“Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. We understand the theory behind this statement all too well, but as mothers living out our hectic daily lives, we often find our personal wellbeing is the last thing on the to do list, or the thing that is continually postponed. The #1 challenge for every Mum is finding the time and the space for their self-care!
Written by Kate Manley of Coach Kate: Women’s Empowerment & Wellness
Why is self-care necessary, especially when it feels impossible?
When most people think of self-care, they think of bubble baths, massages, or facials. Yes, these activities may be relaxing, but I don’t believe this goes deep enough for Mums. What a Mum really needs is time and space to reconnect with herself – who she is, what her values are, what brings her joy, and what allows her to heal physically, mentally and emotionally.
You may feel uncomfortable, and even guilty, when you first start deepening your self-care, as it may feel like an unproductive use of time, especially when you are already so time poor! However, being busy, stressed or overwhelmed WILL dramatically impact your health. Deep self-care activities will restore balance to your central nervous system, and are therefore incredibly productive for your mind and body.
This process of deepening your self-care WILL make you a better Mum! You will feel calmer and become more resilient towards parenting challenges. Your physical, mental and emotional health will be improved, allowing you to share a longer and better quality life with your children. And it will also role model to your children that taking care of oneself is not only valuable, but essential.
What happens if you have no support?
Scheduling self-care is tough for any Mum, but it’s even harder when a Mum is lacking support. In many cases, these are single Mums, Mums who’s partners are fly-in-fly-out workers, shift workers or work for the defense force, or isolated Mums with their extended family and/or support network living a distance away.
Having some quality and uninterrupted Alone Time is the corner stone to any self-care practice. However, if you are unable to be “childless”, here are 6 practical strategies that allow you to prioritise your wellbeing, but not to the detriment of your children. These strategies will allow you to remain the attentive and loving mother that you are!
1. Carve Out a Regular Timeslot in Your Weekly Routine
This may seem obvious, but as a Mum it would be extremely rare that you suddenly find yourself with a free hour that you can use for your wellbeing. Therefore, booking some time out into your diary in advance will mean that it is much more likely to happen. In a dream world, an hour to yourself each day will perform magic, but for most of Mums, aiming for an hour once a week is a great place to start. I suggest booking the same time every week so that your family get used to this being a regular occurrence. Ask your partner or family member in advance to be available to watch the kids so that you can ensure you don’t cancel your diary date last minute!
And if you don’t have any physical support for the child minding, a little organisation is all you need. You just need to prepare an occupying activity for your children, have your self-care thing ready to go and it’s show time! You could borrow a heap of books from the library (I like interactive books that have moving pages or have a finger trail and don’t require a lot of reading), set up some painting or playdough, or water play outside.
Or alternatively, if your children are unable to be entertained by themselves, you could use one of the below suggestions as your weekly “You-Thing”. The key here is consistency by ensuring you book it in each week.
2. Involve the Kids
Find ways to involve your kids in an activity that benefits your wellbeing too! There are great Youtube kids yoga classes that you can participate in too and the same goes with children’s meditations. You could set up some colouring in for your child while you do some mindfulness colouring beside them. Or get outside and take the kids to national park to reconnect with nature (don’t forget to bring some Growing Kind Nature Prompts with you for some activities while you are there!).
Many kids just like being involved in whatever their parents are, so if there is a particular hobby that you have become disconnected with following motherhood, why not introduce to your child?
3. Get Social
Sometimes organising a playdate with another Mum for some deep and meaningful conversation is enough to renew my spirit. The conversation is usually interrupted every couple of minutes, but I leave feeling a greater sense of connection regardless.
If you are able to meet up at a park or gardens, you can also make the most of time outside in nature. And when meeting up with another family, you will be less likely to cancel this self-care activity at the last minute.
To really make this activity one where your self-care is central, choose your conversation wisely! Rather than chatting about the kids, try to talk about yourself instead, your wellbeing or even your dreams for your life. Aim for honesty, authenticity and real connection.
4. Stop Trying To Do It All
Yes, we are so capable of doing it all! But at what cost? Have you considered ways that you can take some shortcuts without the household falling down around you? If you grocery shop more than once per week, can you combine the trips? Giving your children age-appropriate chores is also a great idea, as it teaches them responsibility, but it also reduces your to-do list.
I, for one, don’t fold our family smalls and only iron the bare essentials. At the end of the day, I’d rather be feeling somewhat sane after a bit more rest and recuperation, than if I had neat and organised wardrobes and drawers!
A reduction in household duties may not be possible in your situation, but the next time things become really chaotic, ask yourself what are the bare necessities to get through the day and what doesn’t really matter? It’s all about reprioritise your responsibilities so that self-care moves higher up on the list and something not as essential can become a lower priority.
5. Review Your Boundaries
This one goes hand in hand with the above, but is probably a bit more challenging to follow through with. Spend some time taking stock of all your commitments – physical commitments, moral obligations, and social engagements. If you notice that you are over-giving in some areas of your life (perhaps outside of your children), how can you be a better advocate for your wellbeing? Often this comes down to practicing saying “no” when asked to do something that you know deep down is too much to ask of yourself at that present moment. There are many polite ways that you can decline, but still enable you to uphold your boundaries. I usually start with a sincere apology, then honestly explain why (without going too deep into the specifics) and finish either with a compromise (if I feel good about it) or the offer to assist at a later point in time when things have settled down at my end. It takes practice, but the pay off it worth it!
6. Keep the communication channels open
If you are lacking the physical support, it’s even more important to reach out for emotional support. Talk to trusted family members or friends about your state of mind or if you are feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities or motherhood in general. Yes, being a Mum is a blessing, but it is also really hard work. You may feel like you are being a complainer or ungrateful, but it’s important to keep the communication open with those around you.
If you are feeling isolated and struggling emotionally, find a group of like-minded mothers, either online or in person through a playgroup or similar activity. And if things get really tough, for the wellbeing of both you and your children, please speak to a professional counsellor, your Maternal Child Health Nurse or reach out to Lifeline Australia (13 11 14) or the PANDA Helpline (1300 726 306).
Blog & Coaching Services: www.coachkate.net
Digital Self-Care Package: https://www.coachkate.net/product/ebookpackage/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBYHWSV7TjxQqKBB4SiQbJw