So the other night I had an incredibly vivid dream. My husband and I were on a jet destined for Australia – perfect. That was until the plane disintegrated in a moment and I found myself hurtling through the sky towards the ground. The dream felt impossibly real, right down to the sensation of my clothes and hair flapping violently in the wind as the pressure escalated until I hit the ground and everything went black. I woke in a state of panic, heart racing. So vivid was the dream, I thought there must be a hidden meaning of some sort and a quick google search revealed the analysis of dream experts.
Turns out I have anxiety about not fulfilling my potential, a sign of obstacles to reaching my goals. Of course. I wasn’t surprised, more surprised by the accuracy of the hidden meaning. I’m not the first woman, and I won’t be the last, to speak of losing part of their identity on becoming a mum. Of having little or no time for anything that doesn’t revolve around my three beautiful little people. They are the centre of my world and I love them more than I ever imagined possible. But has it come at a cost of part of myself? Absolutely. I juggle my work alongside school pickups and drop offs, making tea and changing nappies. Between after-school clubs, birthday parties, piles of homework and play time, there sometimes feels like there’s not a second to spare for anything else. By the time they’re fed, bathed, and down for bed, it’s time to cook my own tea and collapse in an exhausted heap. At that point, after a 15 hour shift, I need to rest and shut down my weary brain, the same brain that has been pulled from pillar to post by countless conflicting priorities all day.
“that undeniable niggle in the pit of my stomach is always there; deep, burning and incessant. I can do more, achieve more, be more – and I know it…”
I’ve wanted to do this, start a blog, for probably around 18 months now. A former journalist, I always have so many thoughts rattling around in my head and an innate urge to write them down. But it’s all too easy (and usually pretty truthful) to say I’m too busy or too tired with my kids or my day job to put effort into investing in myself. The reality is I have, at most, two hours (on a good day) without the kids – and about twenty minutes on a rough day, and there are always a hundred reasons to ignore my laptop; whether that’s savouring a cold glass of wine instead of writing my first chapter, or slumping in front of Netflix instead of trying to wade through the fog that’s descended on my brain to draft original and insightful prose. The daily grind is so utterly exhausting, where none of your options are easy ones, that it’s nice when you have an hour that’s just for you, to take the easy option for once of not pushing yourself, saying ‘bugger it, I’ll have another glass of wine and watch another episode of Motherland instead.’ But that undeniable niggle in the pit of my stomach is always there; deep, burning and incessant. I can do more, achieve more, be more – and I know it.
I’ve come to realise that it’s not life that’s holding me back – not my children, not my (very supportive) husband, and not my circumstances. The truth is, the only thing holding me back is myself. Too scared to make a leap and take a risk, of making my life that little bit harder by putting my money where my mouth is and begin writing. It’s often said that we are our own worst critics and I’m trying to silence mine – the one who says I have nothing original to say. The one who says I simply can’t fit another activity into my hectic day so I just shouldn’t bother, to revolve my life around the kids and be ok with that. But that heavy, nagging feeling always resurfaces, and now it’s making its way into my subconscious as I sleep. And I’ve finally decided to listen. So, here I am, putting pen to paper and taking a leap.
“maybe within all that, amidst the chaos, there’s a moment for us mums too…”
As mums we spend every second of the day worrying about everyone else. Whether they’re fed, watered, clean. Whether they’re emotionally happy, nurtured, content. That we’ve successfully balanced reading and screen time. The pressure we put on ourselves is immense and God help those in our path if our kids’ needs have not been met. The anxiety we feel if they haven’t had a nap, if they haven’t eaten a balanced meal, sits heavy on our shoulders. But we don’t apply the same importance to meeting our own needs. I am happy and proud to be a mum who puts her kids’ happiness at the centre of my universe, and my desire to ensure the best for them is the backbone of everything I do. But maybe within all that, amidst the chaos, there’s a moment for us mums too?
The fact is, there is never enough time in the day and there is never a good time. Kids are consuming, but do they have to be all-consuming? It’s so important that we take a minute for ourselves, to make time for personal fulfillment – whether that’s embarking on a new venture in your spare time or simply taking a long, hot bubble bath (and refusing to feel guilty for not tackling the mountain of ironing instead).
“it’s been a breath of fresh air. To spend just a little time doing something simply because I want to, and not because I have to…”
And now, for some full disclosure. This blog took me over three weeks to write. Not because it was particularly complex, or because of numerous re-writes, but simply because I failed to find time in my saturated days. All it takes is for your household to be knocked down with a cold (yep, see my next blog!) and suddenly you’ve lost a week with literally not a minute, or ounce of energy, to spare. But I’ve made a promise to myself, and I intend to keep it. Whether that’s meant me balancing my laptop on my lap and hurriedly typing for an hour outside my daughter’s gymnastics lesson, or resisting the urge for an early night after a long and trying day and using the spare time instead to log on and be creative. And the truth is, it’s been a breath of fresh air. To spend just a little time doing something simply because I want to, and not because I have to. Making time for myself is certainly a work in progress and will no doubt be an ongoing battle, but I intend to be kind to myself; grasping precious minutes to write when I can but also accepting those occasions when I’m just too exhausted, need to switch my brain off and enjoy a cold one.
So take a minute for yourself. Do something you’ve made excuses not to do because you shouldn’t, don’t think you can, or don’t have time. Re-evaluate your day and squeeze in something that is important to you, that is just for you. Something that’ll exercise your mind, or your body, or whatever it is that used to excite you before the kids became your world. Because a happy and fulfilled mum makes for happy and fulfilled kids. Our kids clearly think we’re pretty special, so maybe it’s about time we started thinking about ourselves that way too.