At times, it can feel like being a mum is one of the hardest and, quite frankly, most thankless jobs there is. Just struggling through a 'normal' day can be utterly exhausting - simply getting the kids fed, dressed and out the front door each morning can feel like a mammoth task and the day has barely begun!
But can it really be as difficult as all that? After all, mums have been raising kids since the dawn of civilisation, right?? Well, according to recent research carried out in the U.S. it's definitely not in our imaginations - being a mum really is as tough as we thought. Researchers looked into the schedules of 2000 working mums and found they were putting in an average of 98 hours of work per week between their jobs and their family - that's the equivalent of nearly 2.5 FULL TIME JOBS!! So there we are; whether we like it or not we do seem to be a breed of super-mums!
Being this super often comes at a cost though. When you're dedicating around 14 long hours a day to your job and family it can be easy to forget about your own needs and dismiss them as being low priority.
This really couldn't be further from the truth though. Your own well-being should be just as important now as it was before your kids came along. If you find it hard to justify spending a bit of time looking after yourself just think about how many people rely on you and how valuable you are to others. You need to take care of yourself to ensure you have the energy to take care of them too.
I hope that's convinced you that even super-mums need a break. Hopefully you're now wondering how you can start redressing the balance and prioritising your own well-being a little more. Here are a few suggestions for simple changes you can make to put your own needs a bit further up the agenda:
Ask For Help
We often feel as if we should be able to cope on our own or that people will think less of us if we admit our lives are tough but if you feel things are getting on top of you, or even if you just need a bit of time out, please don't be scared to ask for some help.
If you have a partner or if you've got family living close by, try explaining to them why you need a break and ask them to step in and support you. Or maybe you could ask a friend you trust to take the kids for an afternoon - you can always return the favour when they need a break. Don't be shy about asking for support. Most people will be only too happy to help you out and will be honoured that you confided in them.
If you don't have a support network of family or friends there are other ways to get support. Your local Family Information Service is a good place to start.
I often work with clients who lead very hectic, stressful lives (many of them are working mums - surprise!) and I have a range of relaxation techniques that I introduce them to. If I'm completely honest, meditation is one of the harder techniques to learn and it can take quite a bit of practice. However, once you get the hang of it, just meditating for a few minutes a day can make a big difference to your well-being so it's perfect for those of us that are low on time.
I find the best time of day to meditate is first thing in the morning - hopefully while the kids are still asleep or at least playing in their bedrooms. Your mind tends to be a little quieter when you first wake up so it can make meditation a bit easier. It's also a great way to ensure you start the day feeling clear, awake and energised.
There are many different forms of meditation and all kinds of apps, books, websites and downloads to help you get started. It's worth trying a few out and seeing what works best for you.
Do Something You Love
No matter how busy you are with work and family life, it's really worth finding a little time somewhere in your schedule to do something you enjoy. It could be a creative hobby, an exercise class or maybe a completely new skill that you've always wanted to learn.
You don't want to cause yourself further stress by creating too many extra demands on your time so make sure you choose something you'll be able to commit to without over-burdening yourself. If an evening class or similar is out of the question why not try out a simple activity such as knitting or baking or enrol on an on-line course that you could do from home in the evenings?
As a busy, working mum of two kids myself, one of the best ways I've found to switch off and relax during the day is to do... NOTHING! A few years ago, if I'd have had a few minutes to myself I would have run the vacuum round, tidied away the breakfast plates or checked my email but since studying relaxation therapy and learning the importance of managing stress, my mindset has changed and I now make sure I take a few quick breaks throughout the day where I simply sit and do as little as possible.
If you're at home, find a comfy chair and sit with a cup of tea or look out the window for a few minutes. If you're at work it's a little trickier but you could try and find a quiet corner at lunchtime where you can just switch off for a short time. No phones, no TV and definitely no feeling guilty!! This is your time to relax and recharge so you're ready for the next part of the day.
Of course, as a mum you'll know that not everything goes to plan. There will be days when work demands come up or one of the kids falls ill and your cherished me-time will be harder to claim. And just when you've got into a nice routine of finding time in the day to relax, the school holidays will start and you'll be back to planning out a new routine! But if you're prepared to be adaptable and take each day as it comes I promise that even the busiest super-mum can find time to relax and have a break!