From the day our children are born, mothers take on a nurturing and caring role. This does not change even as our children get older. We will swap nappy changes and breast feeding with supporting our children when they fall out with their best friend or sit by their hospital bed after they have broken their arm after falling from a skateboard. And even as an adult I know I still turn to my mum during moments of crisis for her support and a shoulder to cry on because I know that she will always be there for me.
But as mothers, and with all the care and support we give others, we often neglect ourselves. Not only do we parent, but we will study, work to further our careers and many find themselves in the position of sole parenting. Trying to find occasions to care for oneself is at times seemingly impossible.
It is very important that we do find the time to do something for ourselves, to nurture ourselves. When we feel nurtured, calm and happy we have much more to give than when we feel stressed, overworked and overwhelmed.
Making that time and commitment for ourselves in theory sounds wonderful, but from a practical perspective may not be always possible. The first hurdle to overcome is, who is going to mind the children.
Planning to get up early for that daily walk, spending a relaxing and soothing day at a spa, getting a fab new haircut or even going out to dinner are some fabulous ways to step out of the daily grind of life, have some fun and reduce stress. If you have a babysitter on call so you can do any one of these activities, fantastic! For those who don’t, finding simple ways throughout the day to nurture ourselves or practice stress reducing activities isn’t as difficult as it seems.
Here are some ideas:
Take 3 deep calming breaths
When we are stressed our breath will become shallow or we may even hold out breath. When you begin to feel yourself getting stressed, anxious or angry, stop, and take 3 deep calming breaths. You might even like to create a routine such as taking 3 deep breaths when driving and you stop at a red light or have a breathing bell at home, whenever any family member rings the bell everyone has to stop what they are doing and take 3 deep conscious breaths. Breathing deeply activates a relaxation response in the body and is a simple technique you can do anywhere, anytime to help yourself calm down.
Being short on time may mean we opt for take out rather than eating a home cooked meal. On occasions this works well, but eating healthy, nutritious home cooked meals has many health benefits such as increased energy and keeping your body running at an optimum level. And don’t forget to have healthy snacks such as fruit in the kitchen for the family to eat.
Read a novel
For those studying this is a wonderful alternative to all those text books and getting lost in a story is a great way to take time out.
Get up 10 minutes before the children
And have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the silence before the madness of the day begins. Unless you are in my house and if the kids hear me get up early they will come and join me. So much for having some time to myself!
Put the exercise equipment in front of the TV
The last thing you want to do is exercise when you’re tired, you want to rest whenever you get the opportunity, but not only are there many physical benefits to regular exercise but exercise can also improve your mood and help you to better manage stress. One way you can get that regular exercise without leaving the house and kids alone is use exercise equipment, such as exercise bikes and treadmills, whilst watching your favourite TV program. This way you exercise without realising it and the time appears to go quickly, and of course you are setting a good example to the children.
Spend an extra minute in the shower
Sometimes this is the only place you can really be alone, although the long showers could be a bit controversial given the current water crises.
Watch a funny TV program or movie. Laughing has numerous benefits such as relaxing the body, elevating your mood and making you feel good.
When we are tired or stressed our thinking habits become more negative, be aware of this and try and put things in a more positive context. Changing the way you think about things can change the way you feel.
It’s ok to say no
Schools and other children’s activities are forever asking for parental assistance, whether that be helping out during the school fete, fundraising events, school canteen, reading groups, excursions etc etc. If you have too much on already and you know you just couldn’t possibly find the time help out and it would cause more stress for you, it really is ok to say no to helping out.
Look out for opportunities during the day
Those moments do happen, when the kids are playing outside quietly or the baby is sleeping longer than usual. Use that time to do something for yourself and avoid the temptation to do one of those never ending household chores. Because you might just only get 5 minutes before the children come running back inside in tears wanting you to solve their dispute or the baby wakes from his afternoon nap.
As a mother, small but simple methods to look after yourself are easier to come across than finding long extended time alone. It is all about making the best use of these opportunities when they do come along, and all those little things we do add up and will make a big difference to mums feeling nurtured and cared for.