Finding time to yourself
Let’s start with the obvious sentence, Motherhood is hard. It’s rewarding at times and the combination of love and pride has an incredible warming ability – but it’s tough. Sometimes we struggle through weeks, days and even hours without much understanding of what we’re actually doing. It can be both emotionally and physically exhausting and incredibly frustrating at times – but we’re supposed to enjoy it right? And want to spend every waking second with our beloved offspring.
Well, no, not for me. Last week I had another week for my university course (For those who don’t know, I’m studying a MSc in Positive Psychology at the moment) but this time, the week’s lessons were based in Paris. Yes, France Paris. That Paris. Amazing.
From 'Mum' to 'Me'...
For some, leaving their child with their husband for a week would present them with chills and create massive anxiety. I am EXTREMELY lucky that I have a husband who is a fantastic father and almost as good a mother as I am(!) so I don’t have that ‘fear’ or worry about leaving her with him from a safety or “Will he feed her chocolate for breakfast” kinda thing. In fact, I have to admit, I was really looking for a bit of time for me – learning and spending time with other, like-minded people. However, it was the longest I was away from her – a whole week without a cuddle. It was tough, but a combination of FaceTime (even though she would spend most of the time wanting to press the ‘red button’) and a series of update photos from my husband, kept me in the loop.
I know a lot of you won’t have the luxury of a week away (it was an exhausting week of study to be fair – just in a beautiful city) and even some of you won’t have the luxury of a husband as ‘capable’ as mine, I get that – but what this has given me is a bit of a wake up call to understanding how to get more ‘me’ time when I can.
‘Breaks’ from our little ones may be few and far between – when they are very young, nap times can be sporadic (or non-existent for some) and bedtime can leave us reaching for the wine cupboard. As they get older, other pressures may add to lack of sleep or ‘local’ support such as work or chores. Then, when we do get those breaks, we tend to slip into either lazy, mindless activities like picking up our phones or sticking the tele on or we continue with ‘Mum’ things when we really don’t need to. Oh, and by the way, if you need a nap when they nap TAKE ONE!
So I’ve come up with a suggestion to help ease that transition from ‘Mum’ to ‘Me’ when you finally get 10 minutes to yourself.
Create an ‘Arrive at me’ routine. ‘Mum to Me’ I call it. (That’s catchy! )
- I put my phone away. It’s so tempting to pick your phone up the moment you have time. DON’T – give YOU time first. Leave the phone for when you’re sitting on the loo.
- Be positive about what you’re NOT going to do. Yup, an oxymoron there, but write down and commit to avoiding things you KNOW won’t make you feel better. For example, if you know that choosing to sit straight down in front of the tele will mean you’ll still be there 3 hours later – write it down as something to avoid.
- 3 minutes of just breathing. I have the ‘Breathe’ app on my Apple Watch, so at the turn of a dial I can slow my breathing down and just concentrate on what gives me life. I find this presses a little ‘reset’ button in me, so any frustrations I’ve had start to ebb away. (They don’t disappear but I can feel my shoulders start to relax) If I need a few more minutes, then I give myself the time to do that.
- I find the positives in my day. Researchers have discovered that showing gratitude and finding what you’re thankful for can help improve positive emotions. So I now search my day for all the things I’m grateful for – whether it be the fact she ate all her dinner or the cuddle she gave me when she fell off the slide or simple things like the hilarious photo a friend sent to me during the day that made me giggle. I write these down if I can, I find it cements it in my mind better. Pretty much every time after this little exercise, I have a smile on my face.
- Find that separation. I now try to ‘DO’ something that separates me from Mum life to Me life – whether that be going for a short walk (if you have someone to stay at home of course!) doing a little yoga in the living room, read a book or in my case – write. Writing is one of my passions, sometimes I like to bash out a poem or it can be as simple as writing my diary. Doing something for you that is a physical act, that you enjoy helps you move towards you.
- I plan my intention for tomorrow. I’m a journaler, I keep a bullet journal with me at all times. I used to use a Best Self journal – which I highly recommend if you’re new to journalling – but my bullet journal covers everything from tracking my habits to planning goals, daily to-do’s and idea exploration. I find reviewing my current day, moving any to-do’s or notes over and deciding what my intention is for tomorrow sets me up to have a positive day before it’s even started.
When I’ve gone through these steps, I feel energised. Whether I then choose to sit and watch TV, do some work, go to the gym or start the housework, I am doing it with my wellbeing in mind, rather than as an effect of my day.
Sometimes this routine can take 10 minutes, sometimes I can make it last a whole evening – if you find energy in one particular part of your routine each evening – go with it.
Of course, we are always ‘Mum’ – there have been many times when my daughter has interrupted this routine – these things happen and I don’t allow myself to get agitated by this anymore, I just do the breathing exercise again and continue where I left off if I can.
Everyone will have their own idea of what routine will work for them, play with it; try different things until you find your own flow that gives the real-you life again. I’d love to hear your ideas…