Justifying Time to Yourself as a Parent

How do you justify time to yourself as a parent and what does it mean for our health?

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As I sit here writing this, I have had to justify this time for myself to write and to convince my mind that the rest of my to do list can wait. That for me to do what I want to do in the moments while my little one sleeps today; that I 'allow' myself this time to write. To write for myself and to write for you in the hope that this may help any other mum's going through a similar journey with their own mindsets.  

I have always been someone to put others first and it came as no surprise when I got pregnant that I would need to sacrifice a whole host of different things to become a mother and that my baby would come before everything else. There were some things I expected, some things that have taken a while to get the hang of and some things I have really had to work hard at to accept. 

I expected to change my diet through pregnancy and although I was sad I couldn't eat brie or pate over christmas it was easier than I expected. Cutting out chocolate and dairy from my diet as my baby was cows milk protein intollerant although intially tough got easier and easier. The sleepless nights and the initial problems with breastfeeding and the challenges of working out bathtime and bedtime routines, the 'what to pack in the changing bag' and the endless conversations about the colour of poo were all part of what was mostly expected about parenthood.    

What I didn't expect was;

  • How emotionally and mentally drained I would feel and how that would differ one day to another
  • How severly I had underestimated the amount of mental space and energy I would have to take care of myself and my needs
  • The extent of how little time it would feel like I had and how much pressure I would put on myself to achieve the impossible
  • I didn't prepare myself for the battle with my own mind and emotions daily and sometimes by the hour

We are physically geared from the moment we concieve to prioritise these beautiful little ones over our own needs. Our organs physically move out of the way to accommodate them and its often what we let happen to our mental space and time too. From the moment they arrive we spend all of our mental energy thinking or worrying about what is best for them, this milk or which spoon, these nappies or that new weaning recipe, most days not taking a minute to sit down, let alone thinking about what is best for us. It's no wonder we are the last thing on our own agendas. 

The impact of us not taking care of our needs long term not only affects our physical wellbeing not addressing aches and pains (likely caused by endless rocking, side carrying, neck craning while feeding and those interesting nappy changes in the strangest of places tend to cause bad posture and backache galore), fatigue, headaches and higher susceptibility to colds and flu. But also on our mental wellbeing and our mindsets, causing brain fog, low moods, affecting memory recall and in some cases causing stress/anxiety and a deflated sense of self image, the list unfortunately goes on. Sounds exhausting doesn't it. 

What I have learnt from my work coaching parents, spending time with mum friends and first hand as a parent myself is so many more of us than I realised have a similar thought patterns, emotions and mindsets as parents. We are so hard on ourselves and most of us question along with everything else any time we allow ourselves, somehow needing to justify to ourselves there is a valid reason, feeling guilty (mum guilt)  if we do something solely for us and many worrying whether someone will mention it or probe into why.

I know some mums who already arm themselves with an excuse ahead of time, like they need to justify it so no-one will say they are a bad mum. Worse yet many of us have already told ourselves we are not worth it and it doesn't matter about us as long as everyone else is ok! If there is anything we are winning gold at as mums it's the 'berating ourselves category' and 'putting everyone else first', we have those ones down!  

When I thought about the amount of times I had heard this from mums and new parents it got me all fired up and I was trying to work out a way to help when I realised three things:

  • I help my clients to create the space and time to look after their mental and physical wellbeing every time we step into a session so why not work with more parents to support them with their journey
  • Having my own coaching sessions was more needed now that I was a mum than ever before as there was so much more mentally and emotionally going on for me so continuing to have my own coach was essential 
  • I had the power and control over my mindset and my behaviours, life wasn't just happening to me I had a choice in it and how I handled it 

So I thought about what would help and I put some of the coaching techniques I had learnt to good use on myself and I started to create my own. This helped me to take a step back and become a bit more aware of why I was so mentally fatigued and wasn't taking care of my own needs as well as I could be. 

  1. I took the time to write down all my initial expectations of motherhood and what I would be like as a mum, what I felt I 'should' be able to achieve (this was a very very long list!) and how I thought it would feel
  2. I recognised I had originally put 'should' and tried to work out where these thoughts of 'should' came from. I realised some of this came from the picture in my mind that I had unknowingly created around what the perfect mother is or should be.
  • Alot of this came from experiences I had seen from other mothers in the media
  • Being around friends or family who I aspired to be like as mums
  • Those mums I had seen in the supermarket or play parks that I was certain I would never be
  • Some of this came from my values about what I thought was right or wrong
  • Or from my childhood and how I was taught/guided and wanted to take forward with my kids
  • And some of this was pure high expectations of wanting to be the best I could be and take on the world at the same time

    3. I did the 'Wheel of Life' exercise which helped me to work out how many things I had going on at the same time and all the areas I was trying to simultaniously take on and achieve and this opened my eyes and brought me to the question of what was realistic for anyone to achieve. 

     4. The 'Being Kind to Yourself' exercise run through our facebook group Motherhood Mindset** allowed me to start thinking about what was acceptable for me and how could I not only be more realistic with what I was asking of myself but what I needed personally to be able to achieve in all these areas and also what I need to believe to make this possible.  

     5. I created my own permission slip for when I was questioning whether I 'should', 'could' or deserved to do something for me I would give myself permission in a physical slip (This is my own thing and hasn't be honed but I will write a short post on it soon if anyone wants to give it a try)  I also gave myself permission to fail, to be tired, to feel however I felt, recognise it and move on when I was ready. 

I would invite you to do the same, for me it felt empowering to realise I had control to change my mindset, to work with a coach to explore what support I needed in my journey as a mum and to build awareness on how my thoughts and behaviours could affect my little one and my family. 

Since I feel like my mind is clearer, I know what is taking up my mental energy, I can better communicate to my husband what I need for myself and need from him. (He has also been through his own process of finding these things out for himself) 

I know its going to be an ongoing process, already today I have had thoughts that I'm not good enough or ticked enough off the home, work, to do list, spent enough time with my little one or mastered the ability to get to my point quick enough.However, I know now will get there. 

And so can you, give yourself the time to be you and believe you are worth it you will be giving yourself the best opportunity to not only master motherhood but also to own your mindset.

***Motherhood mindset is a facebook support group started by mums, for mums of all stages, bringing coaching techniques and activities to help you explore and develop your mindset, a place to be supported by other mums and explore who you are and how you want to develop in the next stage of you. If your interested in joining or supporting our mums - just contact me below and we can get you involved. 

# I work with parents and individuals on their mindset, behaviours and goals to support them to become the best versions of themselves and rediscover and redefine who they are. 

Jen Livings

Professional and Personal Coach , Astratto Ltd

I believe coaching is the one of the most powerful processes anyone can go through, it's remarkable what happens when someone truly has the time and space to think for themselves without distraction and to explore a subject without feeling judged or at risk, for me being able to create that environment as a coach is so important.