What 2018 Taught Me About the Quality of Life
“It’s time to focus on quality of life.”
That is something that no person wants to hear, especially when it’s about your mum. Throughout 2018, I not only witnessed my dear mum continue her battle with stage four ovarian cancer but also celebrated 4 years of my company, was nominated for Regional Business Woman of the year, and oversaw my son’s most challenging school transition. It was a year of the highest highs and lowest lows.
My 2018 could not have contained a more mixed bag of emotions than it did. In the end, my takeaways all come back to that phrase—”quality of life.”
When my mum passed away in September, even though I knew the day she would leave me was close, I was still not prepared for the grief I was about to encounter. In a last-minute decision, I decided that I would give her eulogy just 60 seconds before the priest was about to give his final blessings on the day of her funeral. how I found the strength to do this and make the most important speech of my life, I will never know.
What I do know is that last year taught me a lot, as a mum, a daughter, and a business owner.
What are the learnings or take-aways from this year that I can share with you?
Lesson 1: If something is not right for you, especially if you feel it in your gut, change it.
Just because something has always been done in a certain way, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way for you!
For example, my son’s school situation. My 12 year old son had to move from Montessori to mainstream education due to the lack of resources at his school and I discovered first-hand the flaws of our traditional education system, where children are expected to consume volumes of work, learn it parrot-fashion and spit it out word for word, to avoid being penalized. After just 3 months, my poor child was stressed, anxious, not sleeping well and the worst part of all – hated school; it was torture for him.
As a mum, watching my son go through this while hearing other mums who had been through this before say “don’t worry, it is difficult but you and your son will get through this” just wasn’t good enough for me. I could see first-hand this system did not work for my analytical-thinker son and it most certainly did not work for me. I have no doubt my son would have passed mainstream this year, and I am certain he would have done so quite well. But I needed to assess whether I am bringing up a robot or a thinker.
I managed to get my son out of the traditional educational system and into a new and progressive education system which is quite expensive (and much more than I ever imagined I would spend on school education), but nevertheless I have a happier child, who is thriving and who also loves school.
Lesson 2: Winning isn’t everything and sometimes losing is a stepping stone to something better.
When I did not win the Regional Business woman of the year, I was sad – honestly I was broken-hearted because I don’t take to losing easily and I felt bad about disappointing my mum, especially as I knew this would be the last award ceremony she would be around for.
Losing, was actually was good for me, however! It made me push myself outside of my comfort zone and try something new, and it also showed another side, that people were genuinely inspired by my willingness to try. Mum was anything but disappointed, when I saw her the day after, she wore this big broad smile and said: “My brave girl, you tried, and you were one of 5 in the province, you did well and are a winner in your own right and I am always proud of you.” My mentor echoed those same words to me.
Since then I was nominated for 2 other awards and won both on a higher scale, one in South Africa (Top Female Role Model in Tech) and the other in Southern Africa (People’s choice) run by the Southern African Startup Awards. Next year I’ll be competing in the International Finals.
Lesson 3: Never has integration between life and work been more important – Life happens; this is where the strength of how you integrate things pans out.
My mum getting ill was unavoidable. My son and his schooling situation was unavoidable. While I was trying to be the best daughter and mother, I had to still be the best professional woman I could be, I had a team who depended on me, clients I was accountable to and a media image I had to maintain – winning these awards or being nominated, people were interested in hearing my story.
Falling apart wasn’t really an option, there were just too many people reliant on me but then I had everyone telling me to take care of myself. How does one do that?
The truth is, like mum’s untreatable cancer – there is no textbook answer and Dr. Google is also of little help. With the guidance of a few friends who never left my side throughout this process though and a psychologist (yes, I did turn to professional help, thanks to my cousin who pestered me to see someone a few weeks after mum was diagnosed with cancer), 37 sessions later—they helped me realise:
Take things a day at a time and when a day seems too much, take it moment by moment
Set small achievable tasks for that moment or day and work through it
It’s ok to take a break and say : “No”.
Be transparent and honest with your colleagues and clients. Life happens and people understand especially if you have a reputation of being diligent and always delivering. And those who don’t understand, well it shows their character and you will question whether you want to continue a professional relationship with them down the line
Feel the feelings. This is hard as grief especially is non-linear and has its own agenda. It’s much easier to bury yourself in work or get side tracked by something else and avoid the feelings but the advice I was given by many others who went down that route – “Don’t do it, it will come back to haunt you, if I could have done things differently, I would have been more open to embracing how I felt.”
I am still a WIP (work in progress) but what I have noticed is that me being human has actually opened up a positive avenue and people are enjoying that – they are enjoying and appreciating someone real rather than trying to fake it.
When mum passed away, for forty days I shared a different photo of the two of us in a brief summary of the moment it captured. I did this for me, as my means of remembering her and to my surprise, many of my Facebook and Instagram followers and friends reached out to me and said they have enjoyed seeing this close bond I share with my mum; it made them get to know my mum better and also reevaluate their lives with their loved ones – that was lovely to hear.
2018 was certainly a year of all seasons, as many of us witnessed.
As I enter 2019, I have no idea what to expect. I do know that I am entering this next year without a mum who was my biggest fan and supporter, with a high school-going son, a daughter who will be changing schools and a dad who mourns the loss of his life partner for the last 45 years and is also a cancer patient himself.
So, what is my strategy you might ask? – Taking moment by moment and making the best of each day and as hard as those days may be, remembering that I survived 2018 and persevering no matter what. Progress is still progress, no matter how tiny or huge it may be.
Wishing you an awesome 2019…make memorable moments.
About the author: Lynette Hundermark
Lynette co-founded Useful & Beautiful from Prezence Digital, where she served as the Apps Business Director and Head of Product Strategy. Her prior roles included mobile roles within the Naspers Group and she started her tech career as an enterprise analyst/programmer working in the UK for brands that included HSBC, Citibank , and Tesco. With a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science & Psychology, Lynette also holds various technology certifications in development, SCRUM and human factors in computing. Lynette's appetite for the mobile space while keeping abreast of the latest industry trends has established her locally as an expert tech commentator and opinion leader. She is also involved in a variety of mentorship programmes that aims to build a greater community of passionate people in the tech and mobile field.