“Your transformation begins when you consciously change your motherhood paradigm from self-sacrifice to self-care.” Suzi Lula (Spiritual Counsellor)
We’ve all heard the safety message when we fly on a plane … “In an emergency, an oxygen mask will fall, please attach your own mask before looking after those travelling with you”. The theory is great, of course, we need to ensure we’ve got oxygen in order to help others. But that message doesn’t seem to translate into our day-to-day life. So many parents, especially those with children with extra needs, are starving themselves of oxygen while making sure the needs of everyone else around them are met. They’re offering kindness to others, but not offering it to themselves. We’re parenting in a culture that encourages and expects parents, particularly mothers, to put others’ needs ahead of their own and so many of us are exhausted and overwhelmed by the daily juggle of work, life and families. And if heaven forbid, you do something for yourself, well that’s just selfish.
When we first had our children, I threw myself into everything I thought I ‘should’ be doing. I volunteered for local parenting groups, was on the school PTA, was helping my husband run his business and I even had my own small business. When two of our children were diagnosed with extra needs I just took it all on and expected that I could do it. It was all just part of the juggle of being a parent, right? I was often sandwiched in between two children with extremely high emotions and when our youngest daughter started school and I saw how easy it was for her compared to her two older siblings I hit rock bottom. I realised that I had depleted myself of energy by giving so much of myself to everyone else.
“When your cup is full, you’ll be your best self: at your most calm, contented and happy. You’ll have the reserves of energy and love and patience you need to give generously to your little one.” Tui Fleming (Dear Mummy NZ)
Maybe I’m swimming against the tide of societies’ expectations, but I firmly believe that honouring our need for self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential. By taking care of ourselves we have so much more to give our children and those around us. Maybe society doesn’t hold it sacred enough, but it’s time to challenge ourselves to think differently about self-care, particularly for mothers. We need to move from where putting our own mask on first is a great idea, to where it’s a daily practice that helps us to thrive as parents, friends, partners and workmates.
The day I hit rock bottom was the day I decided to be kind to myself. I asked myself how everything I was doing was actually serving me. Was it building me up? Was it sucking my energy? I decided to make sure that I’m well taken care of so that my incredible humans get the best of me – not the tired, worn down, exhausted me that arrived at situations in a state of depletion. I know that the better I take care of myself, the better I take care of those around me.
One of the biggest changes as a result of giving myself self-care is how I show up with the children. They haven’t changed, they still push the boundaries, fight with each other, do things I’ve asked them not to do … but I have changed and my response to them is dramatically different, rather than reacting... I come from a space of abundance - rather than fear or scarcity, I come with more patience, graciousness and joy. I see a child’s actions as what need they haven’t had met rather than focusing on their behaviour.
What is (and isn’t) self-care?
“Self-care is the art and practice of nourishing our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual body.” Suzi Lula
For many people the words “self-care” brings to mind things like getting a manicure, going to the dentist or doctor (something that mothers often neglect) or having your eyebrows shaped. Sure, that’s a type of self-care and they’re all important activities, but what we’re talking about here is activities you consciously choose to do to feed your soul. It’s about giving yourself permission to have time and space with the intention to refuel you, time to help you find what’s truly important to you, honour your feelings and emotions and treat yourself with kindness. It’s about finding ways to fill your own cup to overflowing.
So, what can you give yourself permission for today? Time for you? Exercise? Quiet? Journaling? A walk in nature? Take a moment to recognise what it is you need today and give yourself permission to receive it.
How do I start?
“The steps don’t have to be large, they just need to come first”. Suzi Lula
A couple of months ago I interviewed Suzi Lula about self-care and how we can implement it into our day-to-day. She suggested starting small so that self-care doesn’t become something burdensome that you feel like you need to add into your already busy day. You want to begin by asking yourself what you need today. It could be something as simple as having flowers on your desk at work, lighting a candle, being conscious of what music you’re playing. They’re all simple tasks but ones that connect with what “feeds” you, what builds you up. If you piece them all together you’ll find you feel a difference. You can listen to the full interview with Suzi here: www.heartcentredparenting.com/blog/2018/7/13/interview-with-suzi-lula
Listen to your body and learn what your needs are and how to fill them. I tried all sorts of things when I started out.
I realised I don’t always like a guided meditation because sometimes I just need my thoughts and feelings to find their own way.
I walk barefoot each day on the grass.
I’ve always loved water so if I need to release big emotions I take a long shower.
I do a meditation when I wake up each morning.
I continually return to my breath throughout the day.
I journal at the end of the day with a gratitude practice and if anything big pops up I do transformational journaling. I recently wrote a step-by-step guide on how to do transformational journaling which you can read here: www.heartcentredparenting.com/transformational-journalling
A practice of gratitude is such divine self-care and will help you gain more awareness around your needs, your feelings and the awesome things that are happening within your days. In your journal, each night write down 2 – 3 things you’re grateful for; 2 – 3 feelings that came up for you throughout the day and the needs behind those feelings.
I have several brief mindfulness meditations available on my website that you might like to try. You can find them here: www.heartcentredparenting.com/meditation/
What’s standing in your way?
I can hear you now, “that sounds great, Kylie but I just don’t have time”. Suzi explains it like this:
“I can’t encourage you enough, that even when you believe that there isn’t enough time for you to work out … dare to work out anyway. You will prove to yourself that there is, indeed, more than enough. We forget about all our “to do’s” and how little time we have because we are immersed in something that enlivens us, lights us up from the inside out.”
So, today remember to pause, breathe and give yourself permission to make yourself a priority.