alone, then it can only have the most positive of impacts on my little girl. And I know no matter where I live, the people who love us will always be there. It’s like that saying, “Happy mum, Happy bub” 😉

To those who love us, support us and are always there – THANK YOU. You know who you are. Words cannot express how much it means to me.

Are You On The Bus?

I love taking action. As a sole business owner, one of the perks is being able to make a decision at the click of my fingers. I love the freedom that comes with that, and the weight of the risk that is on my shoulders alone (I feel powerful!). On the flip side, making decisions to do with the business, household decisions and relationship decisions no longer impact me alone. There is a certain amount of risk I can still take, but now I need to be more cautious – I have a little one who is impacted by my every choice.

This year I’ve been going through an internal transformation. 2015 was always meant to be a year of change. January and February I have spent planning, manifesting, dreaming, conjuring and verbalising what I want. I could also honestly say that those two months were also me procrastinating a little bit – not out of laziness, but out of fear. Fear of making a mistake that I can’t get myself and my daughter out of.

I was asking myself, how do I want to live, as Rachel McLean, every day? What do I say to myself when I wake up? What attitude do I carry around throughout the day, how do I respond to challenges and how do I respond to challenging people? Where and to whom do I look for support? How can I make support more accessible? These were all the questions floating in my head that needed answers.

March is ACTION MONTH. I am no longer on maternity leave. I’m working 20-25 hours a week, from home, with an 8 month old bub hanging off me (she’s teething at the moment and learning to stand up). So I would equate that to working a 24-7 job AND working part time in another business. Yes, I’m insane. But I know I can totally KICK ASS at this and everything else i set my mind to.

So how am I taking action this month? Well, for starters, I’m moving house. Emily and I are moving into the perfect home for us that ticks every box and more! McLean Social Media has recommended Social Media Bootcamps for business owners – last Friday’s bootcamp was a raving success! We’re about to launch a new company website, I’m learning some new recipes and I’m achieving some INCREDIBLE things with my fitness. I’m no longer accepting other people’s bullshit stories. I’m calling them on it and giving them an opportunity to see things differently. I am teaching the people in my life how to love me, respect me and support me. If you’re on the bus, you’re on the bus. If you’re off the bus, see you later.

My number one tip as a single mum but also as a business owner is: Go where the people are. The supportive people. And stop trying to change the people who aren’t. Accept them for who they are and move on. And MOVE ON. Literally and figuratively. Haul Ass, because you’re going places.