I wonder as mothers why we struggle so hard to put ourselves first? Is it for fear of being accused as ‘selfish’? Is it a warped kind of guilt that if we’re not busting our arse for our family all of the time that we’re failing them? Is it that lingering societal pressure that women have to keep a perfect house, perfect children and be perfect themselves?
It’s probably a combination of all of these factors. All I know is that since becoming a mother that I’ve put a tonne of pressure on myself to live up to some impossible ideal. And it wasn’t making me a better mother – not by a long shot. The truth was, I was angry, frustrated, sad and unbelievably busy. Maybe you feel that way too?
It was almost a year ago that I got the biggest wake up call of my life – my family that I was working so hard for was falling apart. Dramatic, yes. And I could hear the whisperings in the wind that I should never have shared that story with the world, that it was my job to put up, shut up and leave my dirty laundry hidden at the bottom of the pile with the hand washing I never get time to do.
But the biggest revelation that came from that horrible time was that deep inside there was a little voice that came out clear as a bell and sat on my lips for the very first time – “I am worthy of happiness and love”. At the time I didn’t know what form it would come to me in, whether my marriage would survive or I’d be doing it alone – but that one revelation gave me strength to start creating a happier future for myself.
And now, almost a year on I can genuinely say that I’m living it. That doesn’t mean that everything’s rainbows and unicorns, it just means that by making a positive commitment to my own happiness as well as that of my family has helped me find ‘me’ again and put our marriage back on track.
So, what are the changes I’ve made and how can you start feeling more happiness and love in your everyday life?
1. Take time for self care: Schedule it if you have to, but don’t neglect it. It doesn’t mean extravagance and going to a day spa (although if you get to do that – awesome). It comes down to what rejuvenates you – what your pre-child self loved to do. Go to a park and read a book, go for a run, meet a friend for coffee, paint, create, write, laugh like a crazy person. Whatever you need, make sure you do it. Even if it’s 5 minutes a day, slot in some time for a spot of self care. Yoga is my ‘me time’, I go to my mat and turn my gaze inward and somehow emerge stretched out and at peace. Find your happy place!
2. Ask for what you need: I think a lot of us walk around carrying frustration that comes from unexpressed needs. We’d like help with the housework or for husbands to actually volunteer to do the groceries or whatever it is, but we are not very good at asking for help. I still struggle with this, but honestly if we don’t ask we sometimes don’t receive.
3. Stop comparing: It’s easy to feel like everyone else has got it together when you’re exposed to their highlight reel on facebook or your friend produces immaculately produced organic bento boxes at the park. But seriously, your best is always best!
4. Go slow and simplify: Sometimes we compound the pressure on ourselves by buying into all the things that we’re told we ‘need to do, buy and think’. The time of our lives when we have young children can actually be more carefree if we simplify it, so apply some critical thinking around the latest ‘must do’ or ‘must have’. Does it actually suit you, your child or your family? Do less, be more has become my motto.
5. Keep an open heart: Life is going to bash us around, that’s a fact. But one of the worst things you can do is let that scar and scare you, to make you bitter or unforgiving. It’s hard and it hurts sometimes but living with an open heart for me is the only way to go.
6. Be kind: Think of the way you speak to your children or a close friend – don’t you deserve to hear those encouraging words too? By practising kindness to ourselves, you’ll soon find you are kinder to others by default.
I’d love to hear from you – how do you try to put the ‘me’ back into family? What do you struggle with? I’d love to share some of your stories too! After all, we’re all in this crazy land called motherhood together.