How many times, as Momma Bear, as Papa Bear have you put your needs to the side? Dropped your needs over by the “side board of lost intentions” only to be remembered as you fall into bed, or as you sit on the loo with an audience complaining about being hungry, bored, tired or sore. How many times have you thought, yep I feel hungry, bored, tired and sore too, only for the thought to quickly evaporate as their needs outweigh yours? I wrote an article recently for the Irish Examiner about being an introverted mother and since writing this feature, I’ve relaxed a bit more and allow myself those five, ten, fifteen minutes – if I can get it – to regroup, refocus, to be still and recover from the never-ending exhaustion of a day with kids.
I don’t mean recovery in the physical sense, although a four and one year old manage to cause a few bite marks and bruising on this Momma Bears skin. What I mean is the endless stream of emotional ups and downs that pepper our Mondays right through to Sundays. From tantrums over breakfast to playing together with poker chips in the afternoon, it is a lot for the mind to take on. One moment we are filled with joy and energy and the next we are fighting the urge to cry mid-tantrum.
And while the figures have been totted up for what the UK’s toughest jobs are – hello Royal Marines, we salute you, but hey I’m a parent so I’m in your league – it’s been years since the discussion started on how tough motherhood really is. We’re underpaid and overworked, right?
From the mental load, the housework that dear god in heaven never, ever ends, parenting babies, toddlers, teenagers, caring for everyone else’s emotional and physical health and trying to find time to feed ourselves, even if it is leftovers. On top of that there’s full time, freelance or part-time jobs, careers, good careers that we’re damn good at. It’s kind of a lot for one person to take on but we do it. Because… well… We just do. That’s life but that life can be bleurrgghhhh phleeeuuggrrhh – there are no words to describe that feeling between willing the kids to sleep after an exhausting day and imagining a hot cup of tea and a chair… Oh a chair! I dream about sitting down a lot.
So, what can we do to ensure that we are finding some sort of balance? Finding those five minutes to regroup and balance our wee, worn out heads. Considering we’re usually short on time, we need something that works in five minutes or less. A momentary mind melt or brain freeze to reboot the engine.
The first five minute balancing method, even if you are low on energy, is dancing. 🎶 Dance Little Lady Dance 🎶 If your little one is in the middle of a tantrum, just turn on your music and start jumping around. Shake out all the negative energy and low mood, and dance around. Music has a lot of power when it comes to emotions, use it to lift your spirit. We made a mix tape – ok it’s a CD we’re not that retro – a few years back and it’s been on repeat on this house too many times to count. But shaking our wiggles out with a few freestyle moves genuinely triggers something in the brain to release endorphins and fill your happy tank.
Secondly, you must have heard the term ‘freshen up’, which sounds like its something American woman say in the movies. But they’re on to something here. The actual act of freshening up wakes you up, leaves you feeling clean and takes but a few minutes. The simple act of washing your face wakes up your skin, brushing your teeth usually leaves a minty fresh zing, lip balm, dry shampoo if you don’t have time for a hair wash (or shave it all off like me!) and if you have it, peppermint foot spray. Minty cool. All of this helps to revive you leaving you feeling a little more like you’ve taken care of little old you today. It sounds so simple but we’re kind of tricking our brain to recognise this momentary self care and it really does spark your mind to feeling fresh again.
An old favourite from Mindfulness (a concept I should have bought shares in since I talk about it so much now), sit still and breathe. We spend so much time being busy, anything from spending time picking up toys, rushing to the school, doing the groceries, and when we do sit it tends to be to watch something. Actively choose to sit down, and do nothing but breathe in, calms your body and your mind. You can encourage your little ones to sit with you. You can hold your baby; it doesn’t really matter – it is the conscious choice to do nothing that matters.
And finally, go outside. Not all of us have the luxury of a garden, and if you don’t then take a walk to the local shop or park. You only need a few minutes of being outside to boost your mood, and hey once you are out there, you might as well just take a stroll. Fresh air. Sunlight. Open space. Can’t be anything wrong with that.
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