When the girls were little I used to love to read the the story ‘Five Minutes Peace’, by Jill Murphy, to them.
In the story Mrs Large tries on countless occasions to sneak away just to get five minutes peace from her busy and chaotic life with her 3 children. No matter what she tried and how quietly she left the room, they would track her down and join her, practising their reading or recorder playing! She totalled 3 minutes and 45 seconds of peace at the end of the book, before they joined her once again.
I used to think that if I read it to the girls often enough, they would somehow get the hint that sometimes I needed just five minutes peace, to myself - needless to say they didn’t get the hint!
Now I realise that this was the first steps of me recognising the importance of self-care. However, I often felt guilty about leaving them to play, that I was neglecting my duties of being a mum, and would chastise myself for being a selfish or bad mum, so rarely allowed myself this time.
On reflection, I now realise that without sometimes grabbing just 3 minutes and 45 seconds of peace to myself I would have been grumpy (grumpier), impatient and not much fun to be with!
In this busy life, especially as a parent; whether we go out to work or are a stay at home parent, it can all get too much. We need to factor in down time for ourselves, a time to chill, do something for ourselves, recharge our batteries which in turn enables us to continue being able to give to the little people (and adults) in our lives who need us.
Establishing bedtime routines are so beneficial. Little people need sleep. Starting from the outset - even as a newborn - can help your little person feel safe and secure, they know no different and you have started to introduce boundaries and routines that will become part of the rhythms of your family life.
Another benefit is that once your little person is in bed this gives you (and your partner) some grown-up time. This can be simply sharing what has happened in your day, watching TV - other than cartoons or CBBC! It allows time to be together without the children, nurturing your relationship, which can all too often be put on the back burner when we have young children.
What can I do?
Start doing something that you enjoy doing just for you. It isn’t selfish, it’s important. It gives you time for you, preventing burn-out, feelings of low self worth, and feelings of generally being overwhelmed. It also enables you to remember who you are - not just your child’s parent. You are you!
Stuck for ideas?
This could be soaking in a bath filled with bubbles, cooking for pleasure, meditating, going for a run or bike ride, listening to music, catching up with friends or simply immersing yourself in a good book. As a couple, why not go on a date night? Invest time in one another too.
Children learn by example, perhaps self-care could become part of every day life (or just once a week), a time when everyone gets to have their own bit of chill out, time away from screens and outside distractions. Time to rediscover who they are and recharge their batteries for busy family life.
Anything for just five Minutes Peace.
No one has ever said that being a parent is easy!
Especially if that is being a single parent; having to juggle child care and work commitments, alongside social lives (both ours and probably even more so our children's) and human interaction with others. Some are fortunate to have family members or partners to help out and step in, whilst others rely on friends and other single parents in similar situations. It's ok to ask for help, this is not a sign of weakness, instead it shows strength, to be able to recognise that we can't always do it alone, and nor should we.
Ultimately, we do the best we can for our children and ourselves on any given day. This should not be underestimated, and should instead be celebrated. None of us are Mary Poppins, and if we manage to get through the day, sometimes that is good enough.
However, it can be all to easy when we're tired, stressed, busy, doing household chores, feeling low or just not able to be there for our children, to put them in front of a screen - whether this is TV, computer/games console or smart phone/tablet.
I, like millions of other parents managed to survive by allowing this to happen from time to time. This does not make us bad parents, it makes us human! As long as we are able to recognise this and are mindful as to when this is happening and how often - not all day, every day - then that is a great first step.
Recently we were on a train journey; opposite us there was a mum and her son - he was probably 5 or 6 years old. He had a colouring book and coloured pencils. There was not a screen in sight. They talked for the whole journey (and wow could he talk!), he was so excited to share what colours he was going to use, what they could see outside the window, what they were going to do once they arrived at their destination. They talked to one another about what they were looking forward to - it was beautiful, yet sadly it seems so rare to see out in public.
From personal observations, and talking with friends, at times it feels like we have been thrown back into the Victorian era. To a time where children should be seen and not heard. Although today they are not sent to the nursery or into a corner, but given a screen to keep them quiet.
Human beings, both children and adults are innately sociable creatures, we thrive on interaction from others in our tribe and further afield. Through discussions we learn invaluable skills including listening, conversation, discussion, negotiation; we learn through intonation, facial expressions and body language. We rarely, if ever, learn any of this via our apps, virtual reality and the world of social media.
I am very aware, there is a time and place for these gadgets, but we also need to be aware that they should not replace our parenting or interactions with our children. Before we know it the time has flown and has disappeared all too quickly, the time when our little children want and need us to be their everything in their world. It is during this time that we need to teach them resilience, courage, the ability to question, to share, be kind and safely explore the world around them - we try to be the best parents we can be, but this means we have to be part of it and not a spectator.
Play games with them, walk and talk outside in the fresh air, listen to their worries; actively be there for and with them. Our girls are now in their 20's, we still (when we're together), sit around a table to eat our meal and share what's happening in our lives, we play games and even watch TV or a film together, and chat about it afterwards.
Ultimately, we all need to feel loved, valued, wanted and cared for; children are no different.
If you are struggling and would like some support, why not get in touch with me below
Summer holiday survival
You’ve managed to sort out the childcare headache for the summer holidays, congratulations this in itself is no mean feat. Here’s to enjoying six weeks of carefree days, sun, sea and… screaming kids.
I remember it well the anticipation of sharing precious time with my 2 girls and yet there were some days when I couldn’t wait for school to be back. Does this make me a bad mum? No, it makes me human!
I was fortunate enough to raise the girls before social media took over our lives; before everyone posted what a fantastic time they were having together, pictures of what they were eating, where they were staying - what we need to remember that it is just a snapshot, one moment in a 24 hour period that might not actually be anything like the photo posted on instagram would have you believe.
Often as parents, and as individuals, we feel that we are not good enough, that we are bad parents/people and that everyone else has got is sussed. Truth is, you’re not and they haven’t! There is no real rule book on how to be a good parent, we’re all just winging it. Some days are better than others, but we are all just trying to be the best parent we can be today.
If you’re struggling how to entertain the kids for the remaining few weeks why not give some of these a go, they don’t have to cost a lot of money, so what’s not to like?
1. Turn off from social media
Challenge the family (this includes the adults) to have a morning/afternoon/day free from social media/internet. We as parents need to set an example, all too often we miss what is going on around us and not live in the moment because we’re so wrapped up in seeing what everyone else is up to. We miss seeing, exploring and experiencing life as it happens. We don’t need to take 20 photos or videos and post them to prove we’re having a good time, we can just live it!
2. Board... games
The sun has gone into hiding, now what? Why not search through all the board games, packs of cards, lego, puzzles, colouring books and pens. Each one of you choose a game and spend the day getting lost in the competition, closeness, rules of turn taking, laughing together as a family. I often used this opportunity to realise which games the girls had grown out of, or maybe giving them an opportunity to simply play again, as all to often they want to be racing ahead onto the next stage. (No console/phone in sight)
3. Making dens
Using a bed sheet/duvet cover, blankets and pillows, not forgetting a bucket full of pegs, why not make a den together? We’d peg the sheets to a couple of chairs, or use the sofa cushions to hold the sheet in place and make a tent. This often ended up sparking their imaginations; we became pirates and used cushion on the floor as stepping stones to get from one side of the room to the other without being eaten by crocodiles! As a reward we’d have a picnic in our den - usually some fruit chopped up and a glass of squash.
4. Movie memories
Movie/duvet days are also great fun. Snuggle up under the duvet together and watch a movie. The kids will love the fact that you’re there with them, these are the precious memories that will be remembered. The chores can wait, and it’s far cheaper than going to the cinema.
5. Fresh air
Take the kids out, even if it’s raining! This doesn’t mean paying a fortune. Walk around the area where you live, go to the beach/woods/park. Kick a ball around together, jump in puddles. Get them to pick up twigs, leaves, feathers and then when you get home use these treasures to make a picture of your outing. You don’t need glitter and paint, nature has provided you with all you need, that and some encouragement and imagination.
6. Unleash the artist
When the sun does come back out, there’s always chalk drawings on pavements (the rain will soon wash them away again) or using an old paintbrush and some water, ‘paint’ a picture onto the path before the sun dries it up.
7. And... bake!
Bake with the kids. It doesn’t have to feature on the Great British Bake-off or Masterchef, but the skills, time and concentration needed to weigh, measure, mix, stir, laugh, get covered in flour - obviously optional - along with the fun, laughs and connection with each other will be remembered for a long time.
It’s ok for your children to be bored, you’re not there to entertain them all day, every day. When children become bored, and with a little bit of direction they begin to use their imaginations, to create, explore and discover - all of which are precious life skills.
I’m not Mary Poppins, nor do I profess to be the best mum around, or know all the answers. However, I do remember some of the cheap, easy and fun things we did together. It’s about quality time together and reminding yourself you’re doing an ok job and that you are good enough.
If you have any other tips, why not share them below in the comments.
I am a counsellor who wants to empower individuals to be the best version of themselves.