5 STEPS TO FINDING YOURSELF AGAIN | DECLUTTERING MOTHERHOOD
How to Rediscover Yourself in Motherhood
Some days it can feel as if all you do is work, come home and work, feel responsible for everyone else, and have little or no time left for yourself. It's a mother's lot you're told, and you're more than happy to carry the weight of a full life most of the time, if only... there was some respite amid all this busyness.
Being a daily chauffeur, cook, cleaner, career woman, nurse, adviser, lover, disputes mediator, and decision-maker can takes its toll and it is important to rediscover the "you" underneath all these responsibilities.
Consider yourself important too.Women who don't find the time to take good care of themselves risk being overwhelmed and eventual burn out. It may seem like multi-tasking and juggling everything is allowing you to manage it all right now but you're paying a high price for the constant on-the-go mentality by ignoring your need for rest and recreation. Remembering that you matter is a key element to ensuring that you remain in good physical and mental health and that your relationships with others are not compromised by your exhaustion and even resentment. Bear in the mind the following major realities:
- You cannot be Supermom or Superwoman. That myth has long been laid to rest by academics, doctors, therapists, and all the other moms who have tried. However, for some bizarre reason, the myth persists because many women were raised to believe they could have and do it all at once, only to collapse in a heap and self blame when it doesn't work out.
- It isn't possible to fit everything and some into a single day. You have to make choices about what to prioritize and what to leave out. To not do so is to live under the feeling that everything is half done and things are unraveling at the seams.
- Being overwhelmed and exhausted is the least successful way of coping with your daily chores and responsibilities and by not allowing yourself the time to recover from particularly stressful periods of life, you are laying down the foundations for future health, relationship, and self-esteem problems.
- You're a role model for the children in your life. Do you want them to learn how to be or expect a frazzled, worn down, exhausted mom or someone who sets a good example by gently and calmly caring for herself as well as for everyone around her?
Put the brakes on multi-tasking.Multi-tasking is a buzzword that gets commonly attached to women. There is a common belief, often backed up by women out of a sense of pride at coping, that women are better at multi-tasking than men. The truth? Social scientists think that multi-tasking is bad news for everyone, whatever your gender.The human brain is far happier focusing on one task through to its completion (or as near as completion as appropriate) before switching to another, and by trying to juggle several tasks at once, we put the brain under enough pressure to end up stressed, in a rage, and even with reduced IQ levels by as much as 10 points.Professor Miller, the author of one study into the dangers of multi-tasking says that it can induce brain fog and yet we're very good at deluding ourselves that it's working.Frighteningly, while you may work faster initially, your productivity plummets and the outcomes are far poorer than when you single-task. And why are women supposedly better at it? It is as simple as the fact that women are more ready to try it and to say they're happy doing it rather than it actually being effective!It isn't working but it is making you stressed, so the solution is to drop the multi-tasking and to start focusing more on less.
- Focus on one thing at a time. If you have a list of things needing to be done, jot them down and follow through on them one by one rather than baking a pie at the same time as consoling an upset friend on the phone at the same time as tallying up the report figures for work at the same time as placing a Band-Aid® on little Johnny's knee...
- Always do what can be done rather than what you feel should be done. A lot of "shoulds" are wishes for being more organized, more ready, more something that could be achieved with better systems, as well as having more help from others, and maybe even a magic wand but you cannot perform miracles and should not expect such. Over time perhaps you can develop better systems but in the midst of chaos, do what can be done first.
Prioritize.Minimizing multi-tasking comes through prioritizing more than anything else. There are only so many hours in the day, as the wiser people around you are apt to remind you. Consider what the most important two to three things to be achieved for that day are. And set yourself to deal with those as a priority before all else. The benefit of doing this is the word "achievement". Completing two to three things well will leave you with a sense of achievement that buoys you and frees you to take some downtime to rejuvenate.
- Sit down each morning, relax and plan out what you have to do that day. Keeping a planner is always helpful in remembering which trips and tasks really need to be accomplished.
- Forget the things that aren't prioritized for the day. They can wait.
- Decide what to prioritize byyourgoals and values, not by what a magazine, website, or your perfectly coiffed neighbor says is appropriate. While it can be helpful to read and learn from others, always bear in mind that their situation, context, and standards may be very different from your own and they may be saying what they think people ought to do but not even practicing it themselves. Remove their conditions and admonishments from your head!
- Think about the things that matter most to you, such as being fit, having time to read to your children, getting back to work, cooking gourmet once a week, whatever.
- Use a vision board or a journal to document your priorities. Writing it down and drawing visual elements will help you to stay focused on what matters to you and will serve as a reminder of the direction you want your life to take. Keep it simple though!
Learn to say no, even if you once used to but have now forgotten.When women become moms, there is a tendency to feel a great sense of responsibility that can extend beyond the kids just through habit. And saying yes all the time becomes a bit of habit as you get used to tidying up after everyone else, answering immediately to requests (or demands), and being available for all the family and other people close to you, including your boss and that charming but rather nosy neighbor over the way. And in time, your availability and willingness to say yes tends to be taken for granted if you've forgotten to set limitations with others. If you're resenting saying yes once the word slips out, that's an indication that you need to reset your boundaries with others and begin again to assert your needs and balance the needs of others.
- Remember that saying yes to too many things and then not being able to meet your commitments will be viewed with greater disappointment than if you simply say no up front.
- There are ways of softening the blow, such as saying "Sorry, I can't help you with that right now. Maybe I will be free in 6 months though, so feel free to ask again." or "I'd love to help you out but I am already committed to three major functions and my kids have school camp this month. I can suggest a friend of mine whom I know would love to help though." And so forth.
- Give yourself the time and space to think before agreeing to commitments. Some of the reason for why women over-commit is because it's easier to say "yes" in the rush of the moment than to make explanations as to why not. Instead, replace the quick "yes" with a quick "I can't say right now. Let me get back to you on that."
- Read How to say no, How to say no to your boss, and How to know when to say no, and How to say no to a coworker for more ideas.
Be in the moment.Staying in the present, focused on the role relevant to the moment, can be difficult if you're juggling roles. Yet, it is vital to do this to minimize stress and making the most of the time. While this will take practice, it is definitely worth the effort. Basically, make a decision to be the role you have for the time of day. So, before work, you're mom and revel in the mom chores. At work, enjoy your working day; rest reassured that you've made the right care, schooling and after-school choices for your children as women have done for time immemorial. Once you get home, remove your work clothes and be mom again, completely. Put away the work manuals, the phone, the emails and concentrate fully on the mom role. Later at night, when the kids are in bed, focus on your self time and spouse time, in the role of self-nurturer and lover.
- If there is work that you had to bring home, allot an hour to it and no more. If work bleeds into your home-life consistently, question its value to you at this point in your life. It may be a very hard choice but your kids won't stay kids forever but the work, well it'll always keep piling up in the same manner.
Avoid judging yourself.This step relates back to trying to multi-task and do too much, and failing. Many women who find themselves in this situation have a tendency to judge themselves harshly and blame themselves for being inadequate, disorganized, and not good enough at mothering. All of this is more self-delusion. You are a good mother and you are a good person; what you have done to yourself is added more than you can manage to your to-do list and forgot to realize that having children is a big game changer. The person you were before children (the one who could pull all-nighters to get the report in on time and could then turn up to work reasonably coherent) is no longer there (and with good reason); the person you are now is one whose day is determined by the pull of the needs and demands of children. This means that no plan will go accordingly. Your best allies are now: flexibility, acceptance, and a releasing of perfectionism. If you accept that things may not go according to plan, prepare for plans B, C, and D, and even for plan E which involves abandonment of all plans and simply going with the flow!
Talk honestly with other women.Talking to one another about life's events matters. This is not the preschool choosing, boss venting, makeup preferences, or house buying kinds of talk. This is about major life events women go through. There are no manuals that come with major life changing events. However, there are very honest and good biographies around from many women who have been through such events as: the shock of working in male influenced environments after gender-free university life, the shock of life post-birth changes including juggling a career and/or full-time home life, the mental health challenges such as depression that can creep up on you unawares, the challenges presented by affairs and/or divorce, and the sheer unexpectedness of menopausal changes that hit mid-mothering, etc. Reading about other women's experiences will help you to realize you're not alone and that it is better that women talk about these issues than to pretend they do not exist. You can then use your reading knowledge to open up to other women about your experiences and to gently inquire after their concerns and experiences as well. Set the example for them feel comfortable around and you'll have some very eye-opening and supportive conversations.
- Being honest means being honest. If you start comparing yourself to other mothers and finding yourself lacking against what you perceive about their lives, you are falling into the trap of believing appearances. While they may seem like they've got it all together, you really don't know and it's unkind to yourself to imagine that you lack the skills or abilities of other mothers. The simple answer is to accept that you're the way you are and not to compare yourself to other mothers. Remember that your kids loveyou, not other moms!
Look after your physical health.Allowing yourself to become run down impacts both you and your family and it's no fun having to keep going while you're exhausted and unwell. Minor health issues can become major ones if left unattended and allowed to grow out of control, and you'll be of no help to anyone if you get a chronic illness.
- Exercise regularly by choosing a form of exercise that you love and that gives you some thinking space, from walking the dog to kickboxing in the local gym. Mark your exercise breaks in your diary and be sure to keep them.
- Eat a nutritious diet that is tailored to your needs. Whether you're pregnant, breastfeeding, working long hours, doing hard physical labor, or typing away at a desk, your nutritional needs will be specific to your situation and if you're not sure what's best, have a quick talk about it with your doctor. There are plenty of good books and websites that can fill you in on the basics of good eating habits.
- Investigate any need for multi-vitamins or other supplements. Some mothers find it helpful to give their children a vitamin supplement and take one themselves at the same time. However, a well-balanced diet should meet most vitamin and other nutritional requirements unless you have particular issues. Speak to your doctor about such needs.
- Get plenty of sleep. While your sleep will be broken during the newborn stage, ensure that adequate sleep is paramount for you during your mothering years. Sleep helps you gain a sense of perspective, rejuvenates your appearance, and helps you to think much more clearly about everything. And, of course, it helps improve your energy levels.
Look after your mental health.Anxiety, worries, depression, and stress disorders are real mental health issues that you might face as a full-time mom with many responsibilities. It is very important that you donotneglect to take care of such issues when they arise because they are as debilitating as physical illnesses and can have physical impacts on your health long-term too. Not all mothers are aware that their general, long-lived sense of unhappiness, unease, and sadness could be sourced in depression, stress, or anxiety and sadly such women can tend to blame themselves for not being adequate or strong enough to pull through the "blues". Never blame yourself! If you are experiencing more than a week of constant sadness, blue moods, feeling down, and disliking yourself, see a doctor to talk through your feelings and concerns. A life lived in a mental fog and self-blame is a half life with little joy and every mother deserves to enjoy her children, relationships, and work, so do not deny yourself the possibility of having a more enjoyable life.
Welcome those who support you.Asking for help can be hard when you feel like you're "it" but it's an essential skill for a mom. If you're uncomfortable reaching out for help with immediate family and friends for whatever reason, consider asking for help from organizations specifically set up to help moms, such as groups for moms and babies or toddlers, sports groups, mothering groups, school groups, and even activities such as book clubs run by all-moms. Wherever you can source support, do so and make use of it without guilt.
- Get into a good habit early on of accepting babysitting requests and offering to babysit in return. The relief you will get from being able to go out when your kids are being cared for by someone else will be tremendously refreshing.
- Let your own parents and parents-in-law do their grandparenting. Indeed, it is worth putting up with bossiness or overbearing attitudes from them, provided they're good with your children and they're happy to take care of them. In this case, put aside your personal grievances about their attitudes toward you or the way you keep house, etc., and just let them give you occasional breaks from the children. Someone did it for them when they were parents, and some day, you'll do it for your children, so allow the trend to continue unbroken.
Remember who you are.Regardless of your working role, your SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) role, your mothering role in general, you are still you. You are a woman first, and a smart, caring, and thoughtful being with as much right as anyone else on the planet to lead a fulfilled life. There will be tough times during mothering (nobody ever goes into enough details about just how tough sometimes) but there will also be amazing moments, great rewards, incredible intimacy, and deep love. All of these things reassure the majority of mothers that the journey is worthwhile. And it is likely to be a far more enjoyable journey when you can continue to reassure yourself of your own self-worth and personhood. Keep at least one thing in your life that is just for you (and this does not mean work), like a hobby, a regular outing, a meet-up with girlfriends, etc. and do it with clockwork regularity. Rediscovering your essence through motherhood is not only essential for your own well-being but is an example to your children to also remain true to themselves, and to respect that all mothers are individuals in their own right. Celebrate yourself regularly and you'll stay a whole and reassured individual.
QuestionHow can I find "me" time when I don't have a helper?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAt nap time while the baby sleeps have some "you" time. A hot soak in the tub will do you wonders.Thanks!
- Have a bath at least once a week. Simply lie in it, luxuriate and dream about the world. You deserve to relax, so shut the door and have your spouse take care of the kids during your blissful bath break, with strict orders that nobody is to interrupt mom's bath!
- Take at least 30 minutes to an hour every day for you to cool off and relax. Pick up that book you've never had the time to read. Take a bath or listen to calming music.
- If you are organized it is much easier to live life worry free. Keep all the bills sorted and organized in an easy work area. That way when the time comes to pay them it won't be such a struggle. But for some women, the thought of getting organized can cause a pit to form in the stomach immediately; don't stress your way into being more organized. Give yourself plenty of time to develop systems that work for you rather than thinking you're a failure because you haven't got organization in place by next Sunday night. Good organization can take time and it's also a bit of trial and error to find out what works for you and within your family's context. Give yourself several months to change ways and institute new systems, and as you gradually ease into the changes, you'll like the ease of organization so much that it will soon become second nature and much smoother to keep improving your systems.
- Family time. Yes, movie nights are fun, but are you really spending time with your family if your eyes are glued to the boob tube? Pick a sport or board game you can play instead. Then you can interact with your family members and enjoy this time together.
- Get a timer! Pick up a cooking timer at your local grocery store. Timers are an easy way to remind your family they have somewhere to go. Also when they need to stop playing with electronics and do their homework.
- Enjoy slow eating again. While there are some times where you must grab your food and go, it is important that when you eat, that you also try to relax. It takes your stomach 20 minutes to realize it is full, so take slow bites and small sips.
- Recognize that your desire to be viewed as a "good mother" reinforces the moralistic self-judgment mentality that also concludes you are a "bad mother" when you have missed the mark you have set for yourself. Remember that the point is not whether anyone, including yourself, concludes you are "good" or "bad." Such a reward or punishment mentality (Isn't that frequently found in dog-training programs? hmmm...) distracts us from waking up the next morning and starting a new day with enthusiasm and expectancy and openness. Remember that a reward or punishment mentality is simply one way to give ourselves the very important feedback we need to give ourselves direction in life. We need to be able to make distinctions between path A or path B. We need to be able to make a choice that sees reality for what it is. Moralistic judgments of "good and bad" obscure reality with a narrative that powerfully addicts us to external motivators at the expense of a deeper experience of acting from our internal self-connection and self-acceptance. Isn't self-acceptance what you want for your children as well as yourself? Practice breathing deeply in, dull down the judgmental brain, sharpen up the glad expectancy of making distinctions in a life that has its own meaning and reason to grow us without resorting to punishment or reward. Let's talk more about this, ok?
- Never obsess over small faults or problems, things could always be much worse. Spend plenty of time laughing (watch comedies, read funny books), and be sure to immerse yourself in history reading now and then. History has a wonderful way of giving us great perspective on what we're going through in today's world!
Video: Top 10 tips to rediscover yourself in motherhood
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