When we become parents for the first time, we are pretty schooled up on how to care for our newborns. There are books, magazines, brochures, products, blogs, websites yahdee yahdee yahdaa and we feast on all of them. We want only what is best for this brand new life we have created and we will stop at nothing to give it all.
We pull all nighters when they are ill and chug back the caffeine the next day to keep going. We carry them on our hips, twist, turn and pick things up regardless of how sore our backs have become. We shower in seconds. Forget to brush our teeth. Rarely exercise and often finish off their scraps instead of eating whole nutritious meals.
For some of us, we run on autopilot during the years with young children. For others it is routine, routine, routine. For nearly all of us though, we forget that we need to continue on caring for ourselves, so that we can care for these precious little inventions, our babes, our children.
I have 3 children. Ages 11, 9 and 3. After my first daughter, I was gobsmacked at how little she slept, how much sitting on the couch breastfeeding I had to do and how little time I had for myself.
Nobody ever told me about this. Nobody ever told me either, that the smallest of chores I once did without thinking, would become very hard to complete. Nobody ever told me that this stuff could send me crazy. Even worse though, was the fact that nobody ever thought to tell me that I needed to be finding time for myself as a matter of priority.
That I needed to nurture my soul and not just my Daughter.
So unknowingly, I worked really hard at being a Mum. I later worked really hard at being a Mum of two daughters and then a single Mum of two daughters and full time employee.
My diet was atrocious. I rarely exercised and my smiles were forced. I did nothing for myself that made me happy. My kids on the other hand thrived.
Years later I met my now Husband and together brought into the world a little boy. A little boy who is now 3, and who has suffered from Gastro Oesphagael Reflux Disease since he was born. To suggest this has turned our world upside down is an understatement.
By the time he was 6 months old I was exhausted. Life was like groundhog day. Relentless. Hard and never ending.
It was about then that I realised that it was sink or swim time. I could no longer sustain ignoring my own needs. I had to start carving out small parcels of time for things I enjoyed. Initially this was really hard but I started to simplify things. I enjoyed taking pictures, so off I would go outside, with the baby in the carrier, snapping away. Looking for small detail and beauty. It was a small escape for small amounts of time, but it was glorious.
Our little boy spent 2 years screaming. I spent 2 years appeasing and soothing those screams by carrying him around and breastfeeding him. On the bad days, I would look in the mirror and not even see myself properly. On the good days, I would steal back some time. I ate up any information about blogging and social media that I could find, took photos and then started my blog.
Eventually, my health did begin to fail though. I lost a lot of weight and had some unfavourable and scary test results. I thought I was caring for myself but I wasn't really. I was being too haphazard in my approach.
It was only at this point that I truly realised my own self worth. The one thing that I threw away the day I brought home my first child and never regained.
With the never ending support of my Husband, I made a pact to exercise more, eat better and do a few things that made me happy, consistently. Not just a few hours here and there.
A year later now, I sit here writing this piece, feeling that for the first time ever I am comfortable in my own skin. I have more energy and I smile truly from the inside. There is nothing forced about who I am. I am me and I know exactly who that is.
Not just my children's mother.
It isn't just that I have suddenly become happy either. It took a lot of hard work. It took what felt like selfishness initially (but wasn't really), sacrifices, good planning, the willingness to ask for help and consistent commitment.
It is a delicate art, a game even, finding time for yourself when you are Mother. The benefits are enormous and the disadvantages to ignoring these needs of yours is frightening.
So from me to you. Please please, don't give up your self worth. Don't stop doing things you love and enjoy. Those things that you love, make you who you are. When you are who you are, you are most happy. The crappiest of days can be weathered when you know who you are.
Some days this advice may all seem too impossible, other days it may only be a few minutes you can offer yourself. But honestly, once you shift your mindset off being entirely focused on those you love and include yourself too, you will rock this life home my friend.