I’m a giver by nature. In other words, I get a real buzz out of helping others. I suppose that’s what made me choose to be a teacher, then a school chaplain, a Street Pastor and a MOPS leader. They are all roles in which you can love other people, look out for them, and look after them. I find that when I ask someone, “How are you?”, they tell me their life story. And I’m happy to listen.
However, being a giver comes at a cost. You need, at some point, to stop, remove yourself from people (without seeming rude or dismissive) and recharge. I actually struggle to do that but I’ve learnt that, if I don’t, I’ll burn myself out and then be of no use to anyone. And I won’t be much fun to live with either!
Over the past few years, I’ve put a fair amount of effort into thinking about what I enjoy doing when I’m not looking after others. I’ve had to overcome the challenge of considering that to be quite selfish and, instead, see that it is essential.
Motherhood is fairly selfless (if you’re doing it properly). You have to think of your children, and partner or husband, all of the time. And mums tend to be the ones who make sure that the household keeps rolling along smoothly. Does Belinda have a clean skirt for tomorrow? Do we have enough milk for breakfast? Is the bin out on the curbside?
So, what makes us happy tends to get shelved. The quilting we used to do? Shelved! Reading novels? Shelved! Going for a morning run? Shelved!
Yes, mothering matters – but for you to mother well, you also need to create spaces in your life to nurture your joy. So you can keep on being the best mum you can be. This may require you to be intentional about making it happen! And to not go through the motherly guilts! You are more than your mothering, and we need to remind ourselves of the things we enjoy, apart from parenting.
This may mean you need a conversation with your husband or partner on how you can carve time out of your mothering schedule to achieve this (any excuse for a date night, hey?! Maybe that’s what will make you happy!). If you are a single mum, make sure you reach out to your support crew – your parents, or your close friends who “get” you, or an older friend who dotes on your kids!
For me, when my kids were very young, I would have breakfast in a local cafe on a Saturday morning whilst my sons were minded by my husband (good quality daddy time!). Or my neighbour and I would take turns minding our kinder kids, so the other parent could go and have some child-free time (shopping, perhaps?). Sometimes I would take the kids to an indoor playcentre so I could have a hot cup of coffee and read over my study notes. Or I will take the dog for a brisk walk around the block, before hearing all about my kids’ days at school. Or play classical music on the car radio (or Spotify) whilst I drive home from work. Maybe it means getting up a bit earlier in the morning to read your favourite book before the kids wake, or go for a run with your friend, or to an early morning gym session? Whatever works for you!
Just this week, I bought some delightfully scented body wash – not a radical thing in itself, but it really makes me feel that little bit more special! Perhaps for you, it’s having a cup of tea with a favourite cup and saucer? Even something small each day, done for ourselves, can help give us that boost to get through the rest of the day.
So – how are you going to create some space in your day today?