The sacrifice a parent makes…

I’m not a typical “working mum.” I don’t leave home at a set time every day to return at the same time each day… Nor do I have a work routine. And the times that I do work are sporadic to say the least. 

But I like it that way because it means for the most part, I’m at home and available to my children. 

That said I’m not your typical “stay at home mum” either. I cant commit to weekly playgroups because one week differs from the next. I don’t linger at the school playground to chat to other Mums for a much needed piece of adult conversation because I’ve most likely got somewhere to go. 

But with one foot in each camp, I can genuinely see how parents make daily sacrifices regardless of whether they work in the traditional sense or not. 

And I don’t mean this in a negative “never have children or your life is DOOMED” kind of way. But I’m expressing this because I feel the heaviness and duty that goes with juggling work and parenthood and the guilt at feeling we are not doing a good enough job often goes unnoticed. 

Yes we have Mothers/Fathers Day and we get a card, flowers and a few chocolates if we’re being spoilt. But after that, on we go day in day out doing the same household chores, preparing the same meals, cleaning the same floors while dealing with the countless needs and wants of our little people. And on top of that doing whatever else is asked of us, work, social or otherwise. 

We get tired. God knows I’m tired. 

And I hear Mums tell me that they’ve lost themselves since having children. That they’ve been unable to work or find work with suitable hours. Some say they’ve lost their figures. Their looks. Most of us feel that we’ve lost pretty much most of our free time. 

And I get that. I get all of it. Before having children I spent most of my weeks travelling up and down the country giving workshops or performing at different venues. I was free to flit and float as I pleased. 

Now it sees I have to make an appointment if I want to take a bath… How times have changed!

But it was when I made another work sacrifice this week that I realised that all of these things aren’t really losses. These are choices that I’ve made. 

To clarify, I was offered some work. Some regular, full time work from home. “Great!” I thought. “I can fit it all in in-between the school runs and lunch breaks and put the telly on for my eldest while my youngest naps…” But that wasn’t quite how it all worked out. 

I discovered that multi-tasking full time work at home with children is verging on the impossible. At least for me anyway. 

The house was a tip, the kids were running riot and everyone including me was hungry, tired and very, very cranky. 

At the end of the day I was so grateful for bedtime but my work deadlines lingered on my mind. My chest felt tight and I felt absolutely stressed to the max. 

I can’t do this, I thought. 

I can’t dedicate myself fully to this full time work and be the mindful, attentive aren’t I want to be. 

So something had to give. I thought about what made me happier. Spending my time focusing on the children or carving out a writing career. Both, really. But I couldn’t do it both at the same time AND keep my sanity so I spoke to my manager and explained the situation. 

They replied, 

No problem, Get back to us when you’re fully available ūüôā 

Phew. 

Which will probably be in a couple of years. I was grateful for the opportunity and I loved the creative challenge but it wasn’t for me and my family at this moment in time. 

I am fortunate to have freelance work and an employed husband to get us by financially but my children won this dilemma hands down. 
It’s true, you give up a lot when you become a parent. And there’s always one parent that seems to have given up more. But it’s not forever and ultimately we are all doing what’s best for our family. 

Yes, I miss writing whenever I please. And when I’m turning down yet another job I could  easily have sulked and dwelled on thoughts of what I’ve lost. But you know what. Aside from losing an awful lot of time, energy and even my mind at times, I’ve gained an awful lot.

I have two little human beings that love me and who I adore. And if that’s a sacrifice I have to make, it’s one worth making. 

So to parents who may be mourning their previous lives or dwelling on their hardships, I feel your pain. But this won’t always feel as hard. Hang on in there. It’ll all be worth it in the end whatever choices you make. 

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Mindfulness and parenthood…

Once upon a time, back in the day, loooong before I became a Mum, practising mindfulness was just like practising another hobby. I had lots of time to fit it in and freedom of choice as to when and where I did it. 

I recall long slow mornings that followed a predictable routine; mindful yoga followed by a cup of herbal tea, twenty minutes of formal meditation and then off I went to get ready for work. Once I got home I often sat or lay in my room to carry out a body scan meditation, releasing any tension or worries from my day, ending the evening with a soak in the bath or a quick shower before another formal meditation before bed. 

That life seems like a world away to me now. 

Heavily pregnant with my second child, I spend most days with my energetic toddler, catering to his needs and pretty much doing what every other mother does. I love being a Mum yet there’s no doubt about it- it’s exhausting. You can’t even call it a “full time job” as at least with a job you get evenings and weekends off….! 

I knew when I had my first child that my life – in regards to mindfulness -would never be the same again. Being so responsible for  little person who needs and depends on me, I no longer have the freedom to “nip off for a quick meditation” or take a quiet, restorative mindful meal alone whenever the need arises. 

That’s not to say you can’t be a mindful parent. You just do things a little differently, as I’ve discovered over the past two years and no doubt I will continue to discover once baby number two arrives.

Mindfulness, for me, is no longer focused on formal meditations, guided transcripts or solitary exercises. Instead, I’m using the mindful principles as an approach to living. And so far, it helps. 

If I’ve been up in the night with my teething toddler, the house is a mess and I’m feeling exhausted, I try to use the loving kindness principles to go easy on myself. 

It’s so easy for parents to feel guilty about everything they’re not doing “well enough” whatever that may be, so I try to remind myself mindfully that I am in fact trying my best and I can just choose to let those negative, anxious thoughts go. 

Thoughts are only thoughts after all. 

It’s also incredibly easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of busyness when you have children with multitasking becoming second nature. 

In the early newborn days it used to feel like a race against time to get everything done during the baby’s naps. And at the end of the day I’d still be dissatisfied with all the jobs left to do so I’d lie awake writing to do lists, determined to tackle them the next day. 

I was striving, lost in the habit of “doing” and with little time alone it’s no surprise I found those early days as a mum pretty overwhelming. 

But gradually, I started to realise what I was doing. And this is the real beauty of mindfulness; by becoming aware of how mindless I was, things naturally began to change by themselves. And I began to feel much more capable. 

I would catch a negative thought more quickly and be able to offer myself the encouragement, reassurance or whatever it was I needed at that time. 

I could also sense when my body was becoming tense or over-tired and I consciously reminded myself to slow down and ask for help. 

I also began putting away my mobile phone away more, making the most of my time with my son and not getting lost in a virtual world of social media or news. More than any other time in my life, I now needed and wanted to be present. 

My breathing spaces and body scans turned into simply being present whilst playing with, bathing or reading to my son. There was no other place I had to be, mentally or physically. So in actual fact becoming a Mum grounded me for the first time in a very long time. 

And now as I wait for my second child to appear, I’m reminding myself even more of the compassionate principles Mindfulness endorses. 

I’m facing all the worries and anxieties I may have about the forthcoming birth and life afterwards. And by doing so I’m recognising and honouring my own needs, giving myself a voice and essentially being my own best friend. 

Which is what I reckon mindfulness has been trying to get us to be all along – kinder to ourselves. 

So essentially, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have the ‘time’ to disappear and be mindful formally. Instead, I’m practising ways of making my life a more centred, calmer and grounded one simply by living with awareness. 

Watching my thoughts and checking in with how I’m feeling from time to time are the two mindful practices that have transformed my life as a parent. I can choose my thoughts more carefully and live in a way that’s kinder to me. 

And if I’m happy and centred, those around me are more likely to be too. So mindfulness is not just a gift for myself. It’s power of presence is a gift for my family also. 

So single or attached, with children or without, I know from experience that mindfulness really is for anyone.