Yesterday I had the great pleasure of catching up with a friend of mine from work . She has a lot on her plate – she has three babies under the age of two (an almost two year old daughter and two month old twins!). She is amazingly together, I don’t know how she does it, but she seems really calm and collected.
We were discussing my blog and I asked what she would like to read about. She asked a really good question, how do you be a Mum without losing who you are?
So lets see if we can help her out.
I think the short answer is Core Desired Feelings, and the need to stay connected. To yourself, to what’s important to you, and to others. More about that later.
Firstly and most importantly, i think you need to be kind to yourself. This particular Mum is very early on in her journey as second time Mum, and it takes time just to figure out how to keep the family alive each day! It is hard enough adding one baby to the family’s existing structure and routine, so I have no idea how she is managing with twins! When the baby/babies are little, I think it’s really important to not expect too much from yourself. Allow yourself time and space to get to know these gorgeous new little souls, and work out how each of you fit into this new world.
I honestly think that when you become a mother and primary care giver for small children, something shifts inside of you. Rather than think about it as not losing yourself, i found it more to be about finding out who i am now in this new reality. When we become a mother, we tend to step out of our masculine energy (the part of us that is career driven, always on the go) and are forced to stop, and either embrace or resist our feminine energy. The magic happens when we can learn to embrace this time, enjoy it for what it is, and work this new role into our existing beliefs about who we are. When we lean into the softness, become more gentle, that we can truly find out who we are.
There are lots of ways to connect with who you are at this time in your life. The best way I have found is to just slow down. Slow down and meditate. It doesn’t have to be full on either, I started with three minute meditations three times a day. With that stillness comes clarity. The quiet allows our intuition a chance to be heard. And in a funny twist of fate, by slowing down, I have discovered that I am actually able to do more. Being in the moment, giving whatever it is that I’m doing m full attention, means that I do a better job at whatever I am turning my attention to.
The stillness and quiet allows you to figure out what is important to you. Who you were before the babies came along, is still who you are now. You are still in there, just a lot busier now with another, very important role. Our Core Desired Feelings tend to stay stable across time and circumstance. What drives you? What are the things that are important to you now? How do you want to feel every day, and what can you do to achieve those feelings? What you can manage each day will look different depending on where you are in the motherhood journey.
Once the dust settles, and I promise, it will settle, then you can give yourself the space to claim back a little of yourself. I think it is an incremental process. Start off with small things, like a cup of tea out in the garden when the babies are sleeping. Or a long, guilt free shower. Gradually, as things get easier, you are able to claim more time for yourself. Give yourself one morning/night a week to do something you love – go for coffee with a friend, go to the gym or for a walk, get your nails done, read a book at the library, do some painting, or do whatever it is that lights you up inside when you have an hour to spare.
An important part of maintaining that sense of self when you have small children (and always!), is staying connected to other people. Sometimes, as a stay at home parent, it can be lonely and isolating. Some days it feels like too much hard work to go out and see people or have people over at your place. And that’s ok. But they key to happiness is creating and maintaining quality relationships with people. So, my advice would be to make time to spend with those who connect you to who you are in your various roles in life – join a mothers group, catch up with your awesome former workmates (who don’t mind if you are in your pjs and haven’t showered for a week!), have your girl friends around for arvo tea. It is hard to always catch up in person, so maybe part of your “me time” each week could be an hour where you get to lock yourself away in your bedroom and have a good chat on the phone to a close friend. Or set up a “update email group” where a group of related people (friends, co-workers, family, mothers group etc) send short regular updates on what you have been up to. I have stolen this idea from Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft (sisters who host the Happier podcast), who have this system in their family. They came up with the idea after realizing that they have more to talk about when they finally are able to catch up in person if they know what has been happening in each other’s every day lives. There is no expectation to reply to the emails unless you want to, and they are supposed to be short. I imagine the same idea could work on Snapchat, or set up a Facebook group and use the messaging feature.
My last piece of advice my friend would be to accept offers of help. People want to help you, so take them up on their offers. Let them come and enjoy snuggles with the babies and use that time to do something to refresh and recharge you. Take a shower, a walk or a nap, hang out the washing (or let your friend do it for you), so you score some bonus free time later in the day.
So what do you all think, dear readers? Do you have any ideas for how my friend can stay connected to her former self? What worked for you or what do you wish you had done differently? Comment below – you never know, yours may be the idea that is right for her. And it might make her, or other Mums feel a little less alone.
Until next time,
PS – if you are looking for a great program to help you reconnect with who you are, I can recommend the Reconnect Program run by Amy Taylor-Kabbaz of Happymama.com.au Details of the program are at http://happymama.com.au/programs/reconnect-program/