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Mum's can't take sick days

ddswI wrote this blog post last year, and have just revisited it as the gross, autumn bugs arrive and I’m not feeling fab:

I have spent the last week tending to my sick toddler. There’s a delightful virus going around boasting a week of stubborn temperatures edging 40. We’ve had additional night wakings, cancelled play-dates, and watched Toy Story on repeat so many times, that I’ve started to see an allure in Woody’s big brown eyes and jaunty hat. Rules on naps and snacks have gone out the window, and I’ve tried (read..’tried’) to bite my tongue over All. The. Whining.

Finally, a week later, bar a persistent cough, he’s on the mend.

Me? Not so much.

For some fantastical reason, I thought I’d be immune to this one. However, my temperature is hovering at 40, and even my wrist bones ache.

I’m not a stranger to being ill with small, demanding dependants on my hands. Along with crippling ‘morning’ sickness when pregnant with Baby C, I had appendicitis in my 12th week of pregnancy. That was eventful. ‘Go home and rest for six weeks’ they said. Yup.

We are great at tending to our little ones (sick husbands though…I’m not so great), but what happens when we find ourselves floored by sickness? I’m going to share some tips with you:

1 – Accept all help

I am categorically horrendous at this one. I find it incredibly hard to accept help. But this last six months (read here) have been hugely humbling. It’s quite something when someone so furiously self-sufficient gets to a place where they realise they simply cannot do it on their own! It’s a vital lesson to learn. A level of self-sufficiency is healthy to a point, but beyond that, it’s detrimental to your wellbeing. When you feel rough, it’s tempting to drag yourself out and carry on as normal, but your body needs relief in order to for your immune system to do it’s job. And it’s hard to find that rest, without accepting help.

It takes a village to raise a child. Not only because children need a world of input, but also because parent’s need lots of support. We are not made to do it on our own. You are not superwoman. Message your antenatal group, call a parent, a neighbour or a fellow mum. Let them be there for you, in whichever way you need, be it picking up an oven meal, or taking the kids to the park. You are not admitting weakness in allowing others to help you, you are accepting an opportunity to be supported, and giving yourself a chance to recover.

2 – Be gentle with yourself

Give yourself permission to be ill. Choose to be kind to yourself. Reduce your expectations of what you ‘should’ do (read my post on how ‘Should’s induce parental guilt. You do NOT need to be guilt tripping yourself right now). Choose not to beat yourself up for the things that you are not doing. But, most importantly, show yourself some of the tenderness and understanding that you show your children when they aren’t well.

3 – Write out a routine

When you are feeling okay, write a detailed routine for your kids as if you were writing for someone who didn’t even know where the fish fingers were kept. Print it out and put it in a drawer. Give failsafe instructions down to how your toddler likes his sandwiches cut, or how long to re-heat baby’s food for in your microwave. It’s always such a good idea to have a printout of this information. You never know when someone might need to step in and take over for a while. When I had my appendix out, I felt a niggle in the morning, and by late afternoon I was hooked up to a drip.

4 – Make Charlie Bigham your friend

I love a Charlie Bigham meal. Shove it in the oven and you have a relatively healthy, wholesome, quick dinner. It’s like having a tiny little chef in your kitchen. If your other half can cook, or someone can drop a meal round, then that’s great! But that’s not always possible.

Do an online shop of easy, quick dinners. I have added some Babease sachets to my online shop. They are wholesome, convenient pouches for babies, high in complex carbs and protiens, and without the fruit fillers that many competitors seem to have. Little Dish do great, nutritionally balanced meals for kids and toddlers too. Give yourself a break from the kitchen.

5 – Keep your medical box stocked up

My bedside stash of Ibuprofen didn’t touch the sides lastnight. I had a midnight rummage in our medicine box for some paracetamol, only to find that we didn’t have any! Make sure you keep your medicine box stocked, so that you’re not cursing your earlier self, feeling rough at 4am.

Research what medicines you can and cannot take when pregnant or breastfeeding. For example, it’s not recommended to take any decongestants when breastfeeding, as some data shows that it may affect supply. Kellymom and the NHS website both have quite a bit of comprehensive information on what you can and can’t take, along with alternatives.

6 – Do the bare minimum

Let the washing pile grow, shove everything haphazardly into the dishwasher (just my norm then), clear the diary. Family life won’t be put on hold for sick mums (sigh), but there are some things that you can take off your plate until you feel better. Do it unrepentantly, try to bat away any guilt. The less you do, the more you are likely to rest, and the quicker you’ll feel better. It might give you itchy palms to see your workload increase, but allocate some of the jobs to friends or family. If not, you’ll tackle it once you feel better, with renewed energy! Be kind to yourself.

7 – Prioritise an easy life over rules

Do what you need to do to get the rest that you need. Amazon Prime a new toy to entertain the kids, download some new films and revel in snacks on the sofa.  They will not morph into undisciplined monsters after a few days of lax rules and convenience foods. You’ll have your game-face back on in no time.

Start where you are

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At the start of Yoga this Saturday, our teacher read a script telling us to ‘start where you are’.

We are where we are. That’s all we are now. We’re not the us of yesterday or the us that we may be tomorrow.

It got me thinking about how often we delay doing things that will benefit us somehow because we tell ourselves that we need to be a in a certain physical or mental headspace first.

We may think, I can’t face the gym until I’ve lost some weight. I will start to try and think better, eat better in January. I’ll change things tomorrow.

You are worth making changes, moving, doing, starting now. Not when you are thinner, happier, more energised. Not when it’s sunnier or when the New Year clock chimes midnight.

To keep putting off making kind and positive changes is to procrastinate our way into self-sabotage where things pass us by. Things get harder and worse, and then we end up making changes out of hitting a messy rock-bottom rather than a motivation for self-care and investment.

To act is an act of self-love. And if self-love feels an alien concept, do it anyway and choose to trust that making changes will actually feed into a new cycle of worth.

How to be the perfect mum

I’ve ventured to You Tube and am doing a 3 minute series on various motherhood and mental health topics. Here’s on on how to be a ‘perfect mum’. Hint hint….it doesn’t exist.

Enjoy x

Self-care is a fine line

FullSizeRenderSelf-care isn’t as simple as taking a long bath or booking in a manicure. It’s about value, self-worth and believing you deserve treating yourself with care and respect. It’s about recognising the difference in what one day may be self-care, can be self-destructive procrastination the next. It can be a fine line.

It’s about how putting the to-do list aside one day can be an act of kindness to yourself, whereas the next day it can be an act of self-sabotage. Self-care can be working out, or it can be giving yourself a day off the gym when you actually want to go. Self-care can be a large glass of wine in the sunshine, or it can be forgoing the alcohol altogether. Self-care can be taking a day of solitude away from the world, or it might be encouraging yourself out the door to interact.

Self-care is about knowing what your needs are (this can be a challenge in itself for many), and how it is wisest to fulfil them. We need to know ourself to know the difference, and we need to love ourselves to act. The good thing is that one feeds into the other. Self-care fuels self-love. Self-love fuels self-care. You just need to take some challenging first steps to start a new cycle. A new way.

Today, I’m wearing bright, red lipstick and I’m not even dressed. Self-care for me at the moment is about not hiding from the world, not apologising for myself. It’s about daring to believe that I can use my passions and skills to encourage others to be more open about mental health, and start to engage in some new behaviours that I believe can change their world as they know it.  It’s about indulging in the simple things that make me smile and give me joy. Today, it’s a rich, red, eye catching pigment on my lips, to remind myself how far I’ve come from the days I used to hide.

Self-care cultivates self-love. The best investment you can ever make. For the love you have for yourself is the gateway of all other loves.

If you want to know any more about these topics, or want to chat them through in the light of your own experience, take a look at my therapy and coaching page here

Mum Guilt

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I’m the first to acknowledge that I’ve spent the majority of my life as a perfectionist. An insatiable demand placed over myself, by myself. A desire to be the best, with little room left for my humanness. I never believed I was enough. I could write a whole post on how I have begun to let go of perfectionism in the last few years as a parent and how freeing I’ve found it, but that’s for another day.

This post is for us Mum’s who often don’t feel good enough.

When did ‘good enough’ stop becoming good enough?

As children we welcomed a ‘tick’ on our school work. Little validations in scrawled marks telling us that we met the standard. Good enough used to be good. It used to be enough.

‘Good enough’ has been steam rolled by perfectionism and comparison. Good enough is now substandard. Pah! Who’d want to be good enough when you could be GREAT? We see snapshots of other people’s mothering, and we merge them together into one supposedly attainable ideal of what it is to be a ‘great mum’.

Perhaps it’s the increase in social media. Tiny little Instagram squares feeding this belief that others are mothering better than we are. They are coping better, parenting better. They shout less, cook more, look nicer, never argue in front of the kids, gaze at their phone less, and NEVER ever want to run away and hide in the kitchen with wine.

How come when we compare ourselves to others, we tend to come off worse?

Winnicot was a Psychoanalyst and parenting expert in the 1950’s. He studied thousands of mothers and knew the emotional, physical and mental energy required to raise these small people. He summarised that the way to be a good mother, is to be a ‘good enough’ mother.

Good – acceptable, positive, satisfactory, valuable, worthy, agreeable, admirable

Enough – abundant, ample, sufficient, suitable, acceptable, competent, decent, sufficing

Mother – source, origin, creator

Good enough takes into account our humanness, with all of our failures and our limits. Imperfection becomes positive.

It’s healthy for children to be failed in tolerable ways in the context of relationship with a loving parent. We are teaching them how to survive in an imperfect world that will fail and disappoint. Parenting is a long-haul job, it’s a daily grind. We mother through sickness, highs and lows, sleep deprivation, PMT. We need to have more grace for ourselves.

Guilt fills the void between the mother we think we should be, and the mother we are.

I should be more patient
I shouldn’t be letting my little one watch so much TV
I should be doing more,
giving more,
loving more,
I should be more.
I am not enough

The very fact that we feel this guilt says that we are probably doing a fab job. But perhaps we need to change the language we use.

‘Should’s are aggressively critical, pointing the finger, breeding guilt and stifling action. This language slowly chips away at self-acceptance and worth.

Perhaps the ‘should’s are alerting you to areas for change and tweaks. Turn it into a “hey, let’s grab a book”, an encouragement for action, rather than an an action stifling criticism.

When you offer your children consistent love as a base, no matter what the day holds, or whether sleep deprivation induced impatience leaves you snappy and highly strung (my hand is up here!), or the TV does the babysitting whilst you tear around the house tidying yesterday’s chaos…. you are good enough.

So, beautiful Mum’s. You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.

x