How to deal with relationship clutter – SHP020

How to deal with relationship clutter - SHP020 First Thursday of the month means it’s time for another hostful episode! This week we’re taking some more listener questions and trying our best to answer them, and I also talk a little about my decision to stop blogging. When we recorded this episode I was only a week into my decision to step away from the blog, so it all felt very new and uncertain. Now, a few weeks later, I can easily say that it’s been such a positive change for me and my family. My mental and physical health has improved and I’m back to regular mindfulness practices. What’s more, I feel lighter. I’m happier. More prone to dancing in the kitchen, making (and laughing at) stupid jokes and gardening with the kids. It’s all good. Actually, it shocked me to realise just how much those things had slipped in the months leading up to my decision to stop blogging. It was such a gradual shift that I didn’t recognise the changes until I took a break. I plan on recording an episode of the podcast about the process and the changes I’ve experienced so I won’t spend any more time digging in to it now. Instead, here’s a look at the questions Ben and I try and answer today:
    • How do you deal with friend or relationship clutter?
  • Is there room in the life of a working mum to pursue slow living? Or is it solely the domain of the single-income family?

Usually I’m excited to share these conversations, but that second question really had me talking in circles. And while I did my best to articulate my thoughts on what is a really complex and highly individual issue, I worry that I left too many things unsaid. But there’s only so much we can fit into a 30-minute conversation! 

I’m really looking forward to getting your thoughts and feedback on this one, so please feel free to leave your comments below. 



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17 Responses to How to deal with relationship clutter – SHP020

  1. Thank you so much for the last part (Ben’s ‘surprise’ question)! Trying to find my place in this ‘social media’ world….it can all become so consuming and distracting. The key for me in finding *my* rhythm. Slowing down and enjoying this one chance at life I have. I do wonder though….was it harder than you thought to take that 2 week break? Was it easier because you were away from home? How did friends and family contact you during that time? I think disconnecting will be VERY VERY hard for me.

  2. This was a great episode. I really appreciate your honesty Brooke when you were speaking about stepping back from your blog. Sometimes I look around and think how is everyone else doing/being/achieving so much and then I am reminded that actually a lot of people are really struggling – appearances can be deceiving :)

  3. Great podcast today… The topic of women and careers is interesting, challenging & emotional

    It’s going to take a lot to change the ingrained “system”, it will take leadership at a high level and at a local level I think it helps to share stories of things people have tried and for others to think outside the box a little. Every family is different but when more people get exposed to varied arrangements it can help the culture shift.

    In our family my husband ran his own business, worked crazy hours and I was full time mum to our 2 kids. After a few years we needed a change, the business was sold, I went back to work part time and he took some time off and became primary carer. He has slowly started to get back into some consulting work, but he does it around our kids timetable and my work hours. I also start work early in the morning so I can finish early and I work one day at home. We have a fairly unique situation, but we are upfront with employer/clients about the need to be flexible and we both get to be really hands on at home. For me going back to my career has been fulfilling and I am a happier person for it.

    There was a period of adjustment for us all (kids and parents) as we settled into our new roles, but our family life is more balanced now. The hardest part for me was letting go of the control of the home duties.

    Coincidentally I read a great article on the topic of working mums and the role of Dad’s in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about Elizabeth Broderick the Sex Discrimatiion Commissioner … Link below

    Cheers Cathy

  4. Hi!
    I listened to your podcast no 20 and your comments on slowing down, vs who should stay at home with the kids and also your comments on the Scandinavian laws on parental leave but also that how much our different views on fathers and mothers get in the way from sharing the experience.
    As I am Swedish and mother of two daughters (now 6 and 9) I can give you a comment from within the system ;-)
    A really short explanation on the Swedish parental leave system: With each kid you get 480 days off and payed. The money you receive is based on your income, but there’s a basic fee for people with no income at all. During the child’s first year you can decide how many days a week you want to ”withdraw” from you 480 days account. Let’s say, you want to withdraw 3 days a week, because you can live on the money that 3 days a week gives you, you can do so but still stay at home full time. This way you can, withdraw 0 days first year and live on savings/partner’s salary. From the child’s first birthday though, you have to start withdrawing days. These 480 days are available until the year the kid turns 8 years old.
    Also, when a child is born, the father/(or partner in same-sex relationships) are allowed 10 days (paid) to stay at home right after the birth.
    This is the HUGELY PRIVELIGED!!!! I am really, really aware of that. However, the system is more ahead of its’ time than the people in it  Me and my spouse (we’re not married) had the outset that we want to share the 480 days between us and we have managed well enough to receive what’s called a ”equality bonus” (=extra money from the state because you shared your 480 days equally).
    However, I want to relate to what Ben said about attitudes because he’s really on to something: With our first kid I started working when she was 7 months old and her dad stayed at home with her. What I didn’t expect from this situation was that people felt free to:
    • Express how sorry they were for me that I (in their words) “had” to start working.
    • Express that it would be harmful for our daughter to be away from her mum. (When I took her out from day care when she was 2 ½ and I was staying at home with her baby sister I received comments on how harmful THAT would be for her as I would isolate her from friend’s… so there’s no way to please everyone…)
    • Express how extremely good my spouse was to do this, and how capable he was in changing diapers, cook, clean etc… When did a mother get praise for being a great diaper changer?????
    The underlying message was that I did this to my family, not for it and that they paid the price for me to have the “luxury” of an independent income. (I was a student when I became pregnant and took my finals when I was 6 month’s pregnant” so I was offered a job within my area of education I said yes). The underlying message for my spouse was that he is not a parent in his own right, but if he’s really good he can be the mother’s assistant.
    So even when we have the authorities behind us and we basically get paid to be equal, we still have society’s views and expectations from friends and family to cope with. In Sweden the ideal mum still stays at home for a very long time, work part time and get the kids home from school and day-care early, have clean house and make home-cooked meals every day.
    I want to finish this rant with saying how much I’ve enjoyed your blog and podcast and I wish you the best in the future!
    Best wishes, Linn

  5. Great episode as always, I so look forward to them each week as I feel like they help me keep up momentum in my own journey towards slowing down and simplifying. Just thought I’d give my own view on ‘why’ for our family, it was me and not my husband who gave up work….I had a very good job and was the higher earner, but this came with a 4 hour daily commute and lots of stress. I was always very career driven and though this would remain the case. However after my children were born I could not comprehend that life any more and was lucky that we were in the position (although it was a financial struggle at first) for me to be able to give up the job I had loved. I do not feel in any way that I have made a sacrifice. Instead I feel incredibly privileged to be the one who picks our kids up from school each day and runs our home. I am often made to feel by society that this choice almost makes me 2nd rate as it seems a common belief that if you do not work you are lazy or do not contribute anything. For us it is the opposite, if I do not do what I do he cannot go out and work and vice versa. We are a team and it works for us, gender-steretypical or not. I tried after my first child was born to do it all, to have the career and family life and learnt very quickly that we CAN’T have it all without burn-out. We now run a business together, my husband does the lions share and I do what I can from home around the kids and I can honestly say we are happier than we’ve ever been.

  6. Without having actually listened to the podcast (I prefer reading), I still would like to comment that I think slow living principles are especially important when you work full time. That’s when it is most crucial to make conscious choices, learn to say no, simplify routines, focus on what is important and so on.

    Here in Norway, both parents have to work to make enough money to live comfortably, the whole system is based on two income households. We have similar benefits to the ones outlined by Linn above, although not as good. There is a lot of focus here on being perfect in all aspects of life, and I think it is important to make a conscious choice to not compare yourself to others and make the choices that are right for your family and the way you want to live.

    • The whole system in Sweden is also based on two income households, which makes it very good for us who live that way, but if you deviate from the system in any way (let’s say by being a single parent) the situation gets really different, which makes the system, although basically good, very uneven in some aspects.
      Also it tends to come with a situation for mums that they “should” work AND at the same time run the house holdhousewife-style…
      To make family life work for us one of us have always worked part-time instead of full time and we’ve been lucky to have flexible work hours. As I said, we have experienced the very priviliged aspect of it all, but my point is that still there are attitudes that we have to work with. (Our own as well as others’).

  7. Brooke,

    Very admirable to step back when things are “going so well” in the generally “acceptable” but not in the mental health sense. I wish we all could realize what’s important like you have.

    On another note, I had a really interesting discussion with my wife when a co-worker left a 6 figure job to be a stay at home mom. We talked about how she was making a sacrifice, but then realized we were in two completely different points of view.

    My wife meant that she was sacrificing her career to be at home with her kids. She recently just completed a 7 year JD/PhD program, so she’s just getting out into the work force for real (even if it’s just a post-doc).

    I meant that she was sacrificing her life with her family to be at work. I’ve been working for over 5 years in my industry, and I’m just not loving it at all.

    I think the book Your Money or Your Life really gave me a good punch in the face about this.

    This is all we have. The time with our kids is short. It’s not something we can get a do over with. I want to be available for my kids as much as possible and work is definitely in the way of these parts of my goals. We’re saving as much as possible to lower our debt burden (just the mortgage), but 10 years is a long horizon.

  8. Writing from Rhode Island USA but I am British. Just a more general comment: I love your podcasts (especially when those kiddies chime in!) Your honesty Brooke is just beautiful/refreshing and I find your voice very soothing, it’s makes me slow down my breathing immediately! I love hearing you interract w/Jamie as it’s amusing & touching. Warmest wishes and good for you being able to identify the problem. I have a horrible ‘fear of missing out’ I think the phrase is, where I spread myself too thin.

  9. What a fantastic episode, as a weekly follower I felt like you both really put out there your emotions/situations really well which is why I love listening to you both .
    Yay for highlighting mental health , it’s so important ! And good on you for walking your talk ps Ben you crack me up each podcast so nice to hear a man so supportive of his family .
    Blessings , Rox

  10. I really appreciated the episode as well.

    It was especially timely, as I’d just read Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte ( The book is an excellent drive into why we feel compelled to be busy all the time (and busyness as a status symbol: i.e., if you’re not busy, you must to be relevant) and a very close look into the challenges– large and small– that women and families face in trying to decide how to navigate home and work. Definitely recommended (as if you can’t tell!).

    Meanwhile, I appreciated the discussion on the podcast because I think it captured the two-part nature of this issue perfectly. First, we have to find solutions that work for us as individuals and families because everyone will do it a bit differently. But simultaneously, we do have to push on the system so that more people have the ability to do what works best for them.

  11. Brooke and Ben,
    This episode was brilliant and really dealt with what is one of the major impediments to slow living – the demands of work (both paid and unpaid) and the interaction of gender in the distribution of this work. It is of course these demands which make slow living so relevant for today’s society. Coming up with creative solutions can only come from dicussions like the one that was had in this intelligent episode which highighted the complexity of this issue.

    I thank the fantastic listner who asked the question we all wanted to ask and sparked this wonderful discussion between Brooke and Ben. Ben – your insights were really appreciated. Thanks to you all.

    Bec W

  12. Great podcast. I enjoy hearing ben’s perspective.
    I must admit I do miss reading your words in addition to the podcast but I’m glad you are taking time for yourself. Where are the archives on your site?

  13. Well, I am that listener who asked a question about gender, giving up work and slow living. I did have a few moments of regret after asking, because I know many women can feel pressured to work as well as raise kids because some people see being a stay at home mother as inferior. That’s not how I see things, and I think that juggling full-time work with childcare must be very difficult. I get the impression that, for some women who initially tried to juggle full time work with childcare, and then became a full-time mum, it can be quite a relief to just focus on childcare and the house. I also get the impression that some women realise they were run off their feet in their full-time job, and feel much more relaxed and fulfilled being at home raising kids and doing housework. Some men probably feel the same, in the rare instances where the man gives up his job to be at home full-time.

    That said, in some podcast episodes and elsewhere, I’ve noticed that some women have given up work and seem to miss. Also, I can’t help feeling some of these women who gave up work were probably an asset to the workplace and to what they did. So, like a number of people who have commented here, I’d love to see it become an easier choice for women to return to work or work part-time while men work less and help around the house more. In fact, I think more flexible working options could benefit everyone to embrace more intentional, less hectic living.

    It’s been really interesting reading about Sweden and Norway, and nice to feel that things are moving a bit, even if slowly (including in the UK, where we just got new regulations allowing parents to share their parental leave). I can’t help thinking now that, even though it is quite a charged topic, discussing it must be a good thing.

  14. Hi,

    Thanks Brooke for another great podcast! I have just returned from a holiday and am catching up on the podcasts I missed and heard this one today.

    I wanted to share my new business venture with you and your listeners – Flex Able Jobs which is making flexible work arrangements accessible and the new normal for both men and women. We want to remove the stigma often associated with these new ways of working. There are many companies in Australia that have invested in the technology and training to allow their people to work flexibly and we are showcasing them and the professional jobs they offer all in one spot.

    One of the key drivers for a move towards flexibility at work for both men and women (as Ben suggests) is leadership. Two great examples of leadership are the ‘Male Champions of Change’ and the ‘Equilibrium Man Challenge’. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has developed some great resources to help people negotiate a flexible work arrangement.

    Professional flexible work arrangements exist and I hope that people who want them can find or negotiate them.

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