The baby years leave little time for much other than feeding, changing and wiping sticky body parts. But last on the list of priorities is usually mum, writes Amanda Cassidy
Putting your children first is normal. It makes sense to focus on the needs of such precious new lives ahead of your own. But there are times within that haze of having young children where you can and should allocate time for a little self-love.
And it benefits everyone.
Energy leakage leaves you physically weakened, mentally exhausted and less likely to be the best version of yourself. We pour ourselves into our children, wanting to give them the best of everything — and that includes yourself.
Spark your joy
Marika Lindholm is a psychologist and mother. She says there are ways you can shine a light on your own needs without feeling guilty. “Children push us to our limits, invoking feelings of inadequacy. Instead of telling ourselves we are messing up, shift your focus to what’s going well. Spend time each day focusing on what you are offering your child. Praise yourself and forgive yourself for any crankiness. We are all human.”
Lauren Furstenberg has a popular blog about her mission to retain a healthy attitude when it comes to managing life with her children.
She writes about the importance of setting a good example for her little ones. “Things will droop, after babies, after sleepless nights. But with awareness and reflection, you come to admire the strength in every one of those stripes of life. The woman looking back at you in the mirror is wiser every day. She is part your own mother and part your own unique self. Trust her.
Aim for healthy and you will land on confidence. Little people are now watching. Show them a woman doesn’t have to run herself into the ground to be loved. When you water your own roots, you will grow and give shade to your little seeds”
Shift your focus
Here are the best practices of self-love you can offer yourself:
- Don't compare yourself to others. Focus on your own journey. This shift in energy alone will help you feel free from the baggage of one-up-man-ship
- Cut yourself some slack. Teach your children to do the same by shrugging off silly mistakes and pointing out that breaking eggs is all part of making an omelette.
- Your value isn't only in your appearance. Be careful you don't worship the false gods of Instagram too much.
- Face your fears. Anxiety can build if you don't stare it down. Do something about it, start overcoming and healing. Do this today.
- Enjoy the small things. We are so caught up with our busy lives it is easy to forget to absorb the beauty and joy in the mundane. Be present in the moment. Find the joy in everything.
- Remember to feel gratitude. It gives perspective. It is also an essential lesson for your children
- Do all the things. Don't wait for x, y or z. Seek out your adventure whatever that may be and enjoy it fully now.
- Mind yourself. Take the extra five minutes in the shower, or go ahead with the nail appointment. Say yes to the offer of a walk or a cinema trip. Your babies are everything, of course, but find the balance by doing some things for just you.
- Manage expectations. We live in a world where perfection is idolised. Jump off that train and use common sense when it comes to what you can and can't handle. Is there really any point in dragging all three children to a friend's event where you spend 99% of the time making sure they don't overdose on jellies or destroy the sofas? That's no fun for anyone. Don't bite off more than you can chew. There are no medals for martyrs.
- Don't be afraid to say no. There is a lot on the plate for busy parents. Analyse what your obligations really are. Cut back on the things you are not looking forward to.
- Remember to have fun — the playful, giddy, childish fun that you used to adore as a child. Find something or someone that makes you belly-laugh. Hit the trampoline with the kids or go out for a cycle. Nothing like feeling the wind in your hair to reconnect with your younger self.
- Always have something to look forward to. The days are long when you are juggling your own life with tiny humans. Even if it is a year away, have something to focus on to spark your joy.
- Disconnect. A break from the crazy world of social media, fake news, real news, Whatsapp gossip can do you the world of good. Anything important, you can always be telephoned. The world will not stop spinning.
- Celebrate yourself and all you have achieved. Our inner critic is pretty loud sometimes. Remember to listen to your inner cheerleader too sometimes.
- Cherish the life you have. Try not to get stuck in the 'when we get some money' mentality - or the 'when they are a bit older' glue. Appreciate the walls around you, the people you share this space with and the life you are building together.
Life philosopher and author Brene Brown put it best when she said, “You can only love your child as much as you love yourself.” But being hard-wired to believe that a good mother only thinks of her children is a hard habit to break.
I arrive home after the school run, the single busiest 20 minutes of the day. Lunchboxes need emptying, starving tummies need filling, coats off, shoes off, any negativity the children have been battling throughout their day leak out ready to be absorbed by me.
I usually realise an hour later that I’ve needed to pee for three hours, I haven’t yet eaten and I’ve the usual 20 WhatsApp messages that need attention. The result is a harried, wearier version of myself.
So 2020 I’ve vowed is going to be the year to be kinder to myself now that my children are more self-sufficient. I let them do more for themselves so it frees up my time. I take some easy routes – batch cook, have a fish-fingers day, I don’t cook individual meals for everyone anymore. I prioritise eating before I collect them and I focus on things I enjoy – reading, running, yoga.
I still can’t shake that indulgent feeling, but it is starting to get easier to focus on myself a little more than I did. Happy mum raises happy children is the best advice I’ve heard. Find your spark and make your mark. Your children will thank you for it.
Image via Unsplash.com
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