Time Redefined: Mindfulness for parents
Photo credit: @fancycrave Unsplash
Parenting for me is a heady mixture of absolute heart warming joy, laughter and pride, yet in the same breath it can fill me with incredible anxiety, panic, self doubt and of course it comes with the inevitable exhaustion. Whether you are flying solo or part of a solid, extended family team of support, parenting can be overwhelming and lets be honest at times, terrifying.
From the minute you are handed your precious bundle, you are up. You are placed on the front line of the biggest protection operation of your life with zero training, zero camo gear and zero pay. Fan bloody-tastic.
In my silly naive pre-baby mind, I was hoping for lots of nice relaxing hospital time to recover where my doting husband indulged me in daily foot massages whilst feeding me organic chocolate and gently rocking our already quiet new baby to sleep.
A burst catheter and some infected c-section stitches later and reality had alarmingly slapped me around the face and dunked me firmly into the cold waking reality of my new life.
I remember my sister, who had worked as a nanny in London for some years at the time, saying to me when I was pregnant, that 7am would be a lie in. I think I laughed out loud at her, I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it. She was horrifyingly very, very right. 7am would have indeed been a lie in. I thought I would die from lack of sleep - was that even possible?
To be honest, 7am is often still a lie in now even with a six and eight year old, although new parents definitely wont want to hear that..
We can all look back and laugh at our lives before children. What we took for granted, what we miss but the reality is, we love our children (most of the time) and life is different afterwards.
Things would have to change. I needed to not only redefine who I was but also I learned I needed to completely redefine my time.
This new life chapter forced me to look at what I need to survive to be a good parent and person and this is why I wanted to share with you what I do to create mindfulness in my normal day. They may seem like silly things, small things, frivolous things, but ANY mindfulness you can manage in your day is a good thing. Parents and carers are extremely busy people but a few minutes of purposeful self care thrown in here and there can make a huge difference to your day and your life.
1. Make your mindfulness conscious.
This might sound obvious but firstly, in order to feel like I have spent some time on myself, for myself, it needs to be conscious. A conscious decision. I decide before hand that this will be something just for me. ‘ This action is for YOU only.’ This helps in balancing the feelings that all you have done all day is look after everyone else, physically and mentally. I have already decided that mentally during those moments it will be just for me, self indulgent and focused on what I like and need.
Purposeful, conscious self care and mindfulness is at the very top of the list.
2. Leisure time
This has to be the biggest change and challenge once you become a parent. For a long while afterwards, months, years for some parents, there is little to zero leisure time unless you really try to make it happen. Sometimes outside circumstance dictates this and for my husband and I it has been limited childcare options that made leisure time pretty tough until they started school.
We lived abroad for a time and so with no family help around we relied on the odd local babysitter here and there if we could find one!
I needed to learn to swap the nice meals in restaurants, the drinks with friends in local pubs and long hairdressers appointments for other things that would count as ‘leisure time’ in my mind and stop making me feel hard done by!
I listened to a lot of music and podcasts out loud, still do. Put on something you love to listen to. Put on a live Kings of Leon album at high volume (or whatever floats you boat) and have a sing and a dance around the house. You may not be sat at Glastonbury festival but music is food for the soul and can take you off mentally somewhere else for a few minutes which is sometimes all we need.
Spend a few extra minutes in the bath or shower whenever you can. Buy the slightly more expensive bubble bath or body scrub. Consciously relax.
Exercise is a tricky one when you become a new parent especially. Babies are either napping in the wrong place at the wrong time or you are too exhausted to do anything at all. If you have the time or the inclination I think this is where exercise Dvd's come into their own.
I remember doing a few half hours a week here and there when our first born was taking his afternoon nap. Davina McCall's post pregnancy dvd was my choice, which even though I was shattered I felt proud and empowered that I had managed to fit something in the day just for me. Whatever your age there is a trillion DVD’s to have a go at and it means if you can't get to a gym or a class then you can have a go at something.
3. Favourite drink
Indulge in your very favourite drink and make it with care.
In all honesty I think THE best purchase my husband ever made was our very first coffee machine. Aside from the fact I have always loved coffee and our four year stint in Spain did nothing but keep my coffee fire alight, the caffeine Im sure actually saved my life. With both our newborn sons, that stuff was like gold to me, a treat that kept me awake and conscious at the 3am breastfeeding party for way longer than I would ever have lasted without the stuff.
I still now from the second I turn on our swanky new industrial coffee bean machine, feel like I am indulging in a treat just for ME. So whether it be a cup of freshly brewed builders tea, a soya latte or a huge cup of hot chocolate, make it, enjoy it and know it is something just for you.
I should also mention here that I absolutely LOVE WINE. Parenting is stressful and wine I consider a huge indulgent treat that can - in the right situations - calm the nerves and relax the fretting parent. It is also delicious and has grapes as the main ingredient so in my mind it’s a continental salad right?
We’re quite up tight about drinking in this country. Moderation is obvious, but you’re all grownups so no need for me to say any more.
4. Actually sitting down for no other reason than you want to.
This is something that I have got much better at. If you are tired, REST. You really are no good to anyone if you’re any more knackered than you have to be. Banish the guilt, sit down and watch an episode of Come Dine With Me, read a chapter of your book, flick through a trashy magazine or do nothing but stare out of the window.
Something has to give, the washing can actually wait. I have been known over the years to put the same load of washing on in the machine three times because I didn’t want to deal with its contents. Nobody died but I did get to rest for ten minutes that day and I guarantee I was slightly less stressed that evening.
Parents suffer a lot of guilt about this although I have to say I think this seems to be a female thing way more than a male thing? We are guilt ridden about anything and everything from the minute we hold our baby in our arms which is ridiculous.
Nap. Doze. Just be.
Don't feel hard done by that a day has escaped without having just a few minutes to yourself.
You are an important being!
Be kind to yourself. Time redefined = mindful moments just for you.