Yet another blog about living in the moment (an honest one)

FullSizeRenderI’ve read loads of blogs which talk about the importance of living in the moment. They’re great little reminders but do we really take heed? As mums is it really possible to live completely in the moment?

I don’t know about you, but I spend so much time thinking about lunch, dinner, bed time, tomorrow, the weekend, school, college, holidays, Christmas, summer, winter and more.

I also find that when I’m totally focused on the future, it’s a sign that I’m running on empty. I found myself doing it this week, looking forward to the start of school so that I can get some ‘me time’ back. School doesn’t start for another 10 months and I don’t even know if we will send them to school and yet here I was focusing on how my life will look in almost a year. How much better it will be. I’ve done it for lots of my kids childhood, I’ve looked forward to the next stage: the crawling, walking, taking, toileting, because of how much better or easier it will make my life.

I was the same during pregnancy, couldn’t wait for the next trimester and when they would arrive. Believing that life with a baby would be easier than life pregnant (ha!) And therein lies the big lesson: It never get’s easier or better just like it doesn’t really get harder or worse. It is exactly what it is; some days are tough, others a dream. And that’s the way it will continue to be.

Living in the future is really – for me anyway – an escape.

And that’s OK. It’s OK to occasionally dream of a different life, it’s OK to want a phase to pass, it’s OK to not enjoy every minute with our kids. But it’s not OK – for me anyway – to spend my life in the future.

When I’m focused on the next, I’m missing the now. I’m passing up the chance to enjoy the present time with my girls in exchange for a happy thought about what might become. I’m wasting time, precious time.

So here it is, in order to become more present (as ever) I have a plan:

  1. I will use my phone less. When I’m living in the future I have a tendency to use my phone more, to start planning and diarising. I go from thoughtful to completely distracted and unavailable. This doesn’t help me. No more phone when I’m with the kids.
  2. I’m going to observe my thoughts and be more aware of when they are in 2018, then bring them right back to today.
  3. I’m going to watch my kids more. I don’t do a great deal of housework anyway but I do try and get things done and then get frustrated when I can’t do them because I have to “race with a dolly in a buggy”. From now on I will be willing to drop what I’m doing and play, and when I’m not playing I’ll watch them, talk to them, be with them. So no more tackling house work or other (often pointless) jobs. Oh my, the hubby will be pleased…
  4. I’m going to give less of a crap about what I will be doing next month or next year. It doesn’t really matter which Santa we will visit or which pantomime we will go to. I will see which lands in my lap and if nothing does I will put Elf on and grab some popcorn.
  5. I will remember that my kids don’t need to be entertained. They just want me there. Kids don’t mind what we do, they mind that our mind is on them and what they are doing right now. Children also don’t care about the future. The only futuristic questions my 3 year old asks me are “can we stay at Nanny’s later?” and “can I watch Sarah & Duck when I get out the bath?”
  6. Finally I will try better to appreciate the gifts that my children are. I will remind myself that though it is hard, it is amazing, a privilege. And that this time will soon be in the past, no longer the present and nowhere near the future. The future really is over-rated, it has nothing on what we have right now.

And there it is, my plan to stop living in the future and to start enjoying the present moment, which is all we ever have.

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Must dash, my house is a tip xx

 

A Mum’s Biggest Enemy: Guilt

FullSizeRender (2)Mum Guilt begins (I think) during pregnancy. It did for me anyway. I felt guilty for not taking pregnancy supplements. I felt guilty for not eating enough fish, for constantly forgetting my folic acid, for eating too much sugar, and for not being active enough.

Then there was labour, and guilt for not being able to bring her into the world all by myself. I felt guilty that I couldn’t take care of her physically and that we didn’t have skin to skin.

I hear stories of Mum Guilt all of the time: Child fell down the stairs, didn’t want to sleep in their own bed, swallowed detergent, had a bad day at pre-school. Stories of mums being told they’re not liked by their kids. As mums we often feel the need to take the blame for just about everything. Our children are our responsibility sure, but feeling and carrying guilt is pointless and sometimes a little stupid.

Here are just a sample of things I’ve felt guilty about recently:

  • Constantly rushing my toddler
  • Sometimes forgetting I have a second baby… Then remembering but forgetting her name
  • Raising my voice
  • Crying after a bad day
  • Missing my old life
  • Viewing work as a break
  • Not having the energy to play non-stop all day, 365 days a year
  • Giving my toddler too many treats
  • Not giving my toddler any treats
  • The baby crawling around our dirty kitchen floor
  • Not cleaning the bathroom as often as I should
  • Not loving them as much as I think I should
  • Craving adult company
  • Wishing the day away

I don’t feel these things every day but I’ve spent a lot of my motherhood feeling guilt. And it’s a killer!

All of the things we feel guilty about are either out of our control or a mistake. Feeling guilty about them not only makes them seem worse than they were, but it keeps the event right with us today, even though it may have happened weeks, months or years ago.

If we’re feeling guilty about anything we simply cannot be loving. Guilt is selfish, it is never about our children, it is only ever about us. The things we feel guilty about our kids have absolutely no idea of, nor care about. My toddler doesn’t know that I ‘failed’ during labour, she doesn’t know how I feel about work and she doesn’t need to. Right now, all she needs to know is that I love her. I know for a fact that children would never want us to feel guilty because as soon as we do, we’re pretty grumpy and completely unavailable; when we feel guilty we are not focused on them, which is about all they do care about.

Guilt keeps us trapped. If we feel guilty then we are focusing on something bad and when we do that it’s very hard for us to shake it off and think of the good things that we do. Of which there are many! I am not a bad mum, neither are you. We are always doing our best.

So next time we feel guilty, let’s be honest and remember that guilt is about us and only us. Let’s not spend one more minute in the past (which we cannot change) but focus on the moment we are in right now. Let’s remember that we must let go of the guilt to be better mummies, feeling guilty only hinders us. Let’s spend more time focusing on all the good things we do, all the grateful feelings we have. Let’s put a stop to feeling guilty. Right now. Are you with me?

Why don’t you ask for help?

help2I believe people are generally quite terrible at asking for help. Especially us mum’s. Think about the number of times you’ve said one of these: “It’s OK I can do it”, “No thanks, I’m on it”, “It’s fine, I’ve done it loads of times”. Now compare that with how many times you’ve said: “Can you help me?”.

Yes, mum’s are amazing, we multitask like nobody else on the planet, we give, we play, we love, we feed, we plan, we clean, we work, we listen. We don’t however like to ask for help or accept it when it’s offered, and we don’t always tell the truth when we’re finding things really tiring, difficult, stressful or depressing.

Only tonight I burnt three of my knuckles on the oven – ouch! It hurt so much my face and body went hot, I ran it under the cold tap until my hand went numb but as soon as I turned the water off it was agony. So what did I do next..? Well I put both kids to bed. I read to Florence whilst feeding Eden with a cold flannel wrapped around my fingers. I was in pain the entire time and constantly telling myself “almost done, don’t think of the pain” when what I really should have said was: “Hey Ben can you take over?” He would have done it in a flash, but it seems asking for help is actually more difficult than putting two young kids to bed single-handedly (literally).

What’s so wrong with asking for help anyway?

We somehow think it makes us weak or seem like failures. I don’t know about you but for me it might have something to do with how my mum was. She told me time and time again that my Dad worked away a lot when we were little, that her mum didn’t help her with us and that she raised us pretty much alone. What I would have heard is: “I did it, so you can do it”. My mum didn’t mean to give me this message, but it’s what I came to believe. I forget that my mum didn’t work, that she was 10 years younger than I was when I started a family. Nutrition and diet planning wasn’t as important to her and she didn’t have the distractions of email, WhattsApp and social media. Times have changed. And yet our willingness to ask for help hasn’t.

And what effect is this having on our children?

I’m only seeing it now. When Florence needs help, she doesn’t ask; she cries, moans or get’s irritated. I haven’t properly taught her that she gets to ask for help whenever she likes. I haven’t displayed in my actions how this might look. So how can I change this? I’ll keep reminding her that when she asks for help I will listen. I will make sure that when she does ask for help I do in fact listen! I won’t help her when she cries without asking and most importantly I will make sure she see’s me asking for help when I need it.

Why is it so important to ask for help?

It will make us more loving and here is why: I know when I’m running on empty; I’m pretty irritable and I usually have a vacant ‘here but not here’ look about me. I’m no fun for Florence or Eden and I can feel myself watching the clock for bedtime. How loving am I being in those moments? Not very! This afternoon I asked Ben to play with Florence so that I could go for a walk with the buggy as Eden slept. I took a slow and quiet trip to Sainsbury’s where I bought some essentials – nappies and chocolate. When I came home I was a different person. I was happy, full of energy and grateful. What a difference a walk makes! In doing this I can see that me asking for help doesn’t make me weak, it makes me strong when I’m having a moment of weakness. It doesn’t make me a failure, it makes me a success for the rest of the day.

Asking for help can make us feel vulnerable, but let’s see this as a good thing. Sharing our vulnerability with others can make us feel really connected, and give others permission to do the same.

What if you don’t have a partner who’s around as much as mine, or parents who live as close? You can ask friends, siblings or trusty neighbours. You may be surprised to see how people love to help. How good do you feel when you help someone who needs a hand?

Despite our reluctance to ask for help, our ability to give it is pretty special. So when a friend or fellow mummy offers you help, don’t say “it’s OK”, grab it with both hands and run. Let’s get better at asking for (or accepting) help and show our children that when they need help, all they have to do is ask.