Balance

I’ve been feeling unbalanced recently.

Knowing that Jenson needs to come first for this period in my life, but also knowing that the current dynamic isn’t doing anyone good.

I’m (putting myself) under pressure and am getting physically sick as a result.

I’ve got too much work and not enough play in my life.

Most of my closest friends don’t live in Brighton.

I need to make a change but I didn’t know what to do, until I listened to a recent episode of the motherkind podcast (shout out to my friend Jess who repeatedly recommended it to me until I got my ass in gear and subscribed to it!).

It was with a lady who created project me, a website and business focusing on people taking small steps to improve their lives. Her focus is on coaching wheels, where you look at how you feel in a variety of areas and then take steps to improve them. I’ve given you what my ‘wheel’ looks like below, with peaks in work and family, middling in love, friends, self-growth and finance and lower levels around health and fun:

IMG_8883.JPG It was a good reminder of this tool – one which can be really powerful.

The thing which struck me more than anything about the episode (apart from the presenter and her guest both being a bit smug about how great their lives are!) was what Kelly, founder of Project Me, said about the power of meeting with other women who were keen to work on their own lives too.

They’d meet once a month to review their wheels, talk about what they wanted to do next to improve their lives. They coached each other, supported each other and provided a safe space for each other to explore and take action.

I want some of that!

But I didn’t know how I could get some of it in my life….and that’s when I decided to just put a shoutout to the universe (via Facebook!) to search for other mamas who wanted to get a bit more balance and self-care in their lives too.

And I was bowled over by the response.

There were so many other women who were keen to get together. So many others who were struggling but keen to get a better balance in their lives.

So we’re going to meet up in March to see what we can do to get this support group going.

I’ve got no clue how many people will be there – maybe 20, maybe 2.

But now I don’t feel so alone.

Now I feel like I might be able to take some steps to address the areas in my life that are slightly out of balance.

Now I feel excited about what the future will hold.

ctl-logo-01

Today

I’m off work today!!! Yippee!!!

Not that work is a bad thing – I enjoy what I do – but I’m so excited because this is the first ‘me’ day since Jenson came on the scene.

Yes, Jenson is at nursery, Gregg is at work and I’m able to spend the whole day doing exactly what I want to do. So I’m sat here, just after nursery drop-off, having a cup of chai tea and thinking about all the things I’m going to do today.

And, gosh, from the photo I just took to accompany this post, I can see that I need it! I can see the tiredness on me, the stretch of the last few weeks, the bleary eyes from too little sleep and the sinusitis I’ve been suffering with.

I’m going to do an exercise class – I know, not how I’d have planned to spend time alone a year ago. But I miss moving, I miss sweating, I miss feeling strong and accomplished physically (although I’m not sure how accomplished I’ll feel – I might be more of a hot, snotty, sweaty mess!).

I’m going to spend some time in a cafe with a huge slice of cake, writing and reading and pondering without a time limit on these thoughts!

I’m going to go to the cinema to see any frivolous film I fancy.

I’m going to get my hair cut.

I might even contemplate breaking my no shopping ban and looking for a new pair of trousers.

As I’m writing this, I feel a voice inside me saying how selfish this is, how stupid this will seem to you – all this bother over 8 hours alone -, how ungrateful I must sound to have such a gorgeous baby, such a supportive, caring husband and yet to crave more than anything time just by myself.

But then again, I think it’s important to share my truth. The truth that this day feels like EVERYTHING at this moment in time.

Because when you’re a parent, you don’t stop being yourself.

You don’t stop having needs.

And my need for quiet, for solitude, for time alone has grown bigger and bigger over these past months.

But this need doesn’t negate the love that I feel for my boys.

It doesn’t cancel out all that I do for Jenson and Gregg.

It doesn’t invalidate all the love I pour into my family, my work, my friends.

And so, without regret or shame I’m going to get this day started.

I can’t wait!

ctl-logo-01

Slowing down

Yesterday afternoon the generous support of my husband enabled me to have three hours to myself.

I caught up on my favourite tv programmes, wrote a blog post, read a bit and painted my nails.

It felt so good to just slow down and ‘be’ alone by myself and made me realise just how much slowing down is vital for my mental health.

It also made me realise that my life has been very full recently.

I wrote in my last blog post about how my life is so heavily structured. I know where I’m going to be most of the time and a lot of my ‘down time’ of late has been filled with weekends away and time away visiting family for Christmas.

I’m not complaining about these weekends away and Christmas plans – they’ve been lovely, fun and precious time with family – but with work being busy and outside work being full, I’ve not had much time where I can just be, by myself.

But I’m realising how much I need this time by myself. I’ve felt myself edge closer and closer towards mental breaking point and I need to stop before I make myself unwell.

But what does this time alone need to look like to improve my wellbeing?

I was reading an article about self-care that my close friend, Christina, sent to me.

It talked about self-care as the things we do that nourish and replenish our mind, bodies and souls.

And the first thing on the list of self-care examples they gave was slowing down, making space for solitude and reflection.

These are things I have little time for at the moment, but I’m beginning to realise that they are things that are so vital for my wellbeing.

Well, I think I have little time for them, but I could flex my life to have a bit more time alone.

  • I could take one evening a week when Jenson is in bed to do things by myself.
  • I could use my lunch breaks to do things that feed my soul, like meditating or writing.
  • Gregg and I could take it in turns to have mini-solitary sessions in the evening when we’re looking after Jenson.
  • I could be less focused on preparing for the week – making lunches and dinners in advance – to make more space for time alone.
  • When I’m away, visiting family or friends, I could take little pockets of time for myself
  • I could ask my parents to plan some weekends to Brighton over the next year to allow life to slow down.
  • I could stop filling every moment of downtime with activity – reading work books on the train, recording voice messages when I’m on my way somewhere, looking at my phone when I’m waiting for someone

I know that not all these ideas are practical, but something needs to change.

I desperately need time alone for my wellbeing and in order to stay in tip-top shape for the marathon that is parenthood and the journey that is life.

Having fun

I was in a funk this morning.

I’d had a night which felt like a continual wrestle with an farty alligator¬†(farts being a side effect I didn’t expect from teething) as Jenson tossed and turned, grizzled and cried.

I was at the bottom of my resources and felt aggrieved with how life is going at the moment.

I told myself that I would never have another child as I went through the motions of the morning and I negotiated time by myself with my husband.

I was pissed off when Gregg asked for some child-free time himself in return for watching Jenson this afternoon so I could have some quiet and peace.

I felt I needed time alone more (and I still stand by that!).

Gregg’d had a few hours to himself yesterday.

Hours that he’d spent food shopping, but still, that was the choice he’d made and they’d been child-free hours.

I couldn’t do it – couldn’t face a day with a cranky, teething baby. Having to be happy, jolly, all about him when inside I was wishing that I was child-free.

It’s hard to share these feelings because they aren’t ones that are very ‘acceptable’. They seem so wrong, especially knowing some people who are so desperate to have children but are struggling to conceive.

It feels so very unfair that I had Jenson so easily and am longing for a bit of my pre-child life back when it’s their dream to start a family.

But when you have children, dear friends, no matter how that happens – IVF, adoption, fostering – you will have moments of this too. Wishing to be child-free.

And that’ll be ok.

Raising children is full of joy but it’s oh so hard!

I’m glad to say that my day did get better after the shaky start.

Gregg suggested that we use his ‘Jenson free time’ to do something as a family. And so we went to a soft play centre that was a bit of a walk away. As soon as we got outside and started to chat and laugh and connect, I realised that I need more fun in my life.

You see, my life at the moment is very structured. I know where I’m going to be most of the time – it’s a necessity in order for life to work. I’ve compressed my working week so that I’m not financially strapped for cash yet still have a day off a week with Jenson. With an hour commute each way, this makes for long working days.

And as I’m a planner, I focus at the weekend on getting everything ready for the week ahead. Or I have plans at the weekend, which are lovely, but structured.

All work and little-to-no play, that’s what my life can feel like.

So going out as a family this weekend, off-the-cuff, felt really fun.

Walking and singing and dancing and playing was like salve to my soul. And I realised that I need more fun.

Not structured fun of planning lots of trips to see people. But jumping on a bus and going for a walk. Putting on music and dancing around. Going out for ice cream.

Less structure and more joy.

So that’s what I’m inviting into my life, with the hope that it will bring more joy to me and my family.

ctl-logo-01

Self-care

I’m finding it really hard to write this post. I’ve written and deleted, written and deleted but still nothing seems to be coming out right.

My words seem mundane, I’m worrying about who might take my words personally and read into them more than I intended, I question whether these are words to share or if they would be an overshare.

And this all points in one direction – I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should have recently.

It’s been a mentally and physically exhausting time and the effects are taking their toll on me.

You see, the start of this year has been wonderful – celebrating my son’s first birthday, having two full weeks off work to spend with family – but it has also been trying beyond my limits with my routine out of kilter and, most distressing, Jenson not settling into nursery.

It was hell to leave him screaming with distress at our nursery ‘settling’ sessions and difficult to come to terms with the fact that our little monkey might not be ready for being separated from us. For a week Gregg and I were left in the unknown of whether we would both need to reduce our hours at work to provide full-time care for our son since he was finding the transition to nursery too distressing.

And as life as we knew it hung in the balance, it was unbearably hard.

Did we parent him in a way that made a transition to nursery more difficult for him? Would Gregg still be in support of all the parenting decisions that are so important to me – co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, sling carrying – with his desire to support Jenson to be ‘independent’? How would our lives be if we were to cope on one salary? Would this impact plans that I dream for us as a family – plans that rely on our savings.

And the stress was too much for me.

Despite the fact that we turned a corner, he settled into nursery just in time – I’ve been left feeling broken and out of kilter.

My back was agony since I was carrying so much tension and I turned back to my old habits of eating too much.

Eating for comfort when things were too much.

Eating sweet stuff at work when this is something I’ve rarely done over the years.

Supplementing my lunch with crisps and other food that I didn’t need for hunger.

Eating more desserts than I usually would.

Eating more in social situations to squash my awkwardness or just because I was not being mindful of what I was eating.

And I’ve been worried more about what other people think of me.

I’ve clung onto the things that haven’t gone well at work and with friends and family.

I’ve pulled out all the things from my past that I didn’t do well to beat myself up with.

I’ve worried that I’m going to be ‘found out’, found wanting and that people will see me for the failure I am.

I’ve felt not enough.

I feel like my internal axis has shifted and suddenly I feel intrinsically ‘not ok’. I feel like my foundations have been shaken with the force of an earthquake and are full of cracks.

So how do I get back to where I was before all this happened?

The first thing is admitting that I’m not ok. I’ve been telling people – speaking to friends, telling my mum about how I’m feeling this weekend, sharing with my sister about what’s going on, speaking up when topics are causing my anxiety to spike to protect myself, talking to my husband about it all.

The second thing is reminding myself that food is not the issue. It’s the manifestation of what is going on underneath. And so, while I need to pay attention to the food stuff and try to not stuff myself silly, the most important thing is what’s going on underneath – not loving myself, not expressing myself, not having a release for the emotions that I am feeling, not being kind to myself while everything is a bit trickier than normal.

The third thing is remembering that this is just a moment in my life. It’s a hard moment, but just because I’ve gone a step back doesn’t mean that life will always be like this. It feels all encompassing at the moment when it’s just a short period of my life.

The fourth thing is that I need to put my self-care at the top of my priority list. I need to take a lunch break at work, find some sort of exercise (apart from running around like a headless chicken to get everything done in life!), I could benefit with doing some short meditations, writing a bit more than I have recently, painting my nails, reading a good book, cuddling up more with my husband, checking in with close friends, spending time with my son doing nothing but playing, putting down my phone more, having some ‘cave time’ cooking alone in the kitchen with a podcast on.

And finally I’ve requested some counselling through work to try to work out how I can be kinder to myself and how I can cope with my anxiety when everything feels a little bit harder than usual.

I hope this post can help you if you’re going through a hard time. I hope you can take comfort from knowing you’re not the only one who has a dysfunctional way of coping with hardship – I’m in the same boat as you!

It certainly feels better to have everything out in the open – to say I’m not ok, but that’s ok.

Life is full of ups and downs and just because this bit is down doesn’t mean that it always will be.

ctl-logo-01