With Mother’s Day just around the corner it’s got me thinking about what I’ve learnt over the last nearly 4 years since I became a mum. In short, the answer is – a LOT. A lot about myself, a lot about patience and tolerance, a lot about juggling family with career and a lot about balancing my child’s needs with my own.
When you bring a child into the world, or become a foster or adoptive parent, it is the probably one of the most life-changing experiences we can go through. I assumed, and I’ve heard so many expectant parents say the same, that the baby would just fit in around our life. Ha! How foolish! A baby, at least for the first year of its life, consumes you. Their welfare and needs are at the forefront of your mind every sleep-deprived moment of the day, as it should be, absolutely – but often at the determent of your own well-being and health.
At nearly four years in to my motherhood journey, of course my daughter’s needs are still at the forefront, but I have slowly realised that being fulfilled and nourished (both nutritionally and mentally) in yourself is hugely important to your happiness but also to that of the people around you. If you’ve found yourself arguing or feeling resentful towards your partner, it is more than likely down to the fact you are not allowing yourself enough of what makes you feel energised, inspired and happy. Yes, children bring happiness and joy in abundance, but so do many other things. Allowing yourself to enjoy those things does not mean you are any less of a great mother by focusing on yourself, even for a short time.
In the spirit of appreciating mothers (we should do it EVERY day, not just once a year, right?!) I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how to nurture yourself in motherhood. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too – what do you do to treat yourself? How do you ensure you keep your mind and body healthy when carrying out the hardest job in the world? Do let me know. Here are the things I've found helpful or I am currently working to improve on myself...
1. Let go of the ‘mum guilt’ – We’ve all experienced it - guilt about putting your little one into nursery so you can go back to work, guilt because you fancy a night out, guilt because you lost your patience and shouted. In our modern world it seems like there is SO much pressure to be the perfect mum and do everything, but you just gotta let it go. NO-ONE is perfect, and you are doing a great job so you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. Instead, feel proud that you enjoy work as well as motherhood, enjoy the fact you have friends and a social life and feel fine with how you instil discipline, safe in the knowledge that you balance this with masses of love, affection and fun.
2. Take time out – Time to yourself can sometimes be rare when you are a mum, but it is SO important. Don’t feel like this can only be a ‘once every six months’ occurrence. Plan ahead for those days or evenings out – and then go book yourself a creative workshop, meet a friend for drinks or go get a massage. When you’re at home, spend an evening with your favourite magazine and some cake, take up a craft which you can do a bit of every evening, or why not just do a bit of faffing?! I love faffing around with styling things in the house, or playing around arranging some flowers – those times when you aren’t really doing anything particularly useful but it allows your mind to wander and relax.
3. Eat well – I am totally guilty of not doing this one myself. I think about what Ruby is eating and constantly encourage her to eat her fruit and vegetables, but then eat badly myself. It’s something I really want to work on this year – firstly because if she sees me eating good things then hopefully she will follow suit, and also I’m sure if I am looking after myself nutritionally then I will feel less tired and run-down too. Rather than just wolfing down some toast for lunch, I want to try and throw together a salad or a wrap and substitute those biscuits with fruit. Generally, I think achieving this comes down to planning. Make sure to throw a few bits in the shopping trolley for yourself rather than only thinking of the kids meals. Meal planning can go a long way to ensuring you don’t just grab a quick ready meal on the way home, so try and draw up even a rough guide at the start of week.
4. Streamline your life – I’ve been reading The Empowered Mama, and I really enjoyed the bit about pruning your life. There’s a quote in it which says: ‘When we become skilled at selectively knowing what to prune out of our lives, what remains becomes stronger, brighter, clearer.’ Sometimes it’s people you need to prune – if there is a friend or colleague who demands too much of you, and makes you feel drained, or takes up time you could be doing something you love, then maybe it’s time to step away from that relationship. Sometimes it is ‘stuff’ you need to prune – clutter can become suppressing, so take a bit of time to evaluate whether you really wear all those clothes in your wardrobe (there are loads of great blog posts out there about creating a capsule wardrobe) or simply take half an hour and clear out a couple of drawers. It took me ten minutes the other day to go through my underwear drawer and throw out anything that was past it and I felt strangely lighter afterwards knowing that everything in that drawer was now useable. Or it may be activities that can be pruned – if you are the type of person who finds it hard to say no, you may have ended up with duties or plans that you’d really rather not do. Also, check with your kids if they genuinely enjoy all of their activities – you may find they’d rather not take that piano lesson as well as singing in a choir. Make sure you are all only doing things that actually bring you happiness and fulfilment.
5. Exercise – It’s easy to say that it is hard to fit exercise into your life, but I’ve recently realised that you don’t need to attend a two hour fitness class or go on a six mile bike ride to introduce exercise into your life. Obviously if you are on a mission to get fit or loose weight then by all means, but I’ve found that introducing just a small amount of gentle exercise can make such a difference. I’ve never been one for exercise classes, but I quite enjoy yoga, so I’ve started following ‘Yoga with Adrienne’ on YouTube and doing half hour videos a couple of times a week in my front room. I always do it in the morning and always feel really good after it and like it was a positive start to the day. I’m also trying to incorporate at least one brisk walk into my week when I listen to a podcast and keep up a good pace. You can also burn a few extra cals simply by having a run around the park with the kids or putting some music on and dancing round the living room with them!
6. Treat yourself – Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so fingers crossed a treat is on it’s way (!), but regardless, there’s no harm in giving yourself an extra little treat is there?! I find it is a real pick-me-up to surround yourself with pretty things at home – flowers, plants, candles, favourite books and magazines, a really cosy blanket – then simply put your feet up and remember you are doing fabulous!
I really hope you feel appreciated this Mother's Day and ALL the time! And don't forgot about your own mum - she knows how tough motherhood can be, only too well! Do let me know any thoughts you have on this post - I am far from a mummy/parenting blogger and am not attempting to be, but as it's such a big part of my life, I think it's nice to go there now and again.
** This post was sponsored by Marks and Spencer to celebrate Mother's Day and to highlight their Flower Shop where you can treat your mum or yourself to a beautiful bouquet. If you fancy a little bit of floral faffing like me, it's worth checking out some tips they've put together on flower arranging. M&S provided me with some product and flowers for my images. **