As a mum, we are classically guilty of putting ourselves last. Historically, it's what generations of mothers before have done and many still do today. As a mum of a 5-year-old and a 5-month-old, I have been super guilty of putting my family’s needs before my own more often than not; the playdates, the baby groups, the laundry, the food shopping, the ironing, after-school clubs, the pets, birthday parties, PTA events... the list goes on and on. And what ultimately happens, at the end of the day when the kids are eventually in bed - you collapse on the sofa, half asleep with a G&T and put a tick in the box that you are one step closer to the weekend.
Now, don't get me wrong, life with 2 young kids is absolutely full on. I know. I get it. I EXPERIENCE it every single day. And it amazes even me sometimes at how fast my days fly by and within the blink of an eye it's 3pm and time to do the school run and the chaos of the day has taken over. But, I want to tell you something important Mama... are you listening? Are your eyes open and your ears primed? I hope so...
You need to put YOU first. Yes, you heard my right the first time. You need to put your needs first. Before anyone else’s.
Why am I telling you this? Because Mama, you need to realise that if you are not inspired, fit, nourished and rested that you are absolutely no use to anyone, and you will become ill. You will become frustrated and fed up at the lack of time you get for yourself. Your body will feel tired and exhaustion will kick in. Your immune system won't be strong enough to fight off colds and bugs. When I think about this, I liken it to the thing that they say on plane journeys when the crew run through the safety briefing; the whole "fit your own mask before helping others" and initially I never really understood that whole concept. But now I have 2 kids, have bags under my eyes that you could pack enough clothes for a month back-packing around the world and have been guilty of eating breakfast at one in the afternoon, I ABSOLUTELY get it.
Our health, well-being and happiness is all we have. And I know that sounds a bit hippy-happy but it's true. As a parent and a partner, your responsibility is to be THERE for your children and your other half. To be mentally and physically present for them. If you're tired, grouchy, ill or eat poorly, you aren't able to be that person. Now, I know what many of you are thinking - "I just don't have the time to make radical changes right now. I'm so busy." I know, I know. Change is hard. We are creatures of habit and old habits take a long time to shift. And yes, I'm talking directly to you Mama, who is drinking your 6th cup of tea already and it's only lunchtime!
So, I've compiled a list of 6 small changes that you can make right now that will make huge changes to how you feel inside and out.
Read or listen to something inspirational or uplifting for 10 minutes each day
I used to love to read a good book, but now that I have 2 young feral children, sitting down with a good book and a hot cup of tea seems like a distant memory of another place, in a galaxy far far away (you get my drift yes?) so I now devour audio books. Usually while I'm pushing a pram and walking a dog/picking up dog poop. Multi-taking at its best. Listen to whatever gets your juices going - it could be an uplifting podcast, a fantastic autobiography or even something motivational from the internet. It really doesn't matter... pick whatever will leave you feeling uplifted.
Workout for 30 minutes each day
This for me was a game changer. After the birth of my first child, I neglected my eating and prioritising my health. Little sleep and crappy nutrition meant that I gained a lot of weight and was ultimately miserable. I reached a point of feeling completely fed up and knowing that something had to change and so I made a commitment to myself to workout at home, for 30 minutes or less each day, and to do that consistently. The results? I lost just under 30lb in 2 months. I was physically stronger that I could ever remember, and I oozed confidence like you wouldn't believe. And no, you don't need fancy workout gear or expensive trainers to work out at home. Nor do you need to worry what everyone else thinks of you as you might do if you go to the gym. So, draw those living room curtains, get your mis-matching sweat pants and old t-shirt on and literally sweat your ass off like no one is watching. Because NO ONE IS WATCHING!
Eat breakfast and lunch at the right time
Now my 30lb weight loss wasn't just down to getting hot and sweaty in my living room every day. No. That was just part of it. Really, being honest it was the smaller part of it. Most it was down to nutrition. Nothing gimmicky. No magic pills, wraps, detoxes or juicing fads. No. Just simple meal planning and eating every few hours, so 5-6 times a day. Planning meals in advance and meal prepping like Boss. Eating little and often will most definitely stop you getting that feeling of wanting to eat everything in sight. Including the kids Haribo's or leftover Easter eggs. I know the reality. Just saying.
Clock off when the kids go to bed (or as soon as you can afterwards)
Now this is going to sound somewhat radical and perhaps a little rebellious. But once the kids are in bed - do not start cleaning, ironing or doing anything that isn't of direct benefit to yourself or your wellbeing. What do I mean? I mean, take a bath, read a book or work on your plans and goals for that dream you keep thinking about. This will more than likely mean that areas of the house are not tidy or clean. But do you know what I've come to realise? All those chores and household jobs will continue to be there day after day. Your mental wellbeing and self-care will gradually become eroded however if you don't take some time for yourself on a daily basis.
Go to bed early
I used to think that staying up late in the evening was my way of claiming some 'me' time once the kids were fast asleep. However, what does not mix well is a post-11pm bedtime and a baby that doesn't sleep through and a 5-year-old that sometimes likes to come and stand over you in the middle of the night prodding your head. Going to bed early, and when I say early, I mean pre-10pm at first feels hard. In all honesty, I was reluctant to do it as I felt I was giving up 'me' time. But I came to realise that no one likes grumpy ass Mama in the morning who hasn't slept enough (I also don't like grumpy ass me either) and I had an epiphany only recently: going to bed early IS 'me' time. I am giving myself a gift of rest and to wake up feeling at least 50% human and able to string a sentence together. That my friends, isn't giving up 'me' time, it's one of the greatest forms of self-care - rest.
Learn to say 'No'
When my husband reads this, he will laugh his ass off. For the simple reason that saying 'no' is not something I am good at. I like to be busy, to be sociable and I don't want to get a case of FOMO. So, when someone asks me for a coffee, or to help with this or that, I find it difficult to just say 'no'. Even if I am choc-a-bloc in my diary with other commitments, I try to squeeze far too much in for fear of not wanting to let people down. And what happens inevitably? I realise that I have too much on and end up letting them down! Cue raised stress levels and feeling like a failure, bad friend, bad school mum etc. If I'd just been honest from the get-go and said 'I'd really love to do XYZ, but I'm just super tied up at the moment' it would save everyone a lot of bother and I would feel more zen. In this instance, DON'T take a leaf out my book. I need to take my own advice here!