today’s society we are tasked with countless responsibilities. Many of us are
often juggling parenthood, relationships, a career and our children. We are
expected to keep a “perfect house”, regain our figures within a week, be able
to balance work, life, career, friendships and nurture our relationship with
our partners. However, when it comes down to it, this isn’t always realistic unrealistic
and places an enormous amount of pressure on us – the main caregivers.
When we fail to maintain these, we feel like we have failed. On social media and television, we are often exposed to the ‘ideal mum’, the one who has it all together. She is perfectly dressed, make up on, hair done, her house perfectly tidy and just spending time with her children. I don’t know about you, but in my life my house is tidy for a few seconds only before it becomes a disaster zone. Dishes are on the sink, the bench looks like a tip, I have 4 baskets of laundry that need folding, I haven’t ironed in ages and I am wearing any clothes I can find usually consisting of jeans, a top and sneakers. In fact, being ready for me as a mum of two means having had a shower, brushed teeth and my hair and we are out the door.
Many mums only actually get 30 minutes a day to themselves – this is not a lot of time.
Many mums feel guilty if they cannot keep everything together. In order to meet the needs of others, our own needs must also be met. An empty well cannot yield water. Practicing self-care is not an act of selfishness; it is a necessity. We must remember that we are not prioritizing our wellness above our families. We are prioritizing our wellness for our families. Self-care allows us to be the best versions of ourselves—for us and for those we love.
When it comes to self-care – I am not talking about getting your nails done, having an hour massage or a long lunch. These tips are tips to care for yourself and your emotional health. Tips to get through every day.
To keep your well full, here are 5 tips to easy self-care.
- PRIORITISE REST/SLEEP
If you are like myself, I am often sleep deprived. I have 2 children – girls. A 3-year-old and a 21-month-old. Both as newborns only slept for 20 mins a time. So “sleep when the baby is napping” was not something that I was able to do. So instead, when I had that gap, I didn’t do the dishes, initially I did but I learnt it was much better for me to sit down and have a drink and something to eat before the baby woke up. This was me filling up my well – with nutritious food and a quick rest.
If the baby was in bed early – I used to try and stay up to spend time with my partner – the verdict, I depleted myself and was no good to the girls or my husband. So now, when tired, I just say sorry Hun, I need sleep. Getting more sleep as mums resets our body and helps with our mood. We have more energy and we don’t get as frustrated. Sleep and rest are so important. Even just a 20 min sit down is enough to recharge your batteries.
2. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
When I say practice mindfulness, I’m referring to just being in the moment, like your children. Not thinking what I must do. I should be doing the dishes, responding to emails, cooking, cleaning, I have 5 loads of washing to do. Yes, you do, however, the kids are so small for such a small amount of time and in 20 years they won’t remember that you kept the house clean – they will remember that you spent time with them. Drop the “I have to” or I should” and just be in the moment.
I love the APP 1-minute meditations – it gives you a quick reset and you’re focused again. I have recently, when I have felt extremely frustrated with my children, been going back to breathing – 6 deep breathes in. This resets your body, reduces your adrenaline and stress levels and gives you a boost of oxygen. You will feel calmer. I’m also teaching my girls to breathe with me, and this also works to help calm them down. Be in the moment and enjoy it.
3. LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM AND ROUTINES.
I’m a mum. I am a person. I am Julia. Trying to be perfect is not helping you. No one is perfect, we are all flawed. Trying to be the “perfect mum” leads to mum guilt. Guilt that we are not good enough. Guilty that we gave our kids cheese on toast for dinner. Guilty over going back to work or putting them on a bottle or stopping breastfeeding. Everyone has an opinion on how we should be parenting. Everyone wants to tell you how to do it. I read all the books on how a baby is meant to sleep – I felt like an utter failure, my girls were 20 min nappers and awake for 5 hours. I was terrified I wasn’t doing all the right things – you know what? When I threw the routines and the books out and listening to everyone’s opinion and how I should be doing things, my stress levels decreased.
As I let go of the need to have the house clean and tidy, I began to enjoy my baby more and be more engaged with her. (This is also bringing in the mindfulness). Let it go. Do what is right for yourself and your children. Have a messy house. Its fine – its lived in and the children learn through play. It’s only for a short period of time. No one is perfect. I used to feel intimidated by the mums in my mums’ group that would walk in – baby in fresh clean clothes, hair makeup done, looking fabulous. I was happy I remembered to put socks on, had brushed my hair and managed to get out of the house.
Everyone is different, no one is perfect and while routines are good – and babies like to know what is next, keeping it consistent can be just as good. Do what is right for you.
4. ASK FOR HELP
We all struggle, and we all have days where it is just too much. Ask for help. My partner and I have an agreement, if I need a break I must ask for help. It’s no good me sitting here going insane and just trying to push through. Sometimes all we need is to be able to do just go to the supermarket by ourselves in 30 mins. Or after a really bad day, I have texted my partner and just said I need time out – this involved me wandering around a shopping centre in a daze and window shopping. But it gives me time to think and reset. This can also be asking for help for our partners to do the shopping, put a load of washing on, cook dinner or do bath time. Or even if feeding the baby in a chair get us a drink and some food. Ask for help – our partners, husbands, friends are not mind readers. Speak up and ask. Friends and family are usually more than happy to help. We can’t do everything ourselves.
I was in a seminar on the weekend and we spoke about time management – they had four pictures up – Career, Friends, Family, and Relationships. The basic concept – we can only really run on 2 burners at a time. If you are running all 4 – they are on a low burner and not running very well – also you are looking at burnout.
5. STOP COMPARING AND BE HONEST.
Motherhood is not a competition. Motherhood is beautiful – but it’s also exhausting, frustrating and can be very lonely. I don’t have family here in Melbourne with us. My mother’s group didn’t start until Lexie was 6 weeks old. I looked forward to the first meeting and came home in tears. The number of women that walked in – baby weight gone, looking like supermodels and saying “my baby sleeps for hours and through the night, I have heaps of milk, I’m only feeding every 5 hours.” Me- I can’t remember what I was wearing, all I can remember is that we managed to get out of the house by ourselves. My daughter only slept for 20 mins and had bad reflux, she screamed most of the first meeting. I came home in tears.
My mistake was taking all this at face value and comparing myself and my daughter to them. Motherhood is not a competition. It can be extremely lonely. Be open about your frustrations and your issues. Most people aren’t honest at these meetings and are just glossing over the facts. Or picking the best bits. Being honest about your frustrations and what you are struggling with enables connection to occur and a relationship to build. I formed some of the closest relationships at an Australian Breast Feeding Association meeting where the topic was post-natal depression. I was late because we had been to a chiro appointment. I walked in 45 mins late, sat down, fed Lexie while listening to the topic and balled my eyes out. I couldn’t talk or express what I needed to say. They gave me a hug, brought me a cup of tea and just talked to me. One of the ladies, later that afternoon came over and brought some food for me and looked after Lexie so I could just sit and have a cup of tea. Many of us struggle. Motherhood is daunting but also so very rewarding. Be honest. Be open and allow yourself to connect with other mums – this is how we find our village to assist us with nurturing our children and finding new connections.
Here are some quick day to day tips for self-care that you can implement right now:
- Remember to EAT.
- Remember to DRINK – always take a water bottle with you.
- Feeling unsexy and no time for makeup? Use a BB CREAM and put on MASCARA – quick change and takes 3 mins.
- PLAN your meals on a Sunday – enables shopping to be done all at once and you know what you are doing.
- If you need some time decide what TIME is best FOR YOU – do you want to wake up early to get some “you time” or stay up at night?
- If watching TV, soak your feet in EPSOM SALTS in a laundry bucket for 20 mins – it assists with calming the body down, enables a deeper sleep and is great for sore muscles.
Please share with a mum who you think would benefit from these tips and remember:
Written by Julia Bartrop.
Dr in Chinese Medicine / Acupuncturist and busy mother of two.