“When I explained to my husband that I would be doing a blog on ‘Self Care’ – he looked at me…in disbelief…laughed in my face…and told me I wasn’t the right person for the task. He had a point. While I easily meet the eligibility criteria for “busy mum” unfortunately I without a doubt am NOT the poster girl for the universally accepted definition of self-care” –Dr Dale Garred.
Every day in our practice we see many parents as patients who are burning the candle at both ends. Our lovely Dr Dale gives us her ‘realistic’ self-care tips – for busy parents and explains that it’s not just bubble baths, massages and time to ourselves that we need.
ToP tip #1 – WORK AS A TEAM
Many families with young children will have either two busy working parents, one parent that works more than the other, or even one parent that works and the other that is home during the day with the children. This tip is for those families. There are other families who single parent, have one caregiver who is a shiftworker, or one parent that might work away – to those families – we salute you and don’t know how you do it. For the rest of us with two parents home most evenings and on weekends it is imperative that you work as a team.
You and your partner both decided to have a baby together. So irrespective of who is working more – you BOTH have the responsibility to tend to your children. This concept of, “I get up overnight to my children because my partner has to go to work the next day” is a load of rubbish. I can assure you…that I I am more physically and emotionally exhausted, after a weekend hanging out with my children, than I am on any day during the week that I go to work. Being a carer of children is equally if not more exhausting and demanding than going to work. So when both parents are around – the role of parenting MUST be shared…irrespective of who “did more” during the day.
ToP tip #2 – prevent disaster
Even though it might take you longer to get ready, OR mean 5-10 mins of less sleep or take more effort each day to have a little bit of organisation – that extra bit of preparation can save you HOURS in the long run. Hours of crying from an inconsolable toddler because she spilt yoghurt on her shirt and you didn’t pack a spare one.
I NEVER leave the house (even if it’s just a 5 minute trip to the grocery store) without extra clothes, extra food, extra toys, extra books, extra Panadol and Nurofen and spare water wipes for “just in case”. I also check that all of this is ready and packed for the next day – the night before – even if we have no plans and intend on just having a day home. My husband and I do this religiously – even if we’re tired, sick, sore, exhausted, battered and bruised from the day that was. Because you just never know what might happen or pop up. It’s like always using baking paper so there is less mess to clean up when your cooking.
The National Sleep Foundation writes that while 7-9 hours of sleep most nights is recommended for adults ~ 6 hours of sleep may be appropriate. I just aim for 6.
ToP tip #3 – kids are unbreakable so stop googling!
Believe me when I tell you that toddlers are pretty hard to break or ruin. Be quick to remind yourselves that there are kids living in much tougher conditions than yours…who still turn out ok. We all know people who despite difficult upbringings far worse than those you are providing for your children, who have grown up to become successful happy and healthy individuals living wonderful lives. If all you manage is to giggle and play with an empty tissue box with your toddler for 5 minutes, every now and then…you are doing enough. How much you love your children and who they will become is not measured or determined by the number of one on one minutes, extracurricular activities or freshly cooked meals they have.
Give you self a break, just do what you can and what you enjoy, and know that kids will generally idolise you – even if Google would tell you you are worst parent in the world. If you’re ever worried that you’re not doing enough, or you are ‘damaging’ your precious children – avoid the temptation to google or scroll through forums for hours – these will just make you feel worse and more worried – come and see your GP for reassurance or advice.
ToP tip #4 – Let go
Most parents will rely on external care for their children at some stage. It might be grandparents, day care, an au pair or nanny. We can get caught up trying to mould these caregivers (unsuccessfully) into clones of ourselves. I find this leads to nothing but disappointment. It is impossible to expect someone to be a version of yourself. So, if you rely on care for your children from someone else – by all means provide guidelines – but you have to ‘let go’. You have to accept that they will have a different “flavour” to you. Your kids will actually be richer and more well rounded for the exposure to different ways of thinking and behaving. I recommend having a few ‘non negotiable’ principles and a rough structure for your ‘step ins’ to follow and then leave them to their own devices. At the end of the day – provided they love and laugh with your children and keep them alive, they’re probably doing a good enough job.
After my first baby was born, I asked my parents to help out with babysitting one particular morning. My mum, who grew up in an era where the Mother did everything and the Father worked, turned to me and said to me – “That’s no problem – but it’ll only be your father – I have to go out – will that be ok?”. I looked back at her, slightly perplexed and said “Well he’s an adult…surely he can keep her alive for a few hours?”..
ToP tip #5 – Invest in timesavers
I very much still enjoy beauty and fashion and makeup and all those girly things, but realistically, I simply don’t have time, or energy for them in the same capacity that I used to. I also desperately love reading – but it is equally at the very bottom of my list of things to do and consequently I never get to it. So my advice is this– if these things are things that are important to you, or make your happy, like they do me – find alternative ways to get the same fulfilment.
Similarly, I CAN.NOT.FUNCTION if my house is a mess. Yep – not surprisingly – I am one of those “OCD everything has to be in the right place, clean and tidy….allllllll the time” kind of people. This was ok for a while after the birth of my first baby, but as time went by, and deficit between time available and number things to do increased, I realised my old habits for cleanliness weren’t sustainable.
So my qually satisfying, time saving alternatives for busy mum’s are: –
- Get a cleaner
- Look into permanent beauty techniques so that getting ready is quicker
- Keratin or Japanese hair smoothing treatments
- Eyebrow feathering or tattooing
- Long wearing lipsticks – my favourites are Liquid Matte Prolongwear which last me all day and withstand grubbing fingers/toddler secretions
- Do your groceries online
- Freeze meals
- Freeze most left overs to stop you going back for seconds and to ensure you have a constant supply of frozen meals in the freezer
- If anyone does offer help, and you can accept it – ask for frozen meals rather than toys or gifts
- Listen to podcasts in the car or while you’re walking
- Look into Audible
- Borrow box (free)
- Brisbane City Council Library (free)
For anything else that you miss or yearn for – write it down – I have numerous ‘To Do’ and “I want” lists. Writing these things down gets them out of your head, so that you aren’t constantly thinking about or pining for them. Sometimes I tick boxes on those lists, mostly I don’t…but through writing them down I no longer yearn for them.