Guest writer: Sian Kilgour, mother of 2 young children, PR consultant and freelance writer (www.siankilgour.com)
I work from home – a set up that works brilliantly around family life – but lately I have started to miss the banter and comradery of being in a bustling, sociable office. There are various support networks such as the Women in Freelance Network, set up to provide a virtual village for work from home women such as myself. I have made fabulous new friends thanks to my NCT group and a brilliant network of local school mums who are all ready to help and support when needed.
Yet, with such busy lives we all lead these days, sometimes I still feel lonely. I find myself trying to kick start conversations at the school gate in the morning, then feeling disappointed when we all trundle our own ways to get on with work, chores or childcare. After opening up about this to some friends, it seems I’m not the only one feeling this way. Thanks to the rise of social media, we can stay in touch with everyone and anyone who ever enters our lives. But in this increasingly connected world, why are so many of us feeling more disconnected than ever?
A lot of it comes down to the time constraints of being a busy parent along with the inability to let go of connections when they have run their course. I believe learning to let go of relationships – personal and professional – is essential in order to maintain quality connections with those who have more of a place in our lives right now.
In a recent newsletter, Harriet Minter, editor of The Guardian’s Women in Leadership section, talked about how off kilter she felt after three of her personal support network – a colleague, work confidante and personal trainer – moved onto pursue new goals in the same week. She spoke of how people come into your life for a reason, and once their purpose is done they move on – perhaps not forever – but we need to accept this in order to let new people into our lives.
I recently experienced this myself. It took me over six months to pluck up the courage to move my youngest son to a new childminder, after the distance and travel logistics become unmanageable once my oldest son started school. Determined to make it work, I clung onto the relationship because I couldn’t bear to let anyone new into his – or my – life.
I asked a dear friend and my own life mentor why I was unable to make the break and she suggested it might be more to do with facing up to my baby growing up – and the emotional association of that with his childminder. She also explained all the positive reasons about moving him to a new set up where he would make friends with children closer to home and his future school. Whilst it was sad to say goodbye to his former carers, it has allowed me to welcome in a new connection who works better for all of us right now. Letting go has enabled me to move forward into a new life chapter.
I think these principles apply to our whole support network – be it work colleagues, business mentors, friends or our home and childcare helpers. It is impossible to stay close to everyone forever and sometimes those people will need to move on for their own reasons. So knowing when to let go – and when to hold on – is the first step in reducing the connection pressure we feel.
So I am going to start focusing on feeling thankful for the people who are no longer a day to day part of my life any more, cherishing those who still are and opening my arms to embrace those entering it for the first time.