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.
Well that year zoomed by!
After the anticipation and chaos of the festive season, the excitement of having our two beautiful daughters home with us for Christmas and welcoming in the new year, I'm now sat with a cup of coffee reflecting on the events of the past year. Christmas for me, always heightens the awareness of those we have loved and lost, whether this is through bereavement or lost relationships.
As Christmas cards dropped onto the mat, taking into consideration the cost of buying and sending cards, I realise that friendships that once dominated my life and felt so important have ebbed away as life changes and choices are made. It has taken me a number of years to realise that some people are only meant to be in our lives for a short period of time, they can enhance it or help us to learn from the relationship, whether positively or otherwise. I used to believe that having lots of friends was what I needed, that it somehow validated me and I was liked. I now realise that it is not the number of friends that is important, it is knowing which ones are there for you during the difficult times as well as the good, no judgement, just genuine friendship . Quality over quantity.
As many people start the new year vowing to make and keep New Years resolutions, I have decided that this year I am not going to do this as such. Having discussed it with my youngest daughter; instead of me committing to losing weight, drinking less, going to the gym weekly etc, I will make a promise to myself - we talked about learning to say yes and no. Learning to accept and love who we are, the good and the not so good bits. Being empowered to say yes to the things we want to do without fear of upsetting other people, yes to new adventures and yes to putting ourselves first. With that comes the ability to say no for the exact same reasons; to learn and value ourselves, we are the only person who can really make the right decisions for ourselves. We cannot decide how other people perceive, accept or don't accept our decisions, that is down to them and something that they need to work through for themselves. We all have a choice and with those choices come consequences. We need to learn to have strength and belief in our abilities. Those who truly want the best for us will (hopefully and eventually) realise that we do have the ability to make the right choices for ourselves (it's ok that these may differ from what they think or believe), and even if these choices don't work out as we hoped, planned or anticipated the journey of gaining knowledge, courage, strength and belief in ourselves is invaluable. You'll always end up where you need to be.
Happy New Year to you; and a message to our two daughters ‘Remember you are braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem, Smarter than you think and Loved more than you’ll ever know.’
I am a counsellor who wants to empower individuals to be the best version of themselves.