Before I became a mum self care was something I just did without really giving it much thought. I’d always start the day with a cycle into work and a good breakfast. On manic days I tried to take time out to eat lunch by the river to escape for a bit and recharge. When I was tired I’d make sure I had an easy day at the weekend to catch up with myself.
And then I became a mum and suddenly all my energies went into taking care of this tiny human who needed me night and day.
I found myself eating snatched and hurried meals standing up while rocking my baby. I sometimes didn’t drink enough because I was breastfeeding my baby and couldn’t get up to get a glass of water. And when he FINALLY napped I couldn’t relax because I was so wound up and anxious.
Balancing self care as a Mum
I often spent that time just staring at the mess surrounding me. Thinking I should do the washing up or tidy up or at least use time to phone a friend or read a book or just get up and do - something. But feeling too weary and overwhelmed to get up and do anything at all I mostly survived watching episodes of Glee (which looking back was probably the best thing - nothing like a sing song to lift the spirits!) And then my baby would wake and cry and I would lurch back to my mummy duties feeling a little more stretched and a little more fractious.
I suffered from severe postnatal depression and anxiety after I gave birth to my son.
In my darkest days I had to rely on my husband and my family to make sure I looked after my own basic needs as well as his. As I slowly recovered, I began to understand how important it was to take care of myself so that I could also be a better mother.
Now I make sure I put self care to the top of my list (well ok, I try to - it doesn’t always happen!)
As a busy working mum (I’m cofounder of Happity.co.uk which helps connect parents through baby & toddler classes) I know how hard it can be to make time to look after your own needs. There’s always something else that you need to do. Or a small child demanding your attention. But, even on the busiest days I make it my priority to take some time just to breathe and to recharge my batteries.
Some days that might be something as simple as stepping outside to stand on the step and feel the sun on my face.
What does self care even mean?
Self care can mean different things for different people. For me I find that going for an early morning run sets me up for the day ahead. I switch my phone to airplane mode every evening. And take time to do cross stitch, after my son has gone to bed. These daily practices really make a difference to my mental health. Whenever I miss out on them I notice that I feel a bit more stressed and anxious.
Back in the early days of motherhood I felt selfish any time I spent time away from my baby. Especially if it was to do something for myself.
Now I never feel selfish for doing so. It means my son, my husband, my and my work get the best of me and not the rest of me.
In fact we have brought self care practises in at Happity.
We had a much needed pamper and relax day back in March when things got super busy with classes reopening - it was lovely to relax with the team of mums who, like me, had been juggling homeschooling, work, and life in a pandemic!
We also have a “moment of calm” at the end of our Monday Morning Team Meeting to set us up for the week. This week we did box breathing, last week we wrote about what we are grateful for. Nothing huge, but just to set us up well. We also encourage the team to get some morning sunshine, read a book, or whatever they find helps them to get a bit of self-care everyday.
So whatever your “mum situation” is, I’d like to encourage you to think of one thing you could do a day to ensure you keep getting your dose of “oxygen” so you can look after your family the best you can. Be it deep breaths in the sunshine, grabbing 10 mins of exercise, or getting lost in a great book. You are worth it, and your family is worth it too.
About the author
Mum of one, Emily co founded Happity after suffering loneliness and Post Natal Depression. Before motherhood Emily studied at Oxford University, worked as a Strategy Consultant, and then spent nearly 5 years in Supply Chain Management at innocent drinks. But she found the transition from career girl to motherhood very difficult - particularly feeling lonely. So she is now passionate about connecting parents through baby and toddler classes. Emily is also an advocate for maternal mental health, working tirelessly to reduce the stigma and raise awareness.