By Judith Orloff MD
The newest Pew Study on parenthood found that 56 percent of working moms are stressed out by the demands of balancing home and work. Working moms are super busy, so they don’t have time to deal with energy vampires who steal their vitality and leave them feeling depleted. Moms not only have to be masterful and productive in their roles at work, in the community, and in the family, but they also have to be the “emotional barometer” of the home. That is, moms can’t afford to get stressed out, tired, and discouraged by energy vampires, since everyone in the family will feel it too.
That’s a big responsibility, but one most mothers take on without complaint. As I explain in The Ecstasy of Surrender, it’s important to be alert for energy vampires (even the ones who live under your own roof!) so you can learn how to let go of knee-jerk reactions and change your customary involvement with them.
If you’re a working mother, here are four common types of energy vampires to watch out for, and some simple ways to defend yourself from them.
The Needy Vampire.
This is the friend who whines if you say you’re too busy to talk or get together. Or the parent on the soccer field who sits too close to you and then gabs nonstop. This may also be your own spouse or kids who want your attention when you’re trying to work. These people may be perfectly lovely, but you find that you’re exhausted after being with them.
Self-defense tips: Deal with a needy vampire by being ready for them before they “attack.” Politely tell your whiny friend not to take it personally; you’re just super busy and will catch up with her later. Tell the talkaholic that you’d really like to focus on the game and don’t feel chatty at the moment, or simply excuse yourself and find a new place to sit or stand. Let your family know that you will attend to their needs after you’ve had some me-time.
The Negative Vampire.
This is the person, perhaps a handyman or hairdresser, who walks around with the proverbial cloud over his head. He’s depressed and overwhelmed by life, and feels better after talking to you. Unfortunately, you feel worse! This type may also be angry, critical, and pessimistic–perhaps an in-law who finds fault with everything you do, and is argumentative.
Self-defense tips: The best ways to defend against a negative vampire is to place an imaginary bubble around yourself and visualize all that negativity bouncing off and unable to penetrate. Smile, and walk away if you can. Limit your time with negative people!
The Self-Centered Vampire.
This is the person who has a huge ego and believes the world revolves around him or her. These people are terrible listeners. This may be someone with whom you have to serve on a committee, and they bark commands or tell stories without any awareness of you or your feelings. As a result, you feel defensive, diminished, and invisible.
Self-defense tips: Let go of your belief that anything you do or say will change them. The best way to deal with the self-centered vampire is not to allow your self-worth to be dependent on them. If you’re forced to work with them, you can get through to them by appealing to their ego. Flatter them to get what you want and need, but don’t fool yourself into believing they will be an ally.
The Passive-Aggressive Vampire.
This type of vampire may be charming and syrupy-sweet one moment, then stab you in the back the next. These are usually angry, jealous, or insecure people. Gossipy parents fall into this category. The problem is, they are so unpredictable that you find yourself being inauthentic around them, which is draining.
Self-defense tips: This is a person you should not trust. However, you may be able to address the offending behavior and change your interactions. Focus on one issue–say, disrespectful behavior–and be firm and direct. Tell them you don’t appreciate the specific behavior, and talk about how it makes you feel. Remind them how it might make them feel. They may not change, but they will be more cautious around you going forward, and you won’t feel victimized by them anymore.
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About the guest post author:Judith Orloff MD is author of The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life (Harmony Books, 2014), upon which this article is based. An Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Orloff teaches workshops nationwide, has given a TED talk on this book, and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, Today, PBS, CNN, NPR, and many others. More information is at www.drjudithorloff.com.