Kindness

When I got married, my mum gave me a card with some advice to me as a newly wed.

She said the most important thing in a successful marriage is kindness. I couldn’t agree more with her – it’s been one of the most vital things for my relationship to stand the test of time – we’ve been together for close to ten years now!

And as I spent a day off work last week, completely exhausted from the ups and downs of covid life and lack of sleep (thanks for the 5am wake ups, Jenson!), I was reminded of the importance of kindness not just towards my husband but towards myself.

I spent the morning having a wonderful run to the seaside and into some countryside – time in blue and green space was just what the doctor ordered, but after that, I started to feel really antsy and uncomfortable. The day that had started so well was no longer going so well – I was doubting myself and feeling like the day was going to be one big disaster.

And then I remembered that what I really needed was a huge dollop of kindness.

I started to ask myself ‘what would be the kindest thing to do for myself?’.

And here’s what I was guided to:

  • Get back into your PJ bottoms to stay cosy
  • Listen to the sound of rain on an app you’ve got as you spend a bit of time just chilling
  • Have lunch in bed, watching a feel good film
  • Enjoy the nice full feeling you’ve got from having eaten slightly too much chocolate
  • Have a nap
  • Take it slow

It’s such a different approach to a child-free and work-free day of the past where I’d try to cram in so much – needing to feel like I’d achieved something from the day instead of asking what I needed from the day itself (rest, fun, reflection…).

Instead of telling myself that I need to be productive or do something with my time, it was such a relief to just be. 

To allow myself to unwind from the pace of life for a moment. To sink even deeper – if that’s possible – into the potential of a life designed around taking care of myself with loving kindness.

And I’ve really appreciated a tip I took from a resilience webinar I attended on Wednesday (shown in the photo below) – in every choice we make throughout a day, we have a range of options – from something that’s the best possibility, to the worst possibility.

Our days are made up of these possibilities, stacked one after another in each decision we make. They can make us ascend or descend – the image shows how you can make the least kind decision but then bound up and ‘recover ground’ by making the most kind decision next.

Yet I rarely lived like this before. In the past, if I made one unkind choice towards myself (usually around eating my feelings away instead of acknowledging what I was feeling) I’d immediately discount the day and would spiral into some form of hell – beating myself up, eating even more, feeling crap about myself…it’d usually continue in that way for some days after until I managed to jolt myself out of the cycle.

But what I see now, what the model shared in the webinar showed, is that after that initial ‘worst’ choice, there is always another opportunity, another decision, another path to take which can lift us up – whether that’s the choice to:

  • stop eating and acknowledge what is going on to us instead
  • take a step back and assess our options
  • start speaking to ourselves with kindness
  • take the higher ground

It can turn around a day that has started to spiral

It’ reminded me that it’s never too late for kindness.

So what are you going to do with your day? How are you going to show yourself kindness today, friend?

ctl-logo-01

A sustainable life

I’m currently in the middle of an amazing trip visiting my dear friend, Nadine, in Texas.

On the cusp of this first prolonged trip away from my family, I felt apprehensive. But another part of me knew this trip was vitally important.

It was a time to find myself again after living in the reality of new motherhood for the past two years.

During these years, I tried to find a balance between my responsibilities to my son and my work, but looking back, I can see that other things suffered – myself, the relationships I hold dear, my health, my sanity(!)…

Balancing everything in a world that promises us that “we can have it all” is an impossibility. Because I believe that “having it all” is a lie.

Even if I were a millionaire, I might have more rest through the help of a nanny, but this would be at the cost of my motherhood.

And as I meditated on my way over in the airplane, I received the following wisdom;

Amy, you have 100% of your energy available to you. So how are you going to use it? Compromises will have to be made, certain things will have to fall away. But you have the ability to make a choice in all this. 

And so sat in a beautiful cafe in south Austin, I looked at what my life currently looks like with everything important to me.  

Here are my thoughts about certain parts of it:

Work

Work is deeply important to me. It fuels my creativity, allows me to feel mastery and it contributes to being an active citizen (working for local government) as well as contributing to my personal growth. It’s important…and yet, it takes up most of my energy. I know as it is it’s not sustainable for the long-haul.

Love

I miss my husband. I miss lazy lie-ins and carefree evenings spent with friends. I miss the time to love him, the energy to go on dates, lying next to him in bed, the spare money with no nursery to pay for to go on dates without thinking about the cost, the time to both enjoy TV shows together and also catch-up without any bedtime pressure.

I know this will pass, but it’s hard.

And I want to be aware of this so that we don’t come out of the early years of parenting fog to find ourselves on different tracks in life, lost to each other.

Recuperation and rest

This is another one which will change as Jenson grows and starts to sleep through the night. At present, my husband and I take turns to respond to our son’s cries and so at least half the week is made of broken sleep. This means that ideally bedtime is 9-9:30, which eats into my connection with Gregg and ability to tap into other areas of the circle – health, connection with friends, my spiritual life…

But it is what it is.

I’m realising how important it is to have an extended period of time – a night or two – away from the daily grind each month.

It’s important to have time just being me, time of sleeping in, time of not having every minute accounted for and a countdown to when bedtime should be.

It’s also a time of connection with friends and nature (where I get my spiritual connection), so I recognise that this isn’t just about rest, but about many more things.

I’ve not been as disciplined with prioritising this time away as I should be, but I will be moving forward.

Household & health

Sure, in an ideal world I’d do a yoga class weekly. I’d a tidier house. I’d stay fit by going for jogs instead of the continual late-sprint for my train or pedalling home on my bike. I’d eat less processed food. I’d do washing in my spare time instead of when I’m looking after Jenson.

But these aren’t priority areas for me at the moment.

And that’s ok.

Motherhood

I recognise that Gregg is stepping up and caring for our boy more than I am at the moment. And it’s not just when I’ve been here on holiday – he’s stepped into a 50:50 role if not slightly more of the care role at times.

I’ve needed him to do so when I’ve reached burnout and felt like I had nothing left to give.

And that’s ok.

I’m allowed for parenthood to be 50:50 at this early stage despite every cultural bone in my body proclaiming that I should be the carer. I should have the bigger role in Jenson’s early years.

This is compounded by a noticing of how I’m less capable of staying in the role of the ‘perfect’ mum – I don’t have enough energy for it.

The reality is that Jenson spends time watching Netflix if he wakes before 6am and I often find quick fixes to entertain him as I balance the minimal amount of housekeeping and food prep I do around time looking after him.

All the while, a little voice in my head tells me that I should be engaged with his play 100% and should leave the other stuff. Should leave my needs.

But I can’t.

And so I accept the reality of what is.

Interdependencies

I notice that several of these areas are linked together. Motherhood, work and love all jostle for my time and one area reducing leads to a gain in another.

Likewise, rest and recuperation is met through travel (often to see friends) and provides time for me to seek a spiritual connection outside myself.

And my spiritual opening links to better health outcomes as I live with less anxiety and live more in my truth, which positively impacts my relationships with friend and family.

And so this wheel of life turns, ever adjusting for my awareness of it. Constantly dancing as I find space for that which I hold dear in my life.


Thanks to Nadine, who treated me to a night in the incredibly cool Carpenter Hotel, whose coffee I’ve been sipping while finishing these reflections.

ctl-logo-01

Baby moon

I wrote about my breastfeeding issues a few days ago and, while I’ve stopped being angry at myself for having trouble producing enough milk for Jenson, I’m still frustrated that things haven’t improved. If anything they’ve got a bit worse as Jenson needs to have all the extra milk I’m expressing in order for him to fill up. I’ve started to worry that his demand will outstrip my supply and that my milk will start to dry up…

My good friend Charlie recommended that I call the La Leche League breastfeeding support line to get some advice and I’m so glad I did this afternoon when I was having a wobbly moment. The woman at the end of the phone was really kind and supportive, telling me that I’m trying my best (it’s always nice to hear that!) and gave me some great advice that I’m putting into practice right now.

To have a baby moon.

Not a trip away to a tropical destination – although we’re planning to go away as a family to Vietnam in June (more on that in future posts, I’m sure!) – but a time to get snuggled up warm with my bubba doing lots of skin-to-skin contact*.

Apparently this can increase milk supply more than any food supplement, stout, breast pumping or concoction can.

I’ve written previously about how hard I’ve found the change of pace in my life. Slowing down has been tricky, let alone grinding to a halt to have my baby on me as I rest for as many hours a day as possible.

But this feels different.

Like in doing nothing, I’m doing everything that I need to as a Mum. There’s a point to this stillness.

And could it be that I’m comfortable with the notion of stopping because I’ve been given permission to do nothing? Instead of thinking that I should go out, be active, stimulate Jenson, I’m looking at this time as a chance to pamper myself (reading a book, eating chocolates, watching my favourite tv shows and writing to you) while getting endless cuddles with my son.

Suddenly the pace doesn’t bother me at all. It feels like I’ve entered the start of a very enjoyable baby moon where I relax, sit back, take things slow and look after both myself and my son.

*skin-to-skin is where you get naked on top and have the baby rest on you. It apparently gets the mother’s hormones working, encouraging the body to produce more milk and gets the babies hormones working, encouraging him to breastfeed more.