If I were to ask any of my mom friends what their biggest “stress” is – I think, no, I know – the answer would be TIME. Juggling work, kids, personal life, household chores, kids and more kids is exhausting and I think we all would love to have more time so that we can get everything done with less stress. Alongside the worry about not having enough time to get everything done, is the ever-present Mommy-guilt. The more time we spend making sure our households run smoothly, the more guilty we feel about time we are NOT spending with the kids. It’s an everlasting, exhausting spinning circle. And at some stage something has to give. The hamster will eventually fall off it’s wheel, and then who will pick up the pieces?
When I was pregnant with my first-born – who is now a 6-year-old boy – a wise old nurse gave me some advice. “Happy mom – happy home” she said. Meaning that as long as the mother is happy, the household would be happy. And I would often dish out this advice to mom-friends. “Friend – you’re feeling bad about leaving your baby with your mom so you can have a day for yourself? Remember – happy mom, happy home”. But those who give advice hardly ever take it. So what happened? I forgot about me. Not mom-me, not working woman-me, not wife-me. ME.
My second baby is now 1.5 years old. To say the last few years have been chaotic is putting it mildly. Baby #2 is one of those clingy babies. She’s gorgeous, but a clinger for sure. Baby #1 who is now a fully-grown pre-schooler has a bleeding disorder. And a very strong will, which makes for interesting stories. A month ago, it dawned on me. I’ve lost ME. Yes, my identity as a mother is important. But it doesn’t define me. And trying to be the perfect mother, wife and employee is not working for me. You know how they say you can’t pour from an empty cup? Well this cup was dry as a bone.
So, I woke up one day and decided to go back to gym. Something I always enjoyed, but in putting myself last, I had sacrifices this little bit of joy. And what a difference it has made! I feel better about myself – physically, mentally and emotionally. I’m less irritated with my kids, I don’t answer e-mails in the middle of the night, and my poor husband is no longer treading on egg-shells.
I realised making time for myself is absolutely vital for me and for my family. This got me thinking. Why are the first things we stop doing the things that give us joy? We often hear that we have to make time for ourselves. But I always thought this mean a day at the spa. And let’s be honest. Who has the time (or money!) for such luxurious spoils?
I made a little list of things I MUST do – to take care of myself. Easy, little things which bring me joy. And even though time is limited and there are needy little hands wanting my attention, I make a point now to do one of these things daily. Here’s my list. I challenge you to make one for yourself, and to stick to doing something on your list every day.
- Go to gym. If gymming is not your thing – do something else that gets the blood circulating. Walk around the block (NOT with a pram – by yourself!) Do 10 sit-ups or jumping jacks. Run with your dog!
- Sit outside with a cup of tea. Don’t look at your phone, don’t do a chore. Just sit. Listen. Breath. Be…..
- Read a magazine. Ok who am I kidding. Read an article in a magazine.
- Write a blog. See – now I can tick this from my list today!
- Write a letter to a friend. Not an e-mail. An actual old-fashioned letter.
- Start a journal.
- Phone someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
- Have a good giggle. You know when you just laugh at nothing in particular? Do that!
- Try on something silly from yonks ago. Take a selfie and send it to someone who won’t expect it.
- Paint your toe-nails.
These aren’t activities which would take a long time or cost a lot of money. They are do-able. So do them! You will thank yourself, and your family will too!
Nerissa works as a community manager at forgood – a social startup which connects Causes with people who want to help. She has 2 children – Ezra is 6 and Calista a very mature 1.5 year old. In her free time she helps at the Haemophilia Foundation, and tries to stay sane by still making time for herself