I recently began a Downton marathon. Like others before me, I got caught up rather quickly. (Not a crazy two day thing. It took several weeks.)
Suddenly I was struck with something both simple and profound.
Not all women have the challenge I'm going to describe. And I admire those women immensely. But many of us are afflicted with something that goes deep into our core.
We women with this problem are so busy that we rarely notice that our male counterparts have a different set of values that gives them an advantage.
Is Nurturing the Issue?
I thought for a long time that it was my nurturing side, the part of me that has played the support role for my children, my husband, my bosses.
This is the part that always puts the other's needs first. And I thought that's what made being an entrepreneur more difficult.
Many expectations come with being this person — some unreasonable, some reasonable. And these expectations come from both an internal place and some from others outside of ourselves.
Then the time we have left over is… well, it's non-existent. So we work instead of sleeping.
And we listen to the deep breathing of our spouses, who know THEY must sleep to function well. And it just never occurs to us for a long time.
We end up with less than perfect health. Unless we stay up late to complete projects, we will never achieve what we set out to. (And honestly that's okay at the beginning of any business enterprise. But it needs to be temporary!)
The gurus don't understand this about us. They think we're just making excuses.
And when we listen and obey the gurus, we are conflicted!
Putting it in Perspective With the Help of a Few Downton Characters
But Downton will put it all into perspective for us so that we can follow the instructions of our favorite guru without being conflicted — at least after a while — because after a while it will pay off and our families will begin to fully support us.
So, when I looked caferully at the roles of some of the characters on Downton, I could see clearly that I wear too many hats. So who am I, looking at my life through the lense of the Downton crew?
- I am Cora, Countess of Grantham. I rule a household and coordinate visits to my adult children. I play with my grandchildren and buy them gifts. I adopted a child. I am involved in my community and church. And I worry about my adult children. I visit people with and without my minister husband. I can be deceived by people like Thomas, but they don't always get the best of me.
- I am Lord Grantham. I buy houses, fix and sell them. I own property and have tenants and consult with lawyers and other business persons. I worry about money and its right use.
- I am Lady Edith. I have made life mistakes that haunt me. I hire writers and editors and website managers and run a writing business and publish an online magazine.
- I am Mrs. Patmore. I am the main cook for my household, and I teach my youngest (who I adopted as a teen) to cook and bake — as I taught each of the four who came before her, plus a few others.
- I am a combination of Mr. Carson and the men who serve the food. I answer the door and get things ready for every trip we take. I serve the food.
- I am Downton's invisible gardener. (I've never seen him. Have you?)
- I am Mrs. Hughes. I coordinate the functions of the home. I worry about everyone's feelings, and give to the poor and help those who are less fortunate in other ways and advocate for them. I consult with Mr. Carson (since of course I am also him).
- I am Violet Crawley (aka Cousin Violet, The Dowager Countess). I help people connect, and try to solve interpersonal conflicts. I'm always striving to find a solution. I sit in a chair and entertain/inform/consult with people via iphone.
- I am Isobel Crawley. I have opinions that sometimes make me stand out like a sore thumb. I don't always fit in and often pave a new way forward.
- I am the nanny.
- I'm my own lady's maid. Well, I do my own hair most days, except once a month. I dress myself and take care of my own clothing. For that matter, I guess I'm a valet too. I don't dress my husband, but I take care of his clothing.
- And of course, I'm the maid. I clean and do laundry and make the bed.
- I am Tom Branson. I drive everywhere. Everything seems to be far from our rural home.
- And, I am me. I have separate conversations with three people at once using iphone and messenger. I have ideas constantly and my brain will not calm down. I write. I create. I administrate. I attend meetings. I initiate projects. And I don't have breakfast in bed (except once in a while when my husband indulges me)
I guess you might say I'm a modern, many-headed American monster.
The typical male businessman? He's simply either Lord Grantham or he's Lord Grantham's lawyer, publicist or accountant. And that's it. His wife of course is the many-headed American monster.
A Note To Gurus:
And that, my friendly gurus, is the challenge many women face.
Back to Regular Programming:
We limp along thinking we must be all of those people and we don't realize it's impossible until it is too late!
Until one day we finally get to — "Oops! I'm 80 now and still running, uh walking, in circles…with my walker."
Thank you Downton!
Thanks to Downton Abbey, we can put it all into perspective and avoid that moment of realization at 80 when it's too late to change.
Remember that episode where Lord Grantham thought he was losing the estate and no one knew why he wasn't hiring any new servants? What were they short of — two people and they were all flustered? And some had to take on other duties during the crisis, or work longer hours.
So lady business woman — and I speak to myself here too! Do you want to be successful? You must choose one main role, let the housework crumble until you are able to hire someone to do it, along with all of the other tasks.
You are wearing too many hats!
There will be protests.
There will be pain.
Some of that pain will be yours as you struggle with the guilt (the unreasonable guilt) during the crisis. Believe me, the guilt sometimes manifests itself externally — for example, as a flying insect. After my children had all left the nest, I tried taking a daily nap. After getting woken up by a flying insect each time, I gave up.
But it will end well. You have a project inside of you that will solve this problem.
In the "old days" when everyone's role was clear, when the woman had to go to work, something interesting happened. I saw it when I was almost out of my parents' nest. My father was the entrepreneur and my mother was a stay at home mom. When she had to go to work, my parents talked about the things that wouldn't be the same. My father took on some of the chores my mother had always done. It seemed so automatic and seamless as I look back.
In Downton Abbey, we see clearly the luxury of having one focus in life.
In today's world, we don't have that luxury. We're all confused. But we need to talk to each other about it. We need to brainstorm this issue in our families the same way we would in the office or construction site.
Talk about it! Take away the power of the internal struggle!
I would love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. I realize that it may seem strange that I had time for Downton Abbey with all of these hats I wear. Well, I have no excuses. It's just that sometimes we need to have some Downtime. 😉