As mothers, we're generally really good at looking after our families; so much so, that with the sheer mental overload that's constantly having a good old rave inside our heads, we often forget to look after ourselves as well. I don't just mean we sometimes forget to brush our hair (guilty), or eat (also guilty), or - dare I say it - shower (still guilty). I mean sure, we can forget all those things in the chaotic early days (and sometimes longer), but what I'm really talking about is, we often forget to look after our souls. We put so much energy into nurturing the tiny human souls around us that our own souls are quite often left to run on a less-than-nourishing mix of adrenalin, coffee, and “mum mode”. We let ourselves slide into living by default, not realising that we’re running on empty until one day we wake up so exhausted and with literally nothing left to give.
We all know that parenthood is hard. In fact, we expect it; and this is OK. But sometimes it can be harder than expected, and sometimes a dark cloud called postnatal depression creeps over us and makes itself at home. And this, mamas, this is not OK. We deserve more, we deserve to be happy. You deserve to be happy. It's usually not a surprise to mums that they need to look after themselves. We know we should, but that doesn't mean we do. Life is busy, and it's easy to get caught up in everything. It's easy to ignore ourselves, and just quietly plod along. It's easy to think that the cloud that's hanging around you is normal, it's easy to excuse it away; I took months to admit that I had PND and anxiety. But deep down, I knew. And once I finally did admit it, I took even more time before I prioritised self care; because I was too “busy” being a mum. It's easy to say “I don't have time for myself.” Well, love, you (and I) need to make time. Because in order to care for our families, we must first care for ourselves.
So, how do we balance looking after our little people and looking after ourselves?
Firstly, don't be afraid to ask for help. Ask for babysitting, ask for help with the household to free you up a bit, ask for whatever help you need to allow yourself some time to look after yourself. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it's not failure, and it's not a burden to those who love you. Communication is so important, so keep it open and often.
Secondly, it's amazing what a bit of planning can do! At the start of every week, I plan and schedule in my “me time” for the week. I organise to be off mum duty, and I write down exactly what I am going to do for myself that week. It can be little things like scheduling in time to paint my nails, or big things like heading out for the night, or both; the important thing is to plan it, and regularly. And tell other people about it to keep yourself accountable!
It's also helpful to make sure you spend regular moments throughout the day where you stop and take a minute to regroup, refresh, and ground yourself. Sometimes for me, this is while the kids are asleep; sometimes I have to sneak into a different room while they're playing. Being mindful is such a great way to practice self care and keep those stress levels down - which is good for everyone involved. If you think you'll have trouble remembering, place reminders around your home or set an alarm on your phone. Little and often is key.
Finally, make sure you take care of your own basic needs like you would with your family. Eat breakfast with the kids, make sure you drink lots of water, and if you feel yourself getting worn out, listen to your body and take a break. Your physical self and your inner self are very in tune with each other, and if one is out of kilter, the other often follows suit. Misery loves company, after all!
It's definitely a journey, and some weeks will be better than others. With a bit of practice it won't take long to find your groove and find the right balance for you and your family. And mamas, it's so worth it.
About the Author: Bunny Kim
Bunny is author of the Glow Mama blog and Mama of two on a journey to create a rad life & childhood for her kids, while growing as a mum and as a woman.
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