My kids are noisy. I mean – noisy. Before full-scale isolation, I could at least get some ‘downtime’ when they went off with their friends, or to school, or work, or university, or to their dad’s place. But with isolation, the rules have changed, and we are all once again living on top of each other. It kind of made sense for my kids to be all over me when they were 4, 3, and 2, not so much when they are 19, 18, and 16. Sure it’s lovely to have them here. ALL. Of. THE. TIME. But already, I am longing for a little bit of ‘me first.’
Having been plunged back into full-time momness with COVID-19, and re-living precisely what it is like never to have any time for myself, I thought it timely to share with younger moms some of the most important lessons I learned along the way:
- Being a working mom is really, really hard. Right now, you might be amid complete mania – juggling small children, a job, a house, a partner, elderly parents, and all the other plates you brilliantly spin like a circus performer. In fact, as a working mom, you are three times more likely to work part-time than your partner, and you spend three times more time with your children. So, don’t aim for perfection. Seriously. As long as your kids are fed, dressed, and leave the house with shoes on, as long as you get to work mostly on time, and as long as you remember to pick your kids up from school, then in my book, you are already winning.
- It gets easier. The years of complete pandemonium will pass. One day they are toddlers, and lying on your face in bed doesn’t feel close enough for them, and the next day they are teens and don’t want a bar of you. This will happen.
- Your kids will reach an age where they can dress themselves and feed themselves and clean up after themselves. Let them, even if they are terrible at it because it will make your life a lot easier.
- You don’t need to devote every waking hour to your kids. That will leave you tired, resentful, frustrated, grumpy, and unfulfilled. International research shows that moms report more stress and greater fatigue than dads, with your sleep and downtime more likely to be interrupted. And when you feel exhausted and resentful, everything else goes out the window. You are not doing yourself, your kids, or your career any favors by being so selfless.
- This isn’t about ‘balance,’ it’s about ‘integration’: you work, and you love it; you have kids, and you love them, but you also have (or least used to have) interests outside of work and separate from your kids that you love (or used to love when you had the time), and you need to make time for those interests. Right now. Because one day soon, your kids aren’t going to want to hang out with you anymore, and then what are you going to do? Don’t lose the art of putting yourself first. Schedule at least two sessions of ‘Me First’ into your calendar a week and make sure you turn up.
Just because you gave your children life, that doesn’t mean they are your whole life. You are more than a mom. It’s time to start putting yourself first. It’s time to demand time for yourself. The years of being the center of your kids’ collective universe will pass, and while you love them more than life itself, and while they are well and genuinely integral players in your world, remember that you don’t orbit around their suns either.