“It is important to find time for yourself”. This throwaway statement is often sprouted to mums but at most times in motherhood can feel impossible. How do you find time for yourself when you can’t even manage to go to the toilet alone? Or when you have to wait for your partner to come home before showering for fear of World War III breaking out between siblings while you wash your hair for the first time that week? When you are really struggling to cope with life and someone says, “You need to look after yourself” it can actually make a mother want to burst into tears or scream in frustration, or both. We barely have enough time to look after the people in our lives who can’t look after themselves so how do we find time for ourselves too?
Before I had my fourth child I felt like I was coping and even managed to achieve some balance and time to myself with weekly exercise sessions and seeing friends while the kids were in school. However, after my fourth child came along life became busier and it felt like the wheels started to fall off. My older children’s activities increased, one of my sons moved to a middle school that took longer to get to and then took on a lot more commitments, my husband started a new job that required a lot of overseas travel, my mum was incredibly sick and in and out of hospital and I had that fourth baby to care for. I had limited support and was exhausted so the first thing to go was anything that involved looking after myself. I loved my little family and my baby girl was the perfect addition to our family of boys but I felt deflated, exhausted and pulled in a million directions. Taking time for me was truly a laughable concept.
Motherhood in the early years can be the most exhilarating and rewarding yet overwhelming experience of a woman’s life. People will tell you that life becomes easier once they go to school and that may be true for some but if you have a sporty child or one that requires additional support or therapy then a whole new level of exhaustion can begin. It also becomes almost a badge of honour to be as busy as possible at all times. As a stay at home mum I remember feeling that it was important to always be flat out to justify why I wasn’t working and show that I was a great mum. I wasn’t alone in this feeling and recall many conversations over the years with other mums saying the same thing.
So as mums who spend most of our time caring for others how do we find time for ourselves? I think the simplest answer is that there isn’t a quick fix solution. Instead, acknowledging and just accepting that this stage of overwhelm won’t last forever can really help. For example, say to yourself “It is what it is… for now” and try to be genuinely okay with that fact. In addition, change your mindset by accepting the situation for what it is and finding just one thing that you do have control over and be appreciative of that. Be okay with not getting out of your pyjamas at all during the day if that is the kind of day you are having. An anonymous quote that I think of when I am having one of those days (or weeks or months!) is “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Once you have acknowledged and then accepted your reality for what it is, it is easier to make small changes to the way you feel about it. Instead of being frustrated that it is 10pm before you finally have 10 minutes to yourself to shower you may find yourself actually grateful for 10 whole minutes. Instead of feeling disappointed in yourself for not achieving what you hoped that day you will start to feel content with the small things you did achieve. Once we are able to change our mindset it is easier to find ways to add little things into our day that make us feel good about ourselves. It could be waking up and writing in a gratitude journal or leaving for school a little earlier and walking rather than driving.
Even though we are all at different stages of our motherhood journey it is important and not at all selfish to find time to look after yourself. The obstacles life throws at you are so much more manageable when you feel good within yourself. It is like they say when you are on a plane it is important to attach your own oxygen mask first before attempting to help others.
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves