The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…and round… and round… and round…do you ever feel like shouting “stop the bus I wanna get off!” ?
For a stay-at-home mum, life with a toddler can sometimes feel a bit like Groundhog day. There are two questions that come up a lot, both in my own reflections and in conversations with other mums on the same bus…er boat… you know what I mean.
How do we know when it’s time to restore and recharge our own batteries?
How can we lift ourselves out of the drudgery of the schedules and routines that our kids love, but that can drive most mummy’s with a brain stir crazy and craving a new adventure?
For me there are some tell tale signs that the reserves are running low and it’s time to let the balance of nurturing swing back in my direction for a while:
My fuse gets shorter. When the tanks are full, there is a seemingly endless flow of patience and positive regard for my little angel. When it’s time to top up, even little accidents like spilling a glass of water have me clenching my jaws in exasperation.
There have been a few times when I’ve got to boiling point and beyond, often helped along by a delightful episode of PMT – when in all honesty, anyone expecting a rational response to any mildly stressful situation should probably steer well clear for a few days, and before approaching should make it clear that they have chocolate, or baked goods, or preferably both.
Joking aside, (anyone who has experienced it knows PMT is no joke) getting to boiling point isn’t helpful, not for me, not for my little one and certainly not for my long-suffering hubby.
I am a firm believer that shouting at children is never ok. If we get to the point where we have lost it, too much damage is done. We let ourselves down, we frighten our children and if we are not careful we can erode even the most steadfast of relationships. That doesn’t mean I beat myself up when I do fall off the wagon and throw my toys both literally and figuratively out of the pram, but when I do I use it as a warning sign to tell me that something has gone wrong in the balance.
Better perhaps to spot the pre-warning signs. It’s likely that everyones’ will be slightly different. Here’s a few of my pre-boiling point symptoms..maybe you can relate
I get tense, physically. I start to notice aches and pains, I may get a slight headache, most likely from the tension or from the fact that I’ve not taken care to stay properly hydrated. This starts a physical chain reaction in my body that, without immediate attention, often results in the next symptom.
I start eating more. I find myself snacking on high carb, high sugar foods to keep my energy going and can find myself in a crazy blood sugar balancing act that could probably have been remedied much earlier with a glass of water or some healthy protein.
I withdraw from friends/family. If i’m not careful, when I start to feel overwhelmed, the things that usually keep me sane, like regular connection with my friends and family start to get neglected. With no vent for the steam building up, this only serves to bring me closer to boiling point.
I spend more time indoors. I find myself absorbed in domestic chores that fill those times when I might usually be romping about in the woods or connecting with the wildlife in our garden. I have, for as long as I can remember, found the winter months painfully difficult as I am someone who needs a lot of light, so being outdoors isn’t simply a nice-to-have, it’s a means of survival. It can mean the difference between feeling like anything is possible, or that the whole world is collapsing in on itself and taking me down with it.
My internal dialogue changes. I start to notice that I am talking to myself unhelpfully. I may find that I am replaying negative events rather than staying focused on the present moment as I am when things are in balance .
There are of course some obvious remedies to this list; stay hydrated, stay connected, eat a good diet, spend time in nature every day. But these things may just get one back on an even keel. What I hear time and time again from my mummy friends is that an even keel is not enough.
So how do we elevate our mothering to something that is more joyful, more stimulating, more fulfilling and ultimately more nurturing for ourselves and our children?
This is a big question with so many possible answers and I will keep asking this question as long as I am a mum. What comes to mind immediately is one of the first questions I find myself asking when facing any challenge or decision – what is most important?
Get to the heart of what matters most to you and consciously build your life with your family on the foundations of those values. We are spoilt for choice these days. There are so many possibilities and demands on our time that we may very easily find that all our time is taken up with things that are not really significant to us, that don’t move us emotionally or get in touch with who it is we really are or want to be in the world. Living in accordance with our values leads to a greater sense of wellbeing and fulfilment.
Find out what is most important to you in your role as a parent and make sure you are incorporating that into the way you live each day. For example, I can find real joy in doing simple crafts with my daughter, cooking with her or playing outside with sticks making dens because creativity, healthy food and connecting with nature are core values for me. Because I value a clean and clear space, but I also value fun and imagination, I can happily spend time creating fun ways to clean the windows with my little helper and her invisible mouse (windows squeak or didn’t you know?) without it feeling too much like a chore.
I also have core values of flexibility, freedom and service which require a little more effort to fulfil when I have a little one at my hip all day, but we are working on it.
I wonder what’s most important to you and how you find creative ways of living your values with a young family?