“Put your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. I’ll admit, that does sounds really cliché. We understand the theory behind this statement all too well, but as we are living out our daily life (which is usually very busy and even chaotic at times!) we find our personal wellbeing as the last thing on the to do list, or the thing that is continually postponed.
Most people think of bubble baths, massages, facials, or gym classes when they think of self-care. Yes, these activities may be relaxing or good for your health, but this isn’t what I’m talking about. What busy mums need is time and space to reconnect with themselves – who they are, what their values are, what brings them joy or even healing. Self-care activities that achieve this may be guided meditation, writing in a journal or diary, walking in nature, reading a book or just laying on the couch doing nothing. You may feel uncomfortable and even guilty when you first start these type of activities, as the time may feel unproductive. However, being busy, stressed or overwhelmed can dramatically impact our health and these type of activities will restore balance to our central nervous system, and are therefore, incredibly productive for your mind and body.
We know that self-care is important, but how can we make more time for ourselves and still be the attentive and loving mother we desire to be?
Carve Out a Regular Timeslot in Your Routine
This may seem obvious, but as a Mum it would be extremely rare that you suddenly find yourself with a free 45 minutes that you can use for your wellbeing. Therefore, booking some time out into your diary in advance will mean that it is much more likely to happen. In a dream world, an hour to yourself each day will perform magic, but for most of us, aiming for an hour once or twice per week is a great place to start. I suggest booking the same time every week so that your family get used to this being a regular occurrence. Ask your partner or family member in advance to be available to watch the kids so that you can ensure you don’t cancel your diary date last minute!
Involve the Kids
If you have the sole responsibility of looking after the kids and have no assistance to give you a break, find ways to involve your kids in an activity that benefits your wellbeing too. There are great Youtube classes for yoga for kids and meditation for kids. Or get outside and take the kids to national park to reconnect with nature. The kids will have fun, and hopefully you can absorb the relaxation at the same time.
Sometimes organising a playdate with another Mum for some deep and meaningful conversation is enough to renew my spirit. The conversation is usually interrupted every couple of minutes, but I leave feeling a greater sense of connection regardless. Just choose your conversation wisely, and rather than focusing on talk about the kids, talk about yourself, your wellbeing or even your dreams for your life.
Or better yet, organise a kid-free catch up another mum and do something special for yourselves. You will be less likely to cancel last minute if a friend is meeting you!
Stop Trying To Do It All
Yes, we are so capable of doing it all! But at what cost? Have you considered ways that you can take some shortcuts without the household falling down around you? I, for one, don’t fold our family smalls and only iron the bare essentials. At the end of the day, I’d rather be feeling somewhat sane after a bit more rest and recuperation than someone who has an underwear drawer that is neatly folded and organised. And I’ve stopped packing up and tidying up toys every day. I’ll admit, our house often looks like a bomb has gone off, but I’m much more sane!
This may not be your thing, but next time ask yourself when things are really chaotic, what are the bare necessities and what doesn’t really matter? Then you can use those 10 minutes on something for yourself.
Ask For Help
If you are starting to feel overwhelmed and stressed out by all your responsibilities as a Mum, it’s time to ask for help. Being a Mum is a blessing, but it is also really hard work. You may feel like you are being a nag or a complainer, but it’s important to keep the communication open with your partner. If you are a single Mum, you are probably used to being independent and strong for your kids, but you are likely to need a lot of support even if it’s only emotional support. Reach out to a family member or trusted friend. A once-off babysitting arrangement may help in the immediate time, but investigate long-term solutions. If things get really tough, speak to a professional – a counsellor, your Maternal Child Health Nurse or give Lifeline a call.