Today’s blog post is a lot lighter and a topic highlighted in a chat with one of my new Twitter friends when discussing the responsibilities of parenthood..
It’s the importance of mums, in fact all parents, knowing when they need to step back, take a break and make no apology for it.
I call it my ‘Mum on strike’ mode and I make no excuses, or try to justify it to my kids or hubby when I need to do it. It’s an unspoken rule if I announce I am taking my time out that no one queries it or expects me to do anything. And I mean – anything!
As mothers we are often so hard on ourselves and set impossible standards, ignoring our health and mental well-being all too often. We feel responsible for everything in our families life and take on the tasks of keeping everything organised, maintained and clean while worrying non stop about things that are outwith our control. Mothers are often the glue that keep a family held together and we forget that sometimes we need to replenish our own needs.
That could come in the form of an afternoon lying on the couch and watching back to back chick flicks. It could be a spa day or an early night in bed or just an afternoon of no demands for a couple of hours.
I think it is extremely important that we prioritise ourselves from time to time and learn to identify and drop everything when we can, for that much needed R and R. I know guilt is a thing and some women despair at leaving everything be to just take some me time. There is a societal amount of learned guilt in women not fulfilling expected roles but I am here as a woman and a mother to tell you it’s utter bollocks. Even the most organised, proficient and productive mother who seems to have it all together – needs that important time off.
It’s essential to focus on your health and happiness to be a better parent and carer within your family unit. In the same way it’s important for our men or partners to have that time and as a team we should equally respect when it is needed and pick up the slack. Being sick or burned out is not an excuse. It’s a fact of life.
I know that it is near impossible for single parents to be able to do this, especially if the children are every young and you have no outer support, but there are some simple ways you can implement short guilt free breaks in your week. Once you start to make that time for yourself, even in the form of an extra long bubble bath once a week, you will begin to really appreciate the rejuvenating effects. Look for the small ways to give back to yourself and start to reap the benefits or putting your needs in that long list of priorities. Right at the number 1 spot. You can’t fill anything with an empty glass.
We shouldn’t carry guilt for being mere humans who get exhausted, burned out and sick. We shouldn’t be shamed for asking for help or a break. We are not superhuman or robots. We are people with needs who are equally valuable.
When I need a break I am not completely heartless to my family. I know, I know. Oh the pain and suffering inflicted on these poor innocent beings for that awful neglect of a mother not pandering to their every whim for a few hours. How will I live with myself?
Quite easily, actually. Usually with a Lush bath bomb.
I usually do some pre-prepping for leaving them to fend for themselves for some hours. I of course know there are limits to their abilities – I type this while eye rolling lol. They are 10 and 14… hardly incapable of the basics in life.And I do own a fully formed male specimen in his double digit years, I call partner.
I will mass clean the house the day before, catch up on laundry, to do list or minor things which won’t let me relax. I order shopping and usually set some ready to eat food in the fridge for easy access and a slow cooker meal for dinner they can dish right out of.
Yes I plan and carry out an actual STRIKE. On purpose. Sometimes just because I can.
I will pre-set the things they usually require help with and then when it’s ready I literally have a soak, get my onesie on, announce my ‘strike’ and leave them to it. I will answer to no demands, whatsoever unless it’s an emergency. Even then, I will rate the emergency on a sliding scale LOL
Of course I had some teething issues the first couple of times. Kids seem programmed to yell mum, even when dads home. They gravitate to mum for everything in this house so that took a little reminder that he was literally 10 feet away and quite a capable grown human in his own right who did contribute 50% of the effort of creation. If he can create life, I am sure he can heat up soup or get a cup from that hard to reach shelf.
The point is – we should never apologise for to wanting to do it for a few hours. We are not machines or emotionless bots set to endlessly serve. We are people in our own right and we should have no guilt about still pursuing our own goals and happiness in life, while efficiently raising children. There is this myth that making the choice to have a child means you should sacrifice everything. Your career, time, hobbies,interests, friends, health to always prioritise that baby.
That’s been ingrained for centuries and is not true at all. Many successful women have raised confident and well adjusted children while still remaining true to their own needs and goals. There is no one or the other. Don’t let society shame you for being strong and independent and retaining some of your identity after having children.
We can have both and still be an awesome parent. It’s part of who you are.
So next time you feel like you are drained empty and have nothing left to give. Tired or just daydreaming wistfully for the moment your kids no longer need you – then stop. Take what you need now and feel no guilt. They need a happy mumma. They need an energised and focused mumma – or parent, if you are a single dad or diverse family. All this applies to you too.
Kids thrive when we do.
We are their universe so we should be prioritising our own mental health and well being to make sure they have us for as long as they need us.
Be kind to yourselves. From one mumma to all parents. Look after yourselves.