Feeling smothered? Even at the best of times, mums can feel smothered by the constant attention and neediness of their children. And as we are all acutely aware, this is not the best of times.
When we are confined to our homes, it can feel impossible to find space that is just ours- where no one is clinging to us, asking for our attention, or in need of our help. This is even more difficult for single mothers, or mothers whose partners are away for work.
Sadly, there are no relaxing retreats or days at the spa in our near future so how do we give ourselves the break we need?
Self-care and parenting
Clinical psychologist and respectful parenting therapist Dr Nanika Coor says “Self-care in parenting is about being your authentic self, focusing on collaboration rather than control, holding your boundaries and setting clear limits, taking short breaks when you need to recharge, speaking to yourself kindly instead of critically, being mindful, practising radical acceptance, prioritizing connection in your life.”
She recently offered this critical advice for parents on the Savvy Psychologist Podcast, which you may need to hear right now:
“If we’re not taking care of ourselves as parents, if we’re burned out, if we feel unheard, unseen, uncared for, and unacknowledged ourselves, we don’t have a very good chance of being able to give that to our children.
And it’s a vicious cycle – we give ourselves a hard time for not being the parents we hoped to be, which makes us feel worse, and then we parent from that place of feeling terrible about ourselves. The better we feel emotionally and interpersonally, the better we’re going to do as parents. So prioritizing the self-care that provides healing, well-being, and connection is going to set us up to do that.”
4 ways to reclaim your space
When it comes to self-care, it’s all about the little things. Here are some small things you can do to give yourself a much-needed break. Even if it’s brief, it’s worthwhile.
The importance of uninterrupted time to yourself cannot be understated. We know it can be difficult to acquire this when you’ve got kids who need help with homeschooling, a toddler destroying the house every time you turn your back, or a baby ready for a sleep but you have to prioritise your mental health in order to be useful to anybody else. There aren’t too many things that can’t wait for five minutes.
As often as you can, (whether this is once an hour or only a few times a day) take five minutes to yourself. Shut yourself in your room and have a cup of tea that you actually finish, read a chapter of a good book, call a friend, indulge in a local treat, check in with your chat groups, do a mini-meditation- whatever quick activity boosts your spirits enough to get you through until your next five minutes alone!
Keep working hours
When you’re working from home, it’s too easy to work all hours of the day- even if those hours are interrupted again and again. Do your best to set yourself certain hours you will work within, which allow for interruptions and then don’t work outside of these hours. This will help you from feeling as though you are always on call and mean the rest of the day is yours to divide up between you and your family.
When we begin to feel a bit bleh it can be harder and harder to build the enthusiasm and energy it requires to head out on a run, bike ride or bushwalk. Entice yourself with the reward of time to yourself.
Find uplifting music or a podcast that makes you laugh so you’re looking forward to not just being out of the house, but the emotional reprieve of embracing exercise, then let the many health benefits flow!
Until heading out for a massage is available to us again, start your morning with the quickest of full-body stretching routines. You’ll find plenty that take under 10 minutes and whatever demands your kids have will just have to wait until you’ve limbered up! Getting the blood flowing and feeling good from the minute you wake up will set you up for a better day.
Sick of the exercise you’ve been doing? Take up something new! If you’ve been running, try a boxing workout. If you’ve been bike riding, try a HIIT workout. If you’ve been walking, try a pilates workout or a dance workout. There’s a great list of workout channels here or you can search for something entirely new on Youtube.
Keep a baby-sitter in business
Any place you can’t escape begins to feel like a prison! Did you know that even during our current lockdown, local babysitting services are permitted to operate? So if you don’t have a partner or someone you are able to leave your kids with while you duck out for your essential shopping or exercise, hiring a babysitter is something you may like to consider.
We recommend the services of the qualified carers at Mummymetime. If you ask in our Mums of the Shire Facebook Group you’ll also find plenty of qualified babysitters, nannies and carers who may have found themselves out of work when parents were forced to work from home.
Just be sure to follow COVID-safe procedures to protect your family.
We hope you’re able to use the suggestions here to carve out a little personal space and self-care until we can all return to our usual vices!
Still feeling exhausted? Try these quick tips for tired mums.