Nearly two years ago I became a Mummy for the first time and I developed another level of respect for women (and men) around the globe who hold this job down each and every day. I’ll tell ya, it’s a wild ride. Raising a child alone or with a partner may be a labour of love, but as anyone who has ever rolled a ball back and forth for an hour can tell you, it’s still labour.
Not only is it tough work physically, but mothers also seem to be pummelled with opinions and advice from just about everywhere.
I goggled the phrase ‘The Ideal Mother’ out of pure curiosity and guess what came up? 149,000,000 results.
As mothers we are saturated with ‘expert advice’ from bazillions of sources.
We face a never-ending list of rules and guidelines we are supposed to follow. The best time to start solids, sleeping strategies, play date etiquette, rules about when and how to potty train, how long to stay on breast milk., or when to move from cot to bed.
So. Much. Advice.
It’s enough to make anyone feel psychotic, and definitely doesn’t make it very easy to trust your own gut instincts.
Over the past year and a bit, I took all of the mummy advice I was receiving and tucked it on the backburner. Between learning how to be a mum for the first time and running my own business, I just did not have space in my brain to sift through all the advice. I saved everything I was recommended, figured I would get to it later and have bluffed my way through 19 months of mothering.
However, there is one bit of advice that has stuck with me and allowed me the space to tune out the advice and follow my own intuition. That is:
‘Take time out for yourself’.
Whether you are a working mum, a stay at home mum or a bit of both I understand how difficult this sounds.
I remember my reaction when I first read about ‘Mummy Time’ in an Oh Baby magazine. It touted the importance of time out and said “ Go out, get a manicure and enjoy a movie or a long lunch with friends at least once a week”
You can imagine how I reacted with a three month old.
Seriously? Who were these manicured mummies that sat around discussing the latest films over raw kale salad? Were they the same women who baked from scratch, did Pilates, volunteered at nursing homes and campaigned for clean air while maintaining a steamy relationship with their adoring husbands?
Because I didn’t know ANY mum’s like that.
The women I knew felt victorious when they actually managed to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. We were all in serious need of a haircut, there was not one surface in our homes that didn’t feel sticky and not one part of our physical being that hadn’t been gummed, bitten, sucked or spit up on.
It seemed impossible to find the time for myself.
I felt guilty about taking time for myself. I’d had 27 years of it!
I’d pretend to have time out by booking Franklin in to the crèche at the gym, and then use the time to work in the café instead of exercising. Yes, working was my time off.
But here’s the big fat reality check.
If you continue to neglect your own needs you will burn out, and when you have nothing left – there is nothing to give.
When I don’t take time to recharge my batteries it changes the way I ‘show up’ in the world around me. I’m not as gentle when I respond to Franklin, I am more careless and impatient on the road, I over-eat, I’m not as affectionate with my husband, I start dwelling on all the things I’m not doing ‘right’ as a mum, I turn to the internet for advice and end up feeling worse about myself… you get the idea.
Taking care of you is the first step required in being able to be present for your family. I truly believe that every mother knows what is best for her own children, but we must give ourselves the space to allow our intuition to guide us in making those decisions.
To begin taking more time for yourself you can start really small. Lately I’ve been more intentional about having just 10 minutes of quiet time each day to unplug and gain perspective, which has been helpful.
Some of my other favourite ways to unplug are:
- Visit a child friendly coffee shop. While Franklin plays I have a hot chocolate and read a magazine.
- Join a fitness centre that offers childcare. My gym has a beautiful crèche that only charges $7 for two hours. Not only is exercise so good for your mental, physical and emotional health, but you can enjoy a long uninterrupted shower afterwards.
- Wake up earlier than usual. Lately I’ve been waking up just 15 minutes earlier than Franklin and it’s the perfect uninterrupted ‘me’ time. You could go for a quick walk outside and enjoy the fresh air, do some yoga or floor stretches, or just sit and read the paper.
- Do a baby swap. Ask a mum in your neighbourhood to watch your child for a few hours one morning and then repay the favour another day during the week. Use the time to do something that pampers you. Visit an art gallery, museum, have a spa treatment or just lie in the sun at the park and read a book.
- Book a babysitter. And leave the house, either alone or with your spouse. Use this special time wisely – not for bill paying or grocery shopping. The point is to do something for your heart and soul, and do it without the guilt.
Today as we honour and celebrate our mothers and other special women in our lives, I wish to honour you.
Tune out the advice and turn up the intuition.
After all mother knows best!