If we as mothers don’t look after ourselves, there is just no way we can parent the way we truly want to parent. My aspiration for you is that you aren’t just a mum, you are the BEST mum you can possibly be! And even more than that, I want you to enjoy this journey that you’re on. So, in this article I am going to share my top seven tips for self-care. Tip #1: Focus on Appreciation. This is a huge one and I’ve put it first on purpose. What you focus on grows, so you want to place your attention on the positives! If you are constantly complaining about and focusing on what you want to be different, what you don’t like about your life, what you don’t like about your children, what you don’t like about yourself, what you don’t like about your partner, guess what? You’re not going to get positive outcomes! So, my first tip is to focus as often as possible on the things you can appreciate! The best times to do this are just on waking up or as you are drifting off to sleep. If you find it difficult, start with the just appreciating the fact that there is enough air on the planet for you to breathe and water for you to drink, you are truly blessed! Or look outside and appreciate things in nature! For many of us, we can appreciate the beautiful smell of our baby’s head, or that we have a roof over our heads on a rainy day. It doesn’t have to be big! Tip #2: Be Realistic. This is a hard road sometimes! Being a parent is not easy, so we really need to be realistic about what we can accomplish every day! Just because you were running marathons before you had children doesn’t mean that you need to run marathons now. Things have changed, things are different! And even if you thought you were going to be one of those people that didn’t change just because you had kids, guess what? It’s just not possible! We also need to be realistic about what our children should be able to do. The biggest area of confusion I see with this is about sleep. For example, many children under the age of five are still needing adult support through the night, and this is perfectly normal and not outside of what we should be expecting. Unfortunately, I see time and time again that this isn’t accepted and it’s leading us to so much stress and anxiety thinking something is wrong – that it’s something we have failed at if our children still want us at night! Being realistic and finding acceptance that this is my child right now, and this is my LIFE right now, can go a long way to supporting your emotional well-being! Tip #3: Stay in the Moment. Most of us struggle to live in the moment and are focused instead on the past or the future. We find ourselves ruminating about what has already happened, thinking about what we should have done differently, worrying about what we said, and anxious about what we have done or haven’t done. It’s also easy to get caught up thinking about the future. We focus on the things that are going to happen later in the day, later in the week or even much further down the track! But the past is in the past – it’s done. And the future hasn’t happened yet. We can’t go back and undo or redo anything, and we can’t predict with certainty how things will turn out at another time. Yes, we can learn from our mistakes and try to keep from making them in the first place, but we must take action in the present! There are two questions you can ask yourself to get back in the moment when you notice that you are feeling stressed, anxious, angry, or are somehow ‘stuck’ in the past or future instead of being fully present in the here and now. Give yourself a moment to take a deep breath in and consider: What can I DO right now? or What do I NEED right now? And then listen to the answer and act accordingly! Tip #4: Make a Me-Time List. Sometimes we need to write things down or we forget them, right? Well, for busy mothers, this can be true even when it comes to remembering what it is that renews us or relaxes us! That is why I suggest we all have a Me-Time List! To make your list, get a piece of paper and a pen (or you can do this in your phone, but I prefer you start on paper) and write down EVERYTHING you can think of that you could possibly do that would feel nourishing, restful, peaceful, healthy, joyful, exciting, fun, energising, or meaningful. This is the time to dream, to ‘heart storm’, to get it ALL out! It’s helpful to have a range of things from the very quick and easy ones (take five deep breaths, for example), up to much bigger things that might take more planning (like going on a trip away with girlfriends). Once you have done your master list, then it’s time to organise it a bit. This is where we need to be a little realistic. If you have a two-month old, for example, you might be ready to get out for an hour for coffee with your friend but not quite able to go away for a trip around the world! It’s OK to have a ‘dream’ list though… Tip #5: Put Yourself on Your To-Do List. Once you’ve made your Me-Time List, schedule your time in! You have to make yourself a priority – you have to book these things into your days or they easily get overlooked. Now, it’s obvious that if you want to get a massage, for example, that you have to schedule it ahead of time, but this also needs to be for the other things! Even if it’s something small that you can do at home (like 5 minutes of meditation, reading a book or listening to a podcast) it needs to go in your schedule! The great thing about having made the Me-Time List is that you can also use it spur of the moment. Sometimes you might find yourself with unexpected time alone or you realise that you are feeling a strong need to have some me-time that wasn’t booked in. Here is the perfect opportunity to pull out the list and pick something that fits in in that moment! Tip #6: Find Your Village. We can’t do this alone! We live in a society where most of us live in single- family homes without extended family or friends literally living in our houses with us so we have to seek it out. We have to get people around us who can understand us! Yes, it’s great to have people in to do your cleaning or your gardening, help with the practical side of things, but to really thrive as mothers we need other women around us who we can be honest with, who can truly support us on our hard days. It’s helpful to be clear on what you value in your parenting so that you can surround yourself with people that will back you up. For me, this was finding a community of gentle, connection-centred mums and professionals that wouldn’t try to sway me off my path EVEN when I was struggling with a baby that needed to be held all of the time! Tip #7: Heal from the Past. My final tip, and sometimes one we want to skip right over, is that we need to heal from the past. Everything that has ever happened to us is remembered in our minds. Our brains are like a library filled with books and files from our entire lives! Everything we’ve experienced, touched, seen, felt – it’s all in there! The problem can sometimes be that we operate mostly from our unconscious brain, and often, our children are wonderful triggers for some of that stuff to come up when we least expect, and certainly don’t want it! Whatever we haven’t dealt with for a long time or haven’t let go of (and it could be a big trauma or just several small things), our clever subconscious mind has put it so far in the back of the filing cabinet that we don’t even know what it is that’s triggering us! We might be aware that we’re feeling anxious, or we might be yelling at our kids more than we want to, or we might be angry at our partner but no matter what we try we just can’t help it. Recognise that every single one of us carries the past into our parenting and if you don’t like how you are acting or feeling, then doing the healing work might be just the thing you need! At the end of the day remember, you don’t matter more than anybody else on the planet, but you DO matter just as much, so make yourself a priority! Get yourself back on your to-do list and start today!
Anne Cullen, BA, IBCLC Anne Cullen is a coach and parenting specialist who has been supporting and educating children and their parents for nearly 30 years. Her mission is to ensure children grow up feeling safe, secure, and understood (and their parents enjoy the journey!) Anne holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in Sociology/Anthropology; Family Resources; and Education, is certified as a Life Coach, MAP Practitioner, Mindfulness Instructor, and REACH Practitioner with additional training in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and Collaborative & Proactive Solutions. Learn more about her HERE. Don't Miss A Thing. Our subscribers are the first to know about new courses and special offers. Simply let us know you're interested by emailing us at email@example.com