Finding My Balance: A Scandinavian Mom In American Hustle Culture

Finding My Balance: A Scandinavian Mom In American Hustle Culture

10 minute read

I'm not exactly sure where I found the number, but I had been thinking about dialing it for days. I looked for a quiet place in the WeWork common space where I was working with my team — I could certainly not allow anyone to hear what I was about to say. Everything was hanging in the balance. The phone rings until a crisis line for moms representative picks up. 

"Are you suicidal?" she asks.

"Not exactly, but I have nothing left," I answer truthfully. "I think I need to leave my family."

I had reached a point where I felt like I was the worst possible hire in my position as a mother. All I wanted was to walk into an HR office and downsize my role or even take a sabbatical. Or, do the absolute most unmentionable thing I could think of — quit.

My state of exhaustion had morphed permanently into fight or flight mode. At that point, I would look at my beautiful children and my amazing husband and feel nothing. Not even love. 

Trying to have it all as a mom left me feeling burnout as the balance I thought I was building began unraveling.

To the outsider, I was a go-getter Scandinavian who had moved to America to reach my biggest career goals: to work at the most prestigious publishing companies in the world; and the anomaly of a female entrepreneur who raised half a million seed round for beauty technology, already piloting with the biggest beauty company in the US, while being a mom to a one-year-old and heavily pregnant with another. To the outsider, I was a thriving, put-together working mom living the true American Dream. Totally killing it in the balance department. Except for the fact that it had all turned into my personal American nightmare.  

"So you are just totally burned out?" the woman on the crisis line asks me.

"Yes. I literally can't breathe," I reply.

"Ok," she answers. "I'll put you on the waiting list." 

Finding balance as a Scandinavian mom in American Hustle culture left me looking happy but feeling burnt out.

Is balance as a mom just a big, bad myth?

Since getting pregnant with my first child, I had been sold the myth of "having it all" and like most moms, I bought in completely. My intentions were good and earnest — I wanted to exemplify having it all! I had imagined my husband and I as a sort of an entrepreneur power couple — the kind where only the sky is the limit. Nothing could rock the scales we would so carefully balance.

I hadn't exactly factored in the non-stop work travel my spouse would end up doing, or having kids that I couldn't get to sleep through the night no matter what I tried, or having wildly, intensely active boys to the point where I would bungee cord chairs to the table to deter them from climbing on high surfaces and jumping down before they could walk. I hadn't factored in any postpartum recovery and proudly took calls in the hospital and went on my first meetings just 5 days after giving birth. (Sounds like a lot to balance, right?)

Finding balance as a mom in American hustle culture to overcome mom burnout was no easy task taking meetings five days after giving birth.

I hadn't factored in the bouts of mastitis that happened when I was pumping in between presentations during an intense entrepreneur accelerator program. A program that I participated in willingly when I had a 4-week-old and a 20-month-old at home. I had read just about every article ever written about entrepreneur moms in all the major business magazines. I knew how this was supposed to go. They would simply jump back on the computer after the kids (finally) would go to bed, so, I followed suit. Because who needs sleep? "Sleep is for lazy moms," my thoughts — and these articles — convinced me.

Once I could no longer deny that both my physical and mental health was fast unraveling, I also tried the gamut of psychologists, parenting coaches, doctors, and integrative practitioners. I was desperate for anyone or anything who had a solution to make it all a bit more manageable. Because even worse than not feeling anything inside would be to face total and utter failure. After all, I had left all the comforts of Scandinavia and moved more than 4,000 miles across the globe to make my dreams a reality.

Finding balance as a Scandinavian mom in American Hustle culture left me looking happy but feeling burnt out.

Finding my way to having it all

That night, after I had managed to gather all of my courage and called the crisis line only to be put on a waitlist, I stumbled upon the preview of Tony Robbins' documentary. (I'll just add right here that the fact that I got put on a waitlist during a mental health crisis as a mother absolutely says something about how moms in crisis are treated here in the states. Also of note, this was way before the pandemic made things so much worse) If Tony Robbins was able to change the lives of all these other people — people whose crises were seismic compared to mine — maybe he would also have something for me. I watched the preview and, thinking I had nowhere else to turn anyhow, I signed up for his next Unleash the Power Within conference. It was two weeks away and within driving distance of our New York City apartment. I was able to secure babysitting to attend the conference, and at the risk of sounding cliche, it literally changed my life. 

It was there where I was able to see for the first time that "having it all" (aka the grandest myth ever sold to moms) was not actually about having it all, at all! 

Finding balance as a mom in American hustle culture meant taking time for myself.

Most surprisingly, I also learned that I didn't need to look very far for an example of what truly having it all really looks like. The country where people most readily expect to have balance is my home country of Finland. (Case in point: When the female prime minister — also a mom — needed a night out with friends, she left her work cell in the office. She missed an important call, but was found at the club.) Finland was voted the happiest country on earth. At the risk of sounding simplistic, I realized that all I had to do to make a change in my life was live more like people in my home country do and just sprinkle some "dream big" confetti on top to leave space for thinking, creating, and setting big goals.

In my few-years-long road to burnout recovery, I set out to systematically change the way I lived, worked, parented, and dreamed big. And I have come a long way. I started to envision a dream life that looked absolutely nothing like my original dreams — these were better.

First up was a move out of our cramped quarters with wild boys in the city. Then, I worked to to revitalize my physical and mental health, as well as reset how I connect with my own family. I got my heart back and began feeling so full of life — so much so that we added a third little boy to the mix! 

Learning to thrive not just survive, helped me find balance as a mom.

All of this connection and space for living free from burnout allowed me to begin creating a business with a mission to make it easier for other moms to take great care of their children. Just paying attention to the simple, daily interactions with my own children more than I used to gave me the ultimate 'aha!' moment one summer while applying sunscreen to my kids. What if I could turn these daily mom struggles into bonding moments? After lots of dreaming and conquering challenges to obtain the right work-life balance for my family to prevent future rounds of mom burnout, I now have the Rush Brush to show for it. 

How did I do that? How was I able to transform it all? How can moms truly have it all? I call it THE DAILY METHOD.

What is The Daily Method?

Borrowing from economics, the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the consequences come from the 20% of the causes, success coaching — namely, The Wheel of Life, created by Success Institute founder Paul J. Meyer — and the Scandinavian philosophy of joy (which is essentially dedication to enjoying your life), I came up with a few principals to combat burnout, ditch the myth of balance, and live a more purposeful life. I want to thrive, not just survive.

THE DAILY METHOD suggests that by focusing on the most important 20% in each top area of your life (for most moms' purposes, I have edited, or "mom-ifyied" the Wheel of Life categories into wellness, kids, relationship, house/financials, purpose/work), and looking at that each week through the lens of this simple question:

Are my choices creating a joyful life for us?

If not, I ask myself if it is possible to try make a different choice, or create an opportunity that would allow us to make a different choice? Or, how could I make what I can't change more joyful? Basically, I want to do what I can to get us closer to living our dream life. (Minus the crippling mom burnout, of course.)

By focusing on the top 20% of each area that produces the best results for your goals, you consciously let go of everything else. Just completely let it go. (I know it's hard, but trust me.) Because what is also true is you can have it all, but just not all at the same time. So let go of the 80% of "being busy" that doesn't really give you the results that you're after. 

While I still don't get every detail of every week down perfectly, it doesn't matter at all. Because I'm not seeing perfection, I'm seeking joy. And each week, I'm getting a little bit closer. 

I still have big goals — audacious goals even — but I don't need to achieve things overnight. I can move two inches forward every day. (And I do.) I envision success as much as I did when I was smack dab in the middle of American hustle culture, but I simply refuse to hustle. Instead, I choose what I feel moves the needle most with the resources I have at that particular moment in time. 

I might not make massive wins each week (at least by those old, precarious mom-hustle-culture standards) but I make countless small wins every single day and I try my absolute best to remember to celebrate each one. Because do you know who ultimately gets to decide what's a win for us and what's not? We do.

Thriving, not just surviving, as a mom helped me strike a balance that lets me escape burnout as a mom.

By following THE DAILY METHOD, I'm fitting in all the most important areas of my life to thrive not just survive through motherhood, work, relationships, and wellness. And with the kids, now I'm also creating all of those picture-perfect memories (you know the ones!) not by doing anything extra, but by cutting out 80% of the noise, and focusing on what matters.

So, what does your dream life look like? Now you know how to get it. 

I'd love to hear about your journey to find balance as a mom — feel free to ask me any questions! DM me or comment on Instagram on the post about this article @annabelladaily or @dailyjunglekids. We are here to help us all thrive. 

x Annabella 

PS. To find out more about how Rush Brush — our kids' double duty face cleanser & balm — can make it easier for you to take great care of your kids, hop over here! As a thank you for reading this piece, use my code AnnabellaDaily for 20% off your first purchase.
 

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