I vividly remember a conversation with my counsellor when my daughters were quite small. It went something like this:
Me: It all feels so relentless. Will I ever get a break?
Her: Probably not. You are their mum and they are always going to need you.
Me: But I feel so tired all the time and I don’t think I can do this for the rest of my life.
Her: This is the Mum Gig, Mandy. It’s kind of what you signed up to.
Me: Yes, but the specific terms weren’t set out for me and I resent so much of it. I need a break. Where are the holiday days?!
Her: You know the answer. You do need a break. You’re not going to get a holiday but where can you get breaks?
This was a moment shifting conversation for me.
I was not going to get a holiday. I am always going to be needed by my girls and this is the Mum Gig I signed up to. Most of the time I love it so I’m going to have to take some positive actions and make some choices that mean I am getting breaks within what feels like chaos.
We are all responsible to ourselves. We have to take actions and make choices that create space around the relentlessness of motherhood. I made different choices that gave me the breaks I needed. I hope the things I did will give you some ideas about what might work for you.
I learned to treat myself differently
I took myself from always being at the bottom of the list to sometimes at the top. I booked and actually went to yoga classes. Did I feel guilty? Initially, yes, but not for long. Like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. I realised that the girls didn’t love me less and I had still done everything that needed to be done but the time for me was magical. It gave me that break.
I took up running
Living in a city means that I miss nature and wide open spaces. I also didn’t have a ‘thing’ I did that felt mine. I started to run and loved it. I thought I was doing it for my physical health but my mental health has benefitted more. What can you do for you? This could be a walking group, sewing, cinema trips. All it has to be is something that takes you to the places where you feel free.
I made time to veg out
I started to diarise relaxation time. I know this sounds silly but unless I put it in my diary, this time to do nothing was always taken up by something because, let’s face it, there is always something that can be done. I run my own business so I can work late into the night unless I make a commitment to myself not to. I make sure to spend evening with my daughters and I don’t let my internal chatter tell me that the ironing is more important than watching Say Yes To The Dress.
I asked for help
This was a big one for me because I was never taught that asking for help is ok. I was parented very much from the perspective that ‘strong and clever people do it all by themselves’. That kind of worked when it was just me. It did not work when I had babies. Slowly but surely, I found that when I asked for help people did respond (not always and that hurt) but some did and it gets easier to ask the more you do it. I asked other mums to share lifts, I asked teachers what I could do to help the girls, I asked friends for a chat when I felt down. I stopped trying to do everything.
I paid for help
Again not easy and I am lucky that paying for help is affordable for me. I hired a cleaner. Took the ironing to be done at the dry cleaners when the pile became too high. Stopped trying to paint the house myself and paid for decorators. Hired venues for birthday parties and bought birthday cakes. I paid for help in my business; VA, accountant and some marketing advice.
I started to say no
I tamed the people pleaser in me. I realised that some people can never be pleased and that others will take advantage if you let them. I started to say no and the world didn’t end. Instead, I had a little more time and I wasn’t doing as many things that made me feel yucky inside. I stopped saying yes to all the requests to help out at school events. I had done my bit and my time needed to be protected. I reviewed my boundaries and set ones that worked for me and my family - most of the time.
I let some people go
There will be people in your life that are not supporting you in the way you need. People who don’t take the time to really listen to what’s going on with you. Do you really need them or can you position them differently? It is ok if a group of mums meet every week but you’re not with them; FOMO aside, use the time to do something that inspires you and re-charges your battery. Stop always being their for people who sap your energy. Be more discerning in your friendships. I promise you that you will be ok.
Motherhood is relentless. There is no way around it but you can make small changes that create more space and lift your energy levels, giving you more of what you need to manage it all.
A final note; you are seen, you are important and you are loved.
About the author:
Mandy Rees is a mum of two daughters and the founder of Mother for Life.
She is an expert in perinatal wellbeing. Mandy champions motherhood through Mother Circles; the bringing together of mothers in safe, supportive and non judgemental spaces. She is a yoga and baby massage teacher, a women’s emotional health coach and birth rewind practitioner.
She runs her own unique course training other women to lead their own Mother Circles.
Mandy is on a mission to fill the world with safe, supportive spaces for mums where they are seen and heard. Spaces that empower mums to fulfil their own needs as well as those of their family.