Making friends with mum guilt

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Making friends with mum guilt

Us mums can allow ourselves to feel guilty about everything, right?

We’ve worked too much and not seen our children, or worked too little and can’t afford to buy them every toy on the wish list. We’ve not played with the kids enough, or we have been playing with them and the house is a mess. We’ve not seen our friends because we’ve been with our children, or we’ve seen our friends and spent one less afternoon with our children.

It can be never ending.

In fact a recent study, showed that working mums and stay at home mums experience the same amount of guilt. So this isn’t about whether we work or don’t work. It seems we’re living in a guilt epidemic – a Motherkind survey I completed last year revealed 80% mums feel some level of guilt every day.

Every day.

Some of the rheterotic out there tells us that mummy guilt is part of the parenting package and we need to just suck it up and carry on regardless.

I disagree.

I think we all deserve to feel good about ourselves and our parenting choices. In fact, I believe our feelings of guilt can help us become better mothers if we can use it as fuel for self exploration.

I think we need to befriend our mum guilt. What we resist, persists. So by avoiding, denying or minimising our guilty feelings we are giving them even more power over us.

It’s important to remember that our guilt comes from a really good place, of wanting to be the best mum possible for our children and that we’re all doing the best we can. Our feelings of guilt show just how much we love our children and want the best for them.

We need to learn to give ourselves a break.

But I don’t think that means we should ignore or try to minimise our feelings of guilt. In fact looking at your guilt, head on, can be really illuminating especially if you’ve been running from it or never questioned it. Even the simple act of writing down when and why you feel guilty can be extremely powerful. We can only change what we’re aware of, so the first step is to become aware on when and how you feel the most guilt.

Then get interested in it. Through my work with many mums on helping to reframe, befriend and shed the mum guilt I’ve come to see that most guilt falls into two categories;

1. Unreasonable guilt, when we feel guilty for not living up to our own or an external version of parental perfection.

An example of this might be feeling guilty for not feeding our children organic, home made meals for 3 meals a day every day or for not playing enough with our children or for buying them a birthday cake instead of making it.

The problem is we often haven’t defined what our values and goals are for our parenting, so we end up measuring ourselves by some undefined idea of perfection and feeling guilty when we don’t meet that. It’s so easy to totally lose perspective of what’s important to us. For example how many hours would we like to play with our children a day or week? What’s realistic given our circumstances? What feels right for us? Once that’s defined, then we’re less likely to feel guilty for not playing with them all the time, as that’s not what’s reasonable for us.

Many of us who experience high levels of ‘unreasonable guilt’ need to mindfully assess what is reasonable and good enough for us. So many of us unconsciously are trying to live up to an external idea of motherhood, that perhaps we got from our own mum (who was raising us in a totally different era), books or social media which presents a totally skewed version of life.

We need to get clear on what’s really important to us and our family and then do a ‘good enough’ job on the rest. Have a go at writing down your top 5 values for your family and how you want to live them in your day to day interactions.

We also need to look inwards – it might be that you’ve always set yourself high standards and goals or often felt like deep down you weren’t ‘good enough’. You may have used control and perfectionism to mask this in your pre-mum life – keeping your life highly organised, efficient and being successful on the outside. This is often the case with mums I work with and so what looks like mum guilt is actually a deeper belief about yourself that needs to be changed.

2. Reasonable guilt – in my experience, this is by far the smallest category of guilt – normally only one or two things end up in this category. This is the guilt we feel which is reasonable – when we have done something or not done something that doesn’t align to our values or who we want to be and we feel understandably guilty (the ones I asked you to define above).

For example, if we want to be calm, connected mothers and we find ourselves constantly screaming at our children for everything they do, we would probably feel understandably guilty about that. The trick here is not to change our values but to look at what’s going on for us and what we need to do to re-align back to who we want to be.

So continuing the shouting analogy, are we shouting all the time because we’re stressed, over-worked, disconnected from ourselves, exhausted or maybe something bigger like being unhappy in our marriage?

Again we need to look inwards and empower ourselves to take action. The first step is always self kindness and understanding, you are doing your best. What action do you need to take? What needs to change?

We can also take the opportunity to model to our children what taking responsibility for our actions looks like, by explaining why we acted like we did and amending our future behaviour – this shows them it’s ok to make mistakes and how to grow from them.

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7 ways to transform your mum guilt

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7 ways to transform your mum guilt

Ah mum guilt, a constant companion on our motherhood journey or something we can let go of and skip off into motherhood nirvana?

So often we feel guilty for going to work and leaving our children, guilty for not working and not contributing financially or being independent.

Guilty when we don’t see our friends, guilty when we do see our friends.

Guilty for not playing with our children enough, guilty when we spend time playing with them and leave everything else undone.

Sometimes it feels like we can’t win.

Many people believe that feeling guilty is a natural part of motherhood and we need to just learn to live with it, but I don’t subscribe to that - in fact I’d like to call BS on that - I believe we all deserve to feel good about ourselves, especially with the most challenging and incredible role we’ll ever have.

Feeling guilty is often what I call a ‘trigger’ feeling - there is usually something more going on underneath, something bigger that is making us hold onto guilty feelings and buy into the feeling as if it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth. With mum guilt I believe that’s fear - and when I work with clients to get the core of that fear, it’s often some variation of ‘I’m not good enough’. Which nearly makes me cry everytime I hear it come from an amazing mum.

Not a good enough mum or boss or wife or friend.

It’s not surprising, that in one of our most significant roles as a mother, our fear is triggered. It’s often a sign of how much we love our children and desperately want the best for them.

My favourite acronym for fear is False Expectations Appearing Real. We may feel that we’re not good enough, but it’s not real - you are absolutely good enough. The good news is that we can learn to let go of the fear and reconnect to the truth of who you are - a perfectly imperfect mother doing her best.

So what can we do about mum guilt?

It’s totally normal to feel some event specific guilt, just as in any area of our lives when we do something that is out of line with our values (such as forgetting a friend’s birthday). But feeling a constant or nagging sense of guilt is not ok. So here are some of the ways I work with clients to help them let go of the guilt:

Make friends with it - knowing where your guilt is coming from can be really illuminating and helpful - especially if you’ve never investigated it before and have been running from it or accepted it as part of mum life, so making friends with your guilt is the first step to transforming it. Jot down when and why you feel guilty - you might start to see a pattern, or see how unbelievably hard you’re being on yourself. Accepting without judgement how guilty you feel is the foundation for change, because we can’t change what we don’t first accept as our reality.

What we focus on expands - if we focus on feeling guilty it will grow and grow in our heads until we feel all-consumed. Conversely, by focusing on what we’re doing right (however small) that will grow and grow. It’s up to us what seeds we choose to plant and therefore what will grow - so make the conscious effort to choose feeling good about yourself and if guilt comes up, balance it out with a positive - so you were late for nursery pick up, but remind yourself you’re planning to put your phone down and fully connect when you get home.

Embrace your imperfection - so often we expect perfection from ourselves, which is not only totally unrealistic and can never be achieved - it also stops us from demonstrating to our children how we love ourselves despite being imperfect - one of the most important lessons we can impart.

Self-compassion - following on from embracing imperfection, self-compassion and kindness is one of the most vital muscles we can flex as mothers. We are so hard on ourselves, yet often so understanding and kind to those around us. A good exercise is to look at a picture of your younger self (aged 10 or under) and speak kindly, encouragingly and gently to that little girl, especially about your feelings of guilt, then know that the little girl is you. Or you could imagine how you would talk to a friend feeling guilty, how kind you’d be, how you would tell her all she’s great at and then turn that kindness onto yourself.

Quieten your inner guilt gremlin - yup, we all have one. That little voice that tells you’d be a much better mum if you stayed at home (if you’re a working mum), or went to work, (if you stay at home). Learning to see this little voice for what it is, not your reality or truth can be incredibly freeing - they are just thoughts and are you are so much more than your thoughts. If you manage to catch your guilt gremlin in action, see if you can stop mid thought and replace it with a kind, loving phrase such as ‘i’m doing my best’.

Stand by your choices - by getting clear on what you value - what’s truly important to you? Make your choices based on your values, then stand by those choices. It’s totally natural to wobble once you’ve made a choice but if it’s come from a conscious, considered place aligned to your values it’s going to be easier to stand by that choice and own it when the guilt gremlins come knocking.

Perspective - it can be so easy to get lost and all consumed by the petty, day to day niggles and worries of life, but a great tool is to put guilt into perspective - you might feel guilty that you took your children to school when they weren’t 100% as you needed to work, but raise it up a level and ask yourself some powerful questions ‘Am I a loving, present parent? Am I trying my best?’ Reconnect back to the reasons why you work and watch the guilt gremlin climb back into its box.  

And finally, remember that what we need from ourselves and each other is unconditional love and understanding - and that is more important than anything the guilt gremlin will tell you.

Zoe’s coaching package ‘freedom from guilt’ currently has spaces, so get in touch zoe@motherkind.co if you are struggling with mum guilt and are ready to reconnect to the truth of who you are - a perfectly imperfect mother doing her best.



 

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To drink or not to drink.....

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To drink or not to drink.....

This is something I get asked about, a lot. Because I talk about being in 12 recovery and not drinking, most people (understandably) assume that I’m an alcoholic and in AA. Which I’m not - I'm in the sister fellowship called Al Anon (for family and friends of alcoholics) but I did decide to stop drinking 4 years ago, aged 30. I didn’t suddenly stop one day, it was a gradual realisation that a sober life was right for me. So why and how did I come to that decision and what is it like not to drink…..especially as a mum of a toddler?

I definitely drank dysfunctionally in my teenage and early 20’s - drinking to get drunk, doing things when drunk that I wasn’t proud of and feeling terrible the next day, mentally and physically.

Once I started on my inner-journey at 23, through recovery, therapy, yoga and meditation I carried on drinking although I definitely became more conscious about how and when I was using alcohol, but I was in my mid 20’s and I didn’t want to stop altogether - I was having too much fun and if I’m honest, I didn’t feel secure enough in myself to be the sober one amongst a gang of prosecco drinking friends.

So what changed? Well, the first thing was the physical and mental torture that were hangovers! I got really bad hangovers, even from one or two drinks and felt so sick the next day. But far worse was the mental hangovers - at this point in my life I was feeling good, happy, connected to myself and the world around me. Being hungover felt like going to back to the pain of my past - feeling anxious, insecure, less than, disconnected. I started to ask myself if a few glasses of wine was worth it? 

I was learning how to tune into and listen to my instinct and open myself up to guidance from the universe and I found when I drunk (even one glass) I couldn't do that anymore. It felt like drinking was blocking me from accessing my best self, who for the first time in my life I was starting to like and trust. 

But one of the main reasons I was still having the odd glass of wine, if I’m honest, was to fit in. To be able to share in the giddy joy of the first glass of prosecco or sit with a friend to share a bottle. I wasn’t sure what my social life or friendships would look like if I was the one nursing a water all night.

The inner work I had been doing at this time, particularly with yoga and meditation has really shifted this for me. I was feeling more and more secure in myself, confident in my own choices, trusting that friendships are far deeper than who drinks and who doesn’t. So I slowly started being the sober one on night’s out and guess what? It was totally fine. It was odd at first but now I can honestly say I love being sober on a night out, dancing the night away with bags of energy and not a hint of fear for what the morning might bring.

I thought I might miss the buzz of the first drink, the connection of bonding with a new pal over a bottle, the thrill of the first rose of the summer, but I really don’t. Not drinking gives me so much more than drinking ever did.

One of the main benefits of not drinking (apart from the massive cost savings, hello new clothes….) is time. I’ve always had a love for reading and now I’m able to read about a book a week, because I’ve got the time and energy to (....and audible is my used app). My friendships have deepened too, some of the drinking based friendships have definitely changed, but my heart-level friendships are stronger than ever before, and when I go out with a friend, I’m present, able to really listen, available and I’m pretty sure I’m a better friend because of it.  

I had two years of being sober before I had Jessie, but I was interested to see how it would feel to cope with the challenges of parenting without the crutch of a glass of wine to ease the tension at the end of the day. I’ve found that challenging as it is, I’ve found other ways to relax, let go and calm down that feel more nourishing to me; an online yoga class, a guided meditation, a long bath. I feel that instant calm wash over me, just as I did with a glass of wine, but with the added benefit of feeling more, not less connected to myself. I was surprised when I became a mum, how strong the media-narrative is around motherhood and drinking and as a sober mum that didn’t resonate with me at all, in fact one of the reasons I started Motherkind was to be a different voice for anyone who felt the ‘wineoclock’ rhetoric didn’t resonate as a solution for the intensity of parenting.

I’m not anti-drinking at all, but for me not drinking as been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel happier, more productive, more secure and I’m deeply proud of myself for making this decision because it feels right for me right now. Who knows what will happen in the future, but my sober life is so bloody rewarding, I can’t see myself swapping it for a glass of anything any time soon.

Do you drink? Not drink? Want to stop drinking? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

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5 ways to reconnect to you (in the madness of mum life)

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5 ways to reconnect to you (in the madness of mum life)

This was an article I wrote for The Early Hour. 

Life as a modern mum can be madness.  There is so much to do - picking up, dropping off, cooking, working, cleaning, packing bags, unpacking bags, spending time with the husband (occasionally), let alone trying to find time to have some sort of social life.

Our modern lives as mums have never been busier, more stressful or pressured. It can be so hard to turn the attention to ourselves, to reconnect with who you are and how you’re feeling - but I believe it’s vital we find time to, and often.

Without coming back to ourselves and getting stuck on the ‘give, give, give’ train, we’re even more likely to feel that pressure, stress and overwhelm. We’re more likely to snap at the kids, our family and curse the woman holding up the queue under our breath (or maybe that’s just me).

We’re also going to find ourselves reacting to life all the time, instead of responding.

Re-connecting back to you doesn’t mean long candlelit baths, spa weekends or walking in woods (although all those things are lovely…). It means seeing how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, what’s going on for you right now.

It’s bringing yourself back to centre.

Despite being a wellbeing coach, when motherhood came along I was massively thrown off course and I’ve been on my own journey, learning along the way, how to stay connected to me and in turn be a present, calm mum.

1. Stop and drop

I don’t know about you, but I often get stuck in my head - thoughts whizzing around, darting from one topic to another or I’ll fixate on one issue and turn it round and round in my mind and get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’.

The problem with this type of thinking it that’s it’s unproductive and actually blocks us from opening up to the creative solutions we often so badly want.

So what can we do?

I practice the ‘stop and drop’.

When I notice I’ve lost myself in crazy thinking, I stop what I’m doing and drop into my body.

  • How do I feel right now?
  • Where am I holding tension?

  • Is my jaw clenched?

  • Are my shoulders high?

Dropping out of your head and into your body will help to calm your mind and bring you back to the moment.

2. Journalling

Writing is one of the most powerful and simple tools we have as mums to connect back and get some perspective.

When I teach journaling, I often face a lot of resistance - time, the concern of it being read, not knowing what to write - my response is always the same, just start for 5 minutes a day and see what happens. Often my clients can’t believe the difference it makes.

It only takes 5 minutes a day and you can do this with pen and paper (which is preferable) or on your phone.

Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to get started

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What am I worried about?

  • What’s on my mind?

  • What would I like more of in my life?

  • What am I grateful for?  

3. Put your phone down

Having the world in our pocket has undoubtedly changed our lives, and I think for the better. But something I’ve noticed in my own life is how easy it is to use the phone to disconnect from myself.

When an uncomfortable feeling comes up, I often find myself mindlessly reaching for my phone (and inevitably onto the Instagram app) to distract myself, to numb the feeling.

The issue with doing this habitually is that our feelings need to be processed, they are often telling us something and if we don’t face them head-on, they can come out sideways. So snapping at your husband over dinner might be that feeling you repressed after something triggered you in the playground this morning.

This is obviously a huge topic, but I’d love you just to become aware of it. Tune into your feelings and use your journalling gently to explore them.

And remember that what causes the most pain in our lives is trying to avoid uncomfortable feelings, not the feelings themselves.

4. Write a letter to you on your 90th birthday

As busy mum’s it’s easy for the days, the years and even the decades to fly by in a blur of activity and doing, getting stuck on the roundabout of busy modern life and schools runs, without ever asking ourselves what we really want or dream of doing.

One of the first exercises I ask clients to complete is to write a letter to their 90-year-old self.

What have you done in life?

What have you learned?

How have you grown?

Have you found peace of mind?

Have you risked truly being you?

Have you done everything you dreamed of?

This is a really simple, powerful way of reconnecting back to you and your dreams. Remember to tune into what you really want, not what you think you should want.

5. Just breathe

I know it sounds like one of those cheesy Insta quotes, but I promise you it works. I think we all intuitively know this, which why we’ll often tell someone distressed to ‘take a few deep breaths’.

When we’re stressed and rushing our breath becomes shorter and shallower as we breathe out of our chest, this, in turn, causes tension in our body and can trigger the fight/ flight/freeze response, causing further stress and so the cycle goes on.

So as you’re going about your day, stop and focus on two deep breaths. In through the nose and right down into the belly and out again.

Deep breathing not only calms us down it also brings awareness to the moment, which can help us to notice that life is a thread of moments, woven together that come and go exactly as they were meant to.

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Why motherhood is easier when we love ourselves

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Why motherhood is easier when we love ourselves

To celebrate Valentines Day today, I wrote a piece for Alternatively Healthy 'Why motherhood is easier when we love ourselves'. 

Our relationship with ourselves is the longest, most intimate and important one we will have in our lives.

People will come and go, even our children will one day grow up and follow their own dreams - but we will always have ourselves. The well known quote ‘wherever I go, there I am’ is a cliche because it’s so true - no amount of money, travel, success or even children can change how we feel about ourselves - we have to do the work (and like any good relationship, it is work) to get to a place where we feel love for who we really are. As another cliche goes, ‘happiness is an inside job’.

For me self-love started with self-respect, treating my mind and my body with the respect they deserved. Letting go of people, jobs and things that no longer served me and making choices for myself by asking ‘what’s the most loving thing for me?’. I found I naturally stopped drinking, unhealthy eating, self-defeating behaviours and negative thinking the more I started to love myself.


Having children can be one of the best mirrors there is to reflect back to us our relationship with ourselves. I’m on a journey with this too, and I definitely don’t love myself fully all the time, but when I am in a place of self-respect, love and compassion I’ve noticed how much easier parenting is.

Here’s why:

1. You experience less guilt


Mums who love themselves know how to treat themselves kindly and compassionately - just like they would their children. When those horrible guilt ridden thoughts arise, they can counter them with perspective, understanding and maybe even an affirmation such as ‘I’m doing the best I can’.

2. You make time for yourself


We all know becoming a mum means significantly less time for ourselves. But that doesn’t mean no time. Mums who love themselves know that they are worthy of a time-out to simply reconnect to themselves - even if it’s a 10-minute bath or listening to guided meditation in another room.

3. You eat better


What we choose to put in our bodies can be a powerful reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Mums who love themselves tend to eat nourishing, whole foods that give their bodies the nutrients and energy it needs to keep up with the kids! I’ve also noticed when I’m feeling good about myself, I’m less likely to polish off that pasta pesto my daughter has rejected. As my therapist pointed out to me when I was struggling with this - it doesn’t feel very loving to yourself to be hovering over the bin gobbling down someone else’s leftovers!

4. You can say ‘no’ easily


I have found a direct correlation between my level of self love and my ability to say no. When I love and respect myself, I don’t need to get validation from others - it comes from within. So mums who love themselves care far less about what others think of them and more about what they think of themselves. That means less of doing things out of obligation and more time to focus on what makes them feel great.

5. You embrace imperfection

Mums who love themselves know that they are perfectly imperfect - we all are.  I’ve found the more I love myself, the more honest I can be with what is really going on or how I really feel. Wearing a mask to greet the outside world or painting on a smile (when you really feel exhausted and depleted) isn’t loving to yourself, as often it stops you getting the support, hugs and kind words that might just turn your day around.






 



 

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OUR BIRTH STORY

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OUR BIRTH STORY

After peeing on that stick and seeing the little blue lines, if you’d have told me I was going to have a empowering, drug free home birth I would have laughed in your face and cried a little inside from fear. To me birth was painful, scary and should be done with as many drugs as possible. So naturally, I set about planning a hospital birth with an epidural.

So what happened?

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10 THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN BEFORE BECOMING A MUM

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10 THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN BEFORE BECOMING A MUM

My second piece for Alternatively Healthy and it was surprisingly easy to write...I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing. I've had some lovely feedback about this piece, so I hope you enjoy it too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments...

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When I was pregnant, all the focus seemed to be on the birth, the baby or how big my bump was. I wish someone had made me a cuppa, sat me down and whispered these secrets into my ear. Would have made post-baby life and especially that first year a lot easier.

1.FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS NOT THE RULES

Books can be great for guidance and ideas. But it’s time to stop reading them if they are causing you more stress than benefit. Same goes for Dr Google.

When I interviewed transformational coach Nicky Clinch for The Motherkind Podcast, she told me everything changed when she finally threw out the books and started listening to herself. Every baby and child is different, with its own neurology, so tune into your baby and follow your instincts of what you think he/she needs. I promise you 99% of the time you’ll be right (and the 1% you won’t be far off).

I wish I’d practised more learning to access and follow my instincts before Jessie came along. It’s a skill that needs focus – it requires getting quiet inside and learning to dim the outside noise to dial up your own inner voice. I wrote a piece on how to do it here.

2. IT PROBABLY WON’T LOOK HOW YOU PLANNED

If one thing is for certain, it’s that nothing is.

If you’re anything like me you might have daydreamed about what sort of mum you’d be. I was all about the natural parenting; breastfeeding for at least a year and I never really considered it might not work out that way. It turned out for my daughter and I breastfeeding wasn’t easy and despite that, I forced myself to continue, putting way too much pressure on myself to meet my own expectations. Looking back I wish I’d accepted reality exactly as it was and been grateful for the option of bottle feeding. Letting go of how it ‘should’ be is incredibly freeing and will allow you to surrender to the experience rather than fighting it.  

3. GET COMFORTABLE ACCEPTING AND ASKING FOR HELP

This was a huge one for me, I had some strong limiting beliefs I needed to work through before I became a mum such as ‘asking for help is weak’, ‘asking for help means I’m not coping’. Luckily, by the time Jessie came along I was able to clearly state what help I needed and accept it graciously. For the first month, I asked every visitor to bring a meal – it meant I didn’t have to cook for a month (heaven) and my friends and family also appreciated knowing what to bring to help out. WIN WIN. 

4 .LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS LOOKING AFTER YOUR BABY

When Jessie was born I was overwhelmed with the heady mix of love and responsibility – I focussed all my time, energy and effort on her and pretty much forgot about me. It’s so easy to do but slowly my lack of self-care started to tell –  I found myself becoming increasingly anxious, irritable and stuck back in my well-trodden thought patterns of perfectionism, judgment and self-criticism. I realised I had to find a way of looking after both of us. Looking after my wellbeing isn’t selfish or a luxury, it’s a necessity if I’m going to be the best mum I can be. I now believe it’s selfish for me not to look after myself, as if I’m not feeling good, everyone in the family is affected. I wrote a longer post about how to juggle self-care with being a mum here.

5. DO 50% LESS THAN YOU WANT TO

Before becoming a mum life was full on, busy and jam-packed with activity. One of the greatest challenges I found in becoming a mum was slowing down, savoring the quiet afternoons of nothingness and reframing what I viewed to be a successful day (for me it was getting showered and one activity). Often our rushing and busyness can be a coping mechanism or a way of avoiding ourselves. Embrace this opportunity of becoming a mum to get to know yourself and your baby better, it will be way more beneficial to you both than spending those early days in a haze of activity.

6. ALL YOUR FEARS AND ANXIETIES WILL RISE TO THE SURFACE

Despite being 10 years into my personal healing journey when I had Jessie, the experience of loving this little human so much bought all my tendencies for fear and anxiety up to the surface. My fearful mind went into overdrive – what if she stops breathing? What if she’s got an undetected disease? And so it went on. It was a sign how much I loved her, and therefore totally natural that my fearful mind would kick in – the trick is to detach from it, so you don’t become a quivering wreck by the end of week one. The best way I’ve found to do that is meditation (see next point).

7. MEDITATION IS MUMS NEW SECRET WEAPON

Despite being a regular meditator pre-baby, the change in routine and sleep deprivation meant I just wasn’t doing it enough. This meant I struggled to detach from my crazy thinking, which with a new baby was not ideal! Mediation is a life-changing tool and I think every mum should meditate because we need it the most! Download an app such as Calm or Headspace and find 10 mins a day to practice. During feeding is a great time, especially in the middle of the night when it can be so tempting to jump on our phones (which will then make falling back to sleep so much harder.)

8. DON’T GET STUCK IN COMPARE + DESPAIR

Ah good old social media, such a quick way to beat ourselves up and a helpful reminder that everyone else has it sorted and I’m doing.it.all.wrong. Or maybe that’s just me?! When I had Jessie I made myself a new rule, if I was struggling or feeling vulnerable in any way then I wouldn’t go on social media. Whilst there is lots of support and positivity online, when I’m in that space my mind is like a guided missile seeking out further evidence that I’m shit. So I avoided it all together and it was game changer. Then the next day when I was feeling better, I could enjoy a good ol’ scroll which felt nourishing and uplifting. Remember no two parents are the same, we all do it differently and you are doing it perfectly imperfectly for you and your baby.

9. BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Having a baby is one of the most amazing, awe-inspiring, life-changing events that will ever happen to you. It’s also incredibly hard. I work with so many mums who struggle with feeling not good enough, guilty, have a loud inner-critic and speak to themselves like their own worst enemy. We’re so kind our friends and family, so please extend that same kindness to yourself, you are doing the best you can one day at a time. Practice applying the same tenderness, understanding and love you feel for your child onto you too.

10. PRIORITISE SLEEP OVER EVERYTHING ELSE

Ah, sleep. The new mum’s nemesis. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique – it’s incredibly hard to function when you’re exhausted. It’s an obvious one but sleep whenever you can and if you can’t sleep at least try to relax, there are great guided meditations out there (check out YouTube for free ones). Even though Jessie is now 2 I still try to get in bed by 9pm every night, even if that means the house is a mess and the washing isn’t done. Sleep is my number one priority.

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5 SELF CARE TIPS FOR NEW MUMS

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5 SELF CARE TIPS FOR NEW MUMS

I am super happy to announce I'm the motherhood wellbeing contributor for the UK's fastest growing online wellbeing mag, Alternatively Healthy

Here is the first piece I've written for them. Let me know your self care survival tips in the comments. 

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It’s so easy as a new mum to focus exclusively on the little human wrapped up in our arms and totally forget about ourselves. I mean who wouldn’t?!

The problem is, that ignoring our own wellbeing through this period can make an already challenging time even more difficult. Lack of sleep, a plethora of outside advice, a totally new relationship to navigate and endless new things to learn is a tricky landscape to navigate, even for the most zen of us. I found to really enjoy the early months I needed to be in a good place myself. Makes sense doesn’t it? But it’s hard to do in the midst of the newborn haze, so I coach pregnant women to create a self care menu ready for the early days. I define self care as an act of love towards the self (this isn’t about hair / nails / massage that self care often gets tagged as on Instagram!). So here’s my top tips for self care in those early days:

 

RE-DEFINE WHAT A GOOD DAY LOOKS LIKE

Before becoming a mum many of us would rush to work, do a full day of meetings, lunch with a colleague, polish off a presentation and then get to a spin class after work. Post baby a good day for me was getting showered and out to the local coffee shop. Redefining what a good day looked like was one of the best things I ever did – one of the biggest adjustments to life as a new mum is learning to be ok with doing less and this simple trick really helped – so define it now, what does a good day like for you?

LEARN TO SAY NO

Slowing down and savoring the special time of the early months is one of the greatest joys, yet biggest challenges of being a new mum. Many of us are used rushing and busyness as a way of keeping feelings at bay or as a way to feel successful and validated. Slowing down might feel hard, counter-intuitive even, but I urge you to try, you will only get this time once so if you feel tempted to get busy ‘doing’ try just ‘being’.

Learning to say ‘no’ lovingly is a vital self care tool, if you have people pleasing tendencies like me this could feel hard, but remember agreeing to something (especially people visiting) when you don’t really want to is a subtle form of self-sabotage – it undermines your self worth. I struggle with saying no as the thing I fear most is rejection – that if I say no then the person or opportunity will never happen again. However what I’ve learnt is quite the opposite, that by saying no to others and yes to myself I’ve earned respect and trust from others.

GRATITUDE GRATITUDE GRATITUDE

Our brains are wired to focus on the negative, it’s a phenomenon called negativity bias, that’s why focussing each day on 5 things we’re grateful for is so effective, it puts a totally different lens on the day. Being grateful especially when we’re tired, lonely or struggling can feel hard, but those are the times to dig deep and list out at least 5 things you are grateful for, it can be simple as ‘good food to eat’. Try it for a least a week and I promise you will start to notice the difference. There are also some great apps available on the app store, I use one called ‘The Gratitude App’.

NOURISH YOURSELF TOO

It might sound like an obvious one, but many new mums I work with struggle to keep themselves nourished in the early days. Especially if you’re breastfeeding then it’s vital you drink enough water, general guidance is about 10 glasses a day. When we’re tired our bodies crave sugar and carbs, which ultimately will make us more tired, so ask for help and get friends and family to bring home cooked, nutritious meals when they visit.

BAN THE ‘S’ WORD

In my house the word ‘should’ is banned, we replace it with ‘could’ which is much more loving. If you’re constantly telling yourself what you ‘should’ be doing, catch it and replace it with ‘could’ – for example ‘I could go out but right now I’m choosing to let myself rest’. Cultivating self-compassion and kindness through the words we say to ourselves is a vital foundation for a strong relationship with our children, after all how we talk to ourselves is often how we talk to others. Psychologist Carla Marie Manly believes self-compassion is a necessary ingredient for a healthy relationship: “If an individual is geared toward neglecting the self while doting on others, this uneven balance will eventually take its toll. When a person has true compassion for the self, that compassion then supports healthy, balanced relationships.”

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The 4 things I’ve learnt about juggling wellbeing and parenthood

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The 4 things I’ve learnt about juggling wellbeing and parenthood

I was thrilled when Battersea wellbeing studio Eve and Grace asked me to be an ambassador. Marsha, who runs the studio asked me to write a piece for their blog on how I fit in my own wellbeing with being a mum. I loved writing it, hope you enjoy reading it. Let me know your tips in the comments....

The 4 things I’ve learnt about juggling wellbeing and parenthood.

Before my daughter was born my wellbeing was front and centre of my life - yoga most days, daily meditation, weekend workshops and hours of journalling. I look back now I’m a parent and can’t believe I ever complained about being busy or tired!

When Jessie was born 2 years ago I was overwhelmed with the heady mix of love and responsibility - I focussed all my time, energy and effort on her and pretty much forgot about me.

It’s so easy to do, becoming a parent is the most incredible thing in the world. But slowly my lack of self care started to tell -  I found myself becoming increasingly anxious, irritable and stuck back in my well-trodden thought patterns of perfectionism, judgment and self-criticism.

I realised I had to find a way of looking after both of us.

I deeply believe I have to nourish myself to be a good mum. Looking after my wellbeing isn’t selfish or a luxury, it’s a necessity if I’m going to be the best mum I can be. But with less time and freedom it’s about integrating wellbeing into daily lives, rather than seeing it as something separate or another thing to add to the ever expanding to do list.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  1. Know what works for you - ‘wellbeing’ is totally different for each us and with less time it’s about doing the things that are going to have the biggest impact. Get to know yourself - what makes you feel great? Do you need connection with others or space to yourself? Movement or stillness? Create a wellbeing toolkit totally tailored to you. My podcast with the self care expert Suzy Reading will give you loads of practical ideas.

  2. Managing energy - I’ve never been more tired in my life since becoming a mum, so managing my energy is key. Apart from sleep which isn’t always available (I also have some tips on that below) there’s lots of other ways I manage my energy. Diet is the obvious one but also I think about my emotional energy such as spending time with people who give and don’t drain my energy.

  3. Take mindful moments throughout the day - Before Jessie I used to meditate 20 minutes morning and evening. That’s just not possible with a toddler so now I do 5 mins in the morning and evening when I can. I also use mindfulness throughout my day - pushing the buggy, washing Jessie’s hands (talking her through it as a guided meditation), in fact anything can be done mindfully and it’s such a powerful tool for keeping calm and connected. Anxiety Expert Chloe Brotheridge explains how it changes our brain chemistry in my podcast with her or for my 60 second meditation click here.

  4. Sleep when you can, for as long as you can - when I don’t get enough sleep my other wellbeing tools just don’t work as well. I try to get in bed by 9pm every night, even if that means the house is a mess and the washing isn’t done. I do miss out on time with my husband - but my wellbeing is more important. I’m also a huge advocate of daytime napping (if you can) and asking for help so you can get a few more hours shut eye. Meditation will help you get to sleep quicker and have better quality sleep when you can get it. Try a guided meditation to get to sleep, there are lots of really great free ones on YouTube.

 

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Our hidden superpower

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Our hidden superpower

Since becoming a mum I’ve heard the phrase ‘follow your intuition’ more times than I care to remember. Of course, it’s sound advice, but I think the throwaway phrase scattered around like self-help confetti does an injustice to how hard this is.  Or maybe it’s just me?

So, what is our intuition? For me the definition is simple, it’s that inner nudge I get when I just “know” the answer to something.

Albert Einstein called the intuitive mind a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant. But we live in a society that over-values the servant and has devalued the gift. We’re not using our intuitive mind enough and as a result we’re allowing our crazy-thinking–monkey-minds to run the show. No wonder we’re confused and overwhelmed. Or maybe it’s just me?

The good news? We all have intuition. I bet you can think of so many times when you’ve looked back on something and thought ‘I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do’.

So what’s going on?

I think so often we ignore or override this inner truth to please our outer worlds.

Our challenge as mums is to stay true to ourselves when the world around us may expect different things from us – we live in a world of ‘shoulds’. It can feel brave, radical even to shun the ‘shoulds’ and focus on following our own inner GPS, especially when it goes against the grain.

I think all the answers are inside of us, but we block them with layers of fearful thinking, people pleasing and ‘shoulds’. Believing that the answer is 'out there' (hello Google) when often the answer is within us.

Being a mum it seems like there are endless decisions to make – wouldn’t it be easier if we could tap into our inner truth to make the choices best for us and our families quickly and confidently?

Here’s some of my top tips for accessing our hidden superpower.

1)    Flip a coin –  This isn’t about making a decision by flipping a coin (although if it gets to that...) it’s about using the pressure of a result from the coin to force your inner voice to the fore. This is from one of my favourite authors Glennon Doyle Melton. If you’re not sure what it is you really want, take a coin and assign each side an option, flip the coin and before it lands and without thinking shout which side you want it land on. Read how Glennon used it to teach her kids an important lesson here. 

2)    Fear blocks our intuition – I’m not talking about the ‘my god that spider is massive’ fear here. I’m talking about the fear that presents itself as your inner critic (yup, we all have one) that is telling you you’re not good enough, you did it wrong, you couldn’t possibly do that. It’s the part of your mind trying to keep you safe, by trying to keep you small and risk free. But so often our intuition will invite us to grow and take risks. Quieten the fear mind chatter through becoming more aware of the ticker tape through your mind and if you catch yourself on a negative thought spiral, catch it and replace it with something positive. It’s a muscle and like the gym it’s bloody hard work but totally worth it.

3)    Journal – stream of conscious writing keeps our thinking mind quiet and allows us to connect to our intuition. That’s why every spiritual and personal development course I know includes journaling. Get a nice notebook and pen. Write the question you want answering at the top of the page and start writing. Just start and keep going. Trust me some surprising things will come up. You can always destroy the pages afterwards if you’re worried about prying eyes. It’s the process that’s important.

4)    Meditate – you knew it was coming, didn’t you? It’s obvious I know, but meditation is the best way to connect to our intuition. It allows us to practice quietening the incessant mental chatter and find the space to connect back to our true selves. Read my beginner meditation tips here.

5)    Any finally, experiment – try trusting your intuition on a few small decisions, see what happens then build up to using your intuition on bigger decisions. It’s fun. Trust me.  

What tools do you use to connect to your intuition? Has this changed since you've become a mum? I'm so keen to hear about your experiences on this, so share the wisdom in the comments below. 

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Do this for 60 seconds to change your life

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I think becoming a mum is the perfect time to start meditating – why? Because we need it so much.

Motherhood is a package deal; the joy and love comes with more challenges and opportunities for losing our minds than I ever thought possible.

That’s where meditation comes in.

Meditation has single handedly kept me sane and happy through my motherhood journey so far and all the challenges I’ve faced along the way. I also owe overcoming my fears about launching Motherkind to mediation, without my practice I honestly think I would have succumb to the negative committee in my head.

It really is a life changing skill.

In my podcast with Anxiety Expert Chloe Brotheridge she explains how meditation actually changes our brain chemistry – it helps us to relax, make better decisions, stay in the present, deal with challenges calmly, reduces anxiety, increased patience with our children – the list of benefits really is endless.

I know what you might be thinking, that sounds great, but how on earth am I going to find time to meditate? Or I’m too stressed to meditate or I can’t sit still. Here’s the good news - you only need one minute to start with and build from there. Everyone has one minute.

As Gabby Bernstein says, one minute a day sat in stillness can change your life.

All you need is willingness. A desire to try.

Taking one minute in the morning was how I started my practice 10 years ago and I now sit 10 mins in the morning and 10 mins in the evening. For me, meditation is like exercise, the challenge is starting.  

Make the commitment to yourself to find your one minute, ideally first thing in the morning as we’re more open and less buzzing from the day’s events so it’s easier to settle.

Here’s my step by step instructions:

1)    Set a timer on your phone for one minute

2)    Sit on the floor or chair however is comfortable don’t worry about crossing legs or where your hands are for now

3)    Close your eyes – this will help you go inwards

4)    Take a deep breath in for 5 seconds and feel the air rushing past the nostrils and your chest expanding. Try to focus all your energy on experiencing the sensation.

5)    When a thought comes in, just let it go and focus back on the sensation of breath

6)    Breath out for 8 seconds and focus on the air leaving your nostrils. Try to feel the last thread of breath leaving your nostril.

7)    Repeat for one minute

 

 

Let me know how you get on in the comments.