This is a guest post by Rachael Alexander (aka The Courage Queen). Rachael is currently a Trustee for 'House of Light', a charity that supports women and their families through ante/post natal depression and anxiety. She has paired her qualifications in Counselling-Psychology and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with her experience as Director of Training for the bestselling book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway® (Dr Susan Jeffers) and has written a self help guide 'How to be a Courage Queen' to help women learn how to reduce worry, stress and tension and live a happier life.
Who is courageous enough to admit that the daily routine of motherhood can be so mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting that you want to scream so loud in the hope that Nanny McPhee knocks on your door with a fluffy pair of PJs, a home cooked meal and the box series of Sex in the City?!
The problem is that if we did admit this many of us may feel guilty for not loving the process of full-time parenting – I was one of these mums! On reflection I was struggling.
I didn't have a grip on very much at all. I'd gone from being a successful and fulfilled Training Manager to being a 'full time Mum'. I'd left my career, colleagues and ambitions behind and felt isolated, fatigued and out of control, losing all the confidence I'd spent years building up.
Why did I feel like the day seemed to last forever? Why was I feeling like an incomplete Mum because I couldn't get excited about playing with pre-school toys? Why didn't a discussion about the bowel habits of my five month old with other playgroup parents make my day worthwhile?
Finally, it dawned on me that, as fortunate as I was to have a healthy and happy child, I needed more in my life.
Giving myself permission to acknowledge these feelings as not only real, but also as not being 'unnatural' was my saviour. I wasn't a bad Mum or an unloving Mum, but I was, and still am, a human being with many different needs.
Sometimes, being the best parent you can be is about making the hardest of choices for the benefit of your child. The 'hard choice' I made was to ask my sister to care for my son part-time whilst I went to Hull University to study for a degree in Counselling Psychology. I needed me-time.
This was a tough choice, but one I had to make. I knew I could only be a happy Mum, raising a happy child, if I was a happy person. So you may have a small person or three to be responsible for, however your top priority is YOU. If you don't refill your bucket of energy with things you love doing, then you have nothing to take out of the bucket to give to your precious offspring.
Remember you deserve it – you may be a mum, but you are still YOU.
So here are my recommendations on how to get more 'You' time.
- Start by making a 'Me Time Support Group' list. This is a list of who can care for your children to give you some 'You' time – partners, family members, friends, even babysitters can give you a couple of hours free to re-balance yourself.
- Why not make Saturday morning your 'You' time and allow your children to spend time with others who love spending time with them. Dads can spend quality time with them if they have been at work all week. Alternatively have one evening a week where your partner or family member takes responsibility for parenting duties.
- Use professionals – When Luke was a baby I would engage the services of the crèche at my gym to look after him. I would sit upstairs at the gym and have a cup of coffee and read my favourite book – no lycra or trainers in sight – balance would soon be restored and I would spend a lovely afternoon doing 'Luke type activities'.
- Child share with other mums or relatives – you have their children for tea and vice versa. Remember us mums have got to stick together! Swap with relatives too – if they have children, why not swap Saturday afternoons once a month where you care for their children and vice versa.
So what do you do with your time when you have these precious 2 or 3 hours free? Time to get 'You' back – having a child can zap our individuality so it is important to remember you are still 'you' as well as being a mum.
- Think about what brings you pleasure or what used to bring you pleasure pre-children. Start with one small activity, which interests, excites and benefits you. It may be starting a yoga class or studying an online course or simply having a nice coffee and a chat with some friends.
- I believe we all have a purpose in life so start to think about whether you are really passionate about your job or whether it just pays the bills. Think about what job would make you feel excited. What did you want to be when you were younger? If you didn't do what you do now, what would you do? Jot down some ideas in a notebook. Find a nice café bar and doodle your ideas over a cup of frothy coffee. Use the free Wifi to research courses or books which can help you.
- Whilst another adult is in the house – have your pamper time. Put a lock on the bathroom door with strict instructions not to be disturbed – even wear headphones playing music to block out the persistent shouts of 'mummmmmy' if you have too! Light some candles and relax into your favourite bubbles.
- Pamper yourself and make yourself feel human – nails, massage, hair cut or simply get out into the fresh air and get some exercise.
One of my biggest life lessons of being a mum is that a happy mum makes for a happy child. If you are irritable, fatigued, tense and anxious then your child will pick up on this and you both will suffer. Balancing your needs makes for a happy mum and your child will benefit.
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