Reclaiming the 'YOU'
Mother’s guilt. We all suffer it to some extent. And by ‘we ALL’ I do mean Dads too! Am I doing the right thing? Do my children get enough of my time? Are my children independent enough for their age? Do I feed them the ‘right’ foods? Do they do enough homework? Are they doing enough physical activity - or are they doing too much? Should I be working? Are they getting enough social interaction because I stay at home and they don’t go to daycare? Should I stay at home with them? What does my boss think when I need to leave early? How will my babies cope with daycare?
Anyone else’s head rattle with these sorts of questions?
“Comparison is the thief of all joy” (Theodore Roosevelt), but when we’re parenting we can’t help but look around us to see what others are doing. Social media has a lot to answer for here. We compare our worst-selves to everyone else’s perfect showreels and wonder why we feel inadequate and overwhelmed.
But I digress.
Do you feel it when you’re trying to have some time for yourself?
I swear I have an alarm bell on my backside that goes off every time I sit down. It somehow alerts the kids to the fact that I have a spare few minutes so they can come and ask me to help them with something. It's usually when I’m on the toilet.
Do you carve out time in the day for yourself? Is it important? I think so! And so does Michelle Obama …
“When I get up and workout, I’m working out just as much for my girls as I am for me. Because I want them to see a mother who loves them dearly, who invest in them, but also invests in herself. It’s just as much about letting them know as young women that it is OK to put yourself a little higher on your priority list”
Amen Michelle, Amen.
I have personally struggled with taking time for myself, thinking I needed to be productive every single moment of the day. But both my mental and physical health have suffered over the years and I am slowly learning that giving yourself some time to think is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family.
I once had a close friend give me the analogy; “If the plane is going down, whose mask do you fit first?”
The answer is, of course, your own.
I wholeheartedly believe that this applies to life in general. In order for you to be the best version of yourself for your loved ones, you need to give yourself the care you would do them.
For me this is swimming. In the ocean or in the pool. I love the whoosh of the water and the monotony of counting the laps. It slows my mind and opens it up to thought. I pay attention to where it wanders and let the thoughts come and go, knowing the important ones will return. I’ve solved many a problem ducking under a wave or staring at the black line of an Olympic swimming pool.
But it took more than seven years of motherhood to understand that it was okay to be selfish with this snippet of time in the day. MY time. It takes a good amount of organising to be able to swim. During this time my children sit on the side of the pool for an hour under the watchful eye of my coach. I bring their breakfast and they choose a book to read or pack a small bag of toys to occupy themselves. I refuse to let them use my phone or an iPad for entertainment.
This little rebellion, I mean, choice, to reclaim some of myself has not only given me headspace, it has taught the children a few lessons at the same time! Master Nine loses himself in whatever novel he’s reading, but also needs to watch the time to help get Master Four off to his swim lesson on certain days as well as taking himself to school for his before-school activities (it’s a five minute walk). Miss Seven is quite the mother hen and busies herself looking after her brothers. She also has taught herself to do her hair. Master Four has had to learn to remain in a designated area and keep his toy cars contained. They all have learned to take instruction from another trusted adult, be respectful to those around them, time management and that Mummy’s time and enjoyed activity is just as important as their various extracurricular fun.
So what do you do for yourself? Do you struggle with the guilt? How does your partner support you? What stops you from taking some time for yourself?
I would love to hear from you, and I’m sure many other parents would too! You never know, your suggestions could help save a tear, a marriage or even a life.
I’ve also put together a list of suggestions to help. I’ve sent them out with my newsletter this week - if you’re keen to receive them too, be sure to sign up to the newsletter below and then drop me a personal email. I’ll send it direct to your inbox.