It’s Friday night: 7:40pm. I’m sitting in my car somewhere the other side of Perry Barr and it’s pouring with rain. I’m cold because the engine is off. I still have 20 minutes until Neave finishes netball and I’ve been here for an hour. In that time I’ve drafted an Instagram post, watched a video a friend asked me to check over, sent some messages, done an online shop, lost myself in Pinterest for a while. All this has reminded me – not that I really need reminding – that a huge part of motherhood is sacrificing ourselves for our children. A sacrifice that is kind of ok – stay posted before you get a bit grumpy about that! I’ll admit that it’s a deal we unwittingly do. I never ever appreciated or anticipated that motherhood would mean giving up so many big chunks of myself at different times of my life even if I didn’t want to. I didn’t realise that I’d feel guilty so often, as well as resentful and angry too. The sacrifice is real and essential because our babies always need us and we love them. What’s not ok is being lost to this sacrifice. You must find BALANCE. As I sit here, I’m pondering how much we mums really compromise and give up for our families, and yes, it’s a lot. It’s loads. There’s a tonne of stuff that I’d rather be doing on a Friday evening. Sitting in my freezing cold car in the rain is not one of them …… but it’s all a balance and a compromise and that is okay. I won’t do this next week. I don’t really know what I want to tell you in my note this week. I think it’s to remind you that yes, the sacrifice is real and yes, it is easy to get lost and yes, you probably do feel unseen, unappreciated and taken for granted. We all feel like that and perhaps that’s okay sometimes, but what’s not okay is to feel like this all of the time and to let the resentment build up without telling anyone how you’re feeling. What’s not okay is to allow yourself to be caught in a cycle of assuming that you are ‘just’ a mum and that because you are ‘just’ a mum, it’s okay for you to feel put upon, unseen and taken for granted. That’s not acceptable. What is okay, is for you to stand up for yourself, want time for yourself and to expect other people to take a share of the load. Parenting is not for you to do alone. Perhaps your partner can’t help that much – I get that, Keri has always worked long hours and I simply cannot rely on him being able to be somewhere at a certain time. We don’t have family close by either. I’ve had to work out other things like a lady who picks the girls up for me and friends who help. Giving up being a lawyer was a big part of creating balance for me because I was absolutely knackered and had no time for myself in that world. Me changing my career also created breathing space for us a family. I know how lucky I am to have been able to do that. My hours are no less but more flexible. What you can do for balance:
- ask for help – please don’t feel bad about asking for help delegate where you can
- do your very best to stop feeling guilty … about anything and everything schedule in time to do absolutely nothing – with or without your family
- create time to make time, as in, plan a little. Work out what you need and where you need to be during the week and see if anyone can help. I find that just sorting things in my head helps me to feel more in control and less anxious.
- set only realistic expectations
- celebrate all of your successes no matter how small they might feel. Feeding your family is a success. Making it out of the house is a success. Getting everyone to clean their teeth is a success.
- think outside of the box if childcare is an issue such as a part-time nanny, friends, helpful teenager, someone from nursery.
- communicate really well with your partner and don’t be afraid to ask for time to yourself. Doing the shopping on your own is wonderful but it’s not proper, top quality me time. Let them know if you’re starting feel overwhelmed. Don’t bottle things up.
- be brave enough to find the right balance for you. Balance in your life will look different to balance in mine. It will look different to your sister’s life and your other friends.
- in any moment ask yourself ‘What’s most important right now?’ and ruthlessly prioritise. Do you need to do the washing up or can you lie next to your baby and rest? Do you have to cook tea now or can you all go out for walk and have a take-away treat?
- break up the routine by doing something different. Anything. Do a jigsaw with your partner instead of watching TV. Call your friend instead of texting her.
- rely on other mums. That’s what we’re here for.
- accept that the perfect balance is really hard to find. Finding one that works for you – even if it’s a little wonky at times – is your goal.
I completely understand that it’s not an easy one but you have to start somewhere right? Grab a pen and answer these questions. They will help clear some of the jumble of thoughts you’re having right now: 1. How are you honestly feeling about the balance in your life at this time? What’s the effect on your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing? 2. What’s most important to you in each area of your life right now? Be specific. Not I need rest but I need to get to bed an hour earlier three nights a week. 3. Which of those things are you currently neglecting? 4. What other things are you currently investing time and effort in, that are NOT important right now? 5. What are the conflicts and what can you do to find balance? 6. What support do you need? These are the questions I check in with all the time because I really hate feeling overwhelmed and resentful. I’m happy to make the sacrifice but only really happy when I feel that it’s balanced. I’m not sure perfect balance actually exists but there is definitely an ok one. Finding your ok one is where you need to be. Life means that things tip one way and then the other. Staying somewhere in the middle is where you should be.