Ok, I am the first to admit that I pride myself on being pretty independent, I can handle a drill well enough to put up a shelf, change a fuse and I can cook too and I want my daughter to be the same.
Like me, from a young age perhaps you we were encouraged to stand on your own two feet so you didn’t have to depend on anyone else. Becoming a female breadwinner might be a symbol of this accomplishment for you.
But in reality independence is an illusion as it is a state of being that only exists within interdependence. In my work as a leadership coach I use the Hoberman Sphere as a visual aid to help leaders understand why. The model consists of a large interlinked sphere made up of tiny parts that can collapse to a fraction of its original size once pressure is applied to any one of the connecting pieces of the system.
Your position as main earner might mean you sometimes believe the world revolves around you. But you very quickly close your world down when you fail to think of yourself as part of a system of interconnected dependencies like the Hoberman Sphere. As a breadwinner there is no doubt that you are an integral part of your family system and essential to the whole but a complex network of interdependencies operate in the background to help you carry out your role, such as a stay at home dad, carers, good friends. Without them your system, like any living thing that is not nurturerd will die.
It’s important not to let your independence as a main earner trick you into thinking you don’t need anyone or that your actions don’t create a reaction. In my book Rocking your Role: the ‘how to’ guide to success for female breadwinners I provide tips to avoid slipping into this trap. Here are a few to get you started.
Map your interdependencies
Think about the individuals that form your system and how these relationships are doing at the moment. Which areas are strong and which are in need of development? What would happen if one of these links were to break under pressure? Don’t forget you have multiple systems made up of family, work, community, and friends. You might need to distance them or bring them closer together in order to make them function better.
Nourish your systems
If any part of your system is starved it will collapse and diminish. Nourish the elements of your various systems with whatever they need to thrive. This could be time together, further training or development, caring words, quality attention, intimacy or appreciation. But be sure to consider exactly what those in your system need from their point of view and not yours!
Don’t act alone
Discuss and explore decisions with others instead of going full steam ahead. This approach will ensure those that are impacted can put things in place to cope or are just made more aware – helping to avoid any heated arguments or hurt feelings later on. If you need to study to develop your career for example, think about what this means for your family unit. The route offers career options, increased earning potential and a way to be a role model for children but it can also take away quality time and money which if not accounted for in the right way might derail your studies anyway.
With so much going on you might think a rigid structure that is set in stone is the answer to keep all the plates spinning. But being flexible is the key to making your complex network of systems operate seamlessly. This attitude will enable you to cope with new challenges rather than crumble. So if you need to work on a project for a few weeks, adjust your system appropriately. This might involve explaining to your kids you can’t pick them up from school but catching up on that special time elsewhere in the week.
Independence is great but is often an overplayed strength. Interdependence is that one step better as you and your whole system can flourish. Nothing is stopping you from being an individual within your system and you can still be mistress of your own destiny but by acknowledging your interdependencies you can make your corner of the world thrive.
I am Jenny Garrett, Executive Coach, founder of Reflexion Associates, a leadership and coaching consultancy and author or Rocking Your Role – the how to guide to success for female breadwinners. Find out more about me, my programmes, speaking engagements and training at rockingyourrole.com and sign up for my newsletter