I interact with a lot of mums and bloggers both ‘in real life’ and social media, and I see this all the time. Regardless of where you live, how many children you have, whether you work full time, part-time, from home, from an office, on your own business, or whatever the circumstances, everyone seems to be rushed off their feet all the time. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to keep up with the things we feel we have to do or that we wish we could do. We feel frazzled, overwhelmed and stressed, often without even realising it. And we think we can do it all. In fact, we feel we should do it all. But rushing through life every single day isn’t good for anyone. Having a decent, acceptable pace – one that feels right – is just SO important for our well-being. And sadly something most people don’t feel they can achieve.
Is it possible to slow life down? How do we do it?
1. Get to know yourself better
We are used to keep going, no matter what. Everyone seems to do it and do it so well that if we let go a little it’s like admitting defeat.
Well, not quite. Sometimes too much is too much.
And you won’t know when you hit that point unless you actually stop for a minute and tune in with yourself. This is where mindfulness meditation can really help. And yes, I speak to a lot of people who say they don’t have time for that.
I was that person (sometimes I still AM that person!), but I can tell you that if you try it out and stick to it, mindfulness meditation does help. It helps you to notice how you feel, how tense and stressed your body really is, and to observe just how many thoughts go through your mind in a very short period of time. Then it hits you – if you think of so many things in the space of 5-10 minutes, what is it like for your mind over the 24 hours, every day of the week?
In time, you’ll get to know yourself better. You’ll learn to see patterns and recognise your stress triggers. And you’ll start to be more self-aware and more protective of yourself – you’ll start to avoid putting yourself in situations that get you stressed.
2. Lay off the pressure
On the last day of our recent holiday, we had promised the children to take them out. Of course I wanted to spend the last day out and at the beach. But I also had to pack for 5 people and feel ready for an end-to-end trip of 22 hours, with 3 young children in tow.
Could I have done it all? Could I have gone out knowing we’d be back late and rush around like a lunatic to get myself and all the stuff ready? I could have.
But I chose not to.
I made the decision to stay at home with our friends and have a nice day at home chatting with them and listening to good music while I packed. The children went out with The Husband and had a great day out, like we promised, and when the time came, we were ready to go. No one was stressed. There were no arguments.
And I felt so much better for it. In fact, the whole family benefited from it.
Only about a year ago, I wouldn’t have had the courage to make these choices – I was unable to stop, putting way too much pressure on myself. I wouldn’t have thought missing out on a few hours at the beach with my family would be the end of the world. I would have pushed myself. And then I would have felt it afterwards. And not in a good way!
3. Think of yourself as a priority
Another one I struggled with, and I know I’m not the only one. Of course your children are your priority.But it doesn’t mean we need to feel guilty if we admit we need time on our own. Or time to rest. Or a little time to get away from the routines, just to get a breather.
I was the working mum who felt that because I was leaving my children when I was at work, I had to spend every awake minute with them otherwise. Since leaving my job, I’ve become the person who pays for childcare for 3 mornings a week in order to invest some time in myself. And I do this guilt-free because I know that if I stop functioning (and I did when I broke my leg), life gets a lot trickier for the rest of my family.
We often think that we’re just fine, and we’re coping, and we don’t need any ‘time off’. We tell ourselves that as long as our children are happy, that’s all that matters. And we can plough through. But the way you feel matters. And it impacts the way you are.
Reminding ourselves that we were and are our own person before becoming a parent isn’t a sign of weakness or of being an unfit parent. If you’re unhealthy, stressed out and exhausted most of the time, your children will feel it and know it. And they’ll only thank you when you’re able to be more present, calmer and relaxed when you’re with them.
4. Give yourself permission to let go of the the things that don’t matter
Not all tasks are created equal. You’ve got to feed your children and keep the house in some sort of working order, but it doesn’t need to be ready for a visit from the Queen, does it?
Some tasks that we end up putting on our to-do lists aren’t all that important. Or don’t need to be done now. I don’t do chores when I’m home alone. Me-time has to be me-time. Whatever I decide to do has to be for my health or fitness, relaxation, self-improvement or enjoyment. And if I put the washing machine on a bit later in the day, so be it.
I used to run around like a lunatic trying to do everything now, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And for what? Just to end up smashing my head on a bus window?
5. Don’t be afraid of asking for help
Asking for help is another way of admitting defeat and showing weakness, right? We’re surrounded by super-parents, especially super-mums everywhere. If they can have do it all and have it all, why shouldn’t we? Why can’t we? We must.
But you don’t know what goes on behind closed door. Success always comes at a price. Whether it’s health, family time being sacrificed or simply a permanently worn out parent, one thing that you need to ask yourself is whether it’s all worth it.
There’s no shame in asking for help. There’s no shame in sharing the load. Whether it’s your partner, paid help, a relative, your parents or a good friend, sometimes a helping hand can make all the difference.
Because in the long run, if you don’t recognise the signs and slow down in time – if you burn out, get ill or hurt yourself like I did, you WILL need to ask for help. You’ll have no choice at that point. And it’ll probably be harder for everyone involved and for you. And it’ll be for longer.
So how about we all just take a moment to check in and see if we can slow it all down a little?
Do you have any tips to share to help other parents slow down a little? Do you have any experiences of burning out or changing your ways before it’s too late? We’d love it if you could share with us.