Why it’s time for working mum’s to demand time for themselves

- April 1, 2020 3 MIN READ

My kids are noisy. I mean – really noisy. Just two short weeks ago I could at least get some ‘down time’ when they went off with their mates or partners, or to school, or work, or university, or to their dad’s place. But suddenly with COVID-19 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 mum’ness, and re-living exactly what it is like to never have any time for myself, I thought it timely to share with younger mums some of the most important lessons I learnt along the way:

  1. Being a working mum is really, really hard. Right now you might be in the midst of complete mania – juggling small children, a job, a house, a partner, elderly parents, and all the other bits and bobs that seem to suck the life out of you. In fact, as a working mum 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 you are already winning.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 really bad at it, because it will make your life a lot easier.
  4. You don’t need to devote every waking hour to your kids. That will simply leave you tired, resentful, frustrated, grumpy and unfulfilled. International research shows that mums 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 to crap. You are not doing yourself, your kids, or your career any favours by being so self-less.
  5. This isn’t about ‘balance’ (don’t get me started on that old chestnut), 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 2 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 mum. It’s time to start putting yourself first. It’s time to demand time for yourself – my new book ‘Me First: The Guilt-free Guide to Prioritising You’ will help you do just this! The years of being the centre of your kids’ collective universe will pass, and while you love them more than life itself, and while they are well and truly integral players in your universe, remember that you don’t orbit around their suns either.

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