I have learnt many lessons as a working mum… and most of them occur during the school holidays! It seems to be a time full of emotions. We swing from blissful happiness to frustration and (often) finally tears. That’s not just the kids either! I find the holidays particularly tricky as a self-employed working mum. This is where mindfulness comes into play for me.
When I was employed by someone else I (obviously) did all my work at my place of employment and my child (I only had one at that point) was in full-time childcare so even if I did work from home, I had a very peaceful and productive day! Since having two kids and making the decision to become self-employed I work two days a week, where I focus on seeing/talking with my clients. Any additional tasks are completed as and when I can… e.g. writing this blog. Herein lies the problem. These smaller tasks often don’t get completed and they play on my mind.
Lessons as a working mum aka finding a balance
As mums we wear many hats – partner, mum, employer, employee, leader, friend, volunteer, playmate, chef etc. If you are the main carer for your children it’s likely that your mental load is very large. I know that mine is. The question is, how do we balance it all? I know that I can’t do it all… but there must be a way to find balance?
The good news is that there is a way. I call it mindfulness. I also call it self-care. You might call it something else. Either way, it is something which brings some calm and focus to your day. Here are some of the mindful lessons as a working mum I have learnt which bring balance to my life:
Find your quiet place
You will feel overwhelmed at some point, that’s normal and it’s OK. Often this manifests as anger/frustration for me and it’s the perfect time to find a quiet place to calm down. For me, it’s my back garden. I usually take the rubbish out to the bins or stand outside in the still air. For me, getting outside ‘breaks the state’ i.e. changes my surroundings. It allows me to feel the air, hear the birds and re-ground myself. It takes your brain 3 minutes to calm down if you get it space to do so. (I know, it feels like a lot longer!)
What to do: When you’re in your quiet place take note of your breathing, how your body feels – any tension in your jaw, shoulders? Accept the emotions you are feeling and know that they will pass. As your brain wanders, bring it back to your breathing or the feeling of the sun/rain/cool air on your skin (in my case).
This can work in any time of stress or overwhelm. Try it out, let me know how you get on.
It is so easy to get caught up doing one or more things at once. Trying to write a report whilst the kids are playing, only for them to become more interested in what you are doing. Or maybe your child is trying to talk to you but your mind is thinking about work (like me thinking about what I haven’t done). Either way, you aren’t paying attention to anyone or anything (and probably feeling guilty and overwhelmed by it all).
What to do: Stop doing what you are doing and choose which is the most important task. Do that one and complete it fully before moving onto the next one. If that means distracting the kids…then do it. I use their favourite tv programme if I need a small amount of time to do something. I also swap playdates with friends to get myself a larger block of time to complete a task. Alternatively, if I can, I get the kids involved too… as you will know if you have seen any of my live videos on Facebook!
I get to…
My friend Anna whenever she looks after my daughter always says thank you to me for the privilege. When I first heard it I thought it was a very kind thing to say but I realised she was right. When we feel like we have to do something we can feel like it’s a chore. We can choose a different perspective. What if instead of feeling like we *have* to get up early to finish that piece of work we choose to see that we *get to* have peace and quiet to work uninterrupted.
What to do:
When you find you’ve toward the negative, experiment with shifting a thought to I get to rather than I have to. It might take some time to shift your approach, and, paradoxically, it is most challenging to remember and to put into practice when we most need it.
As best you can, let go of comparing and bring yourself back to the present moment, grounding yourself in the inhale and exhale of the breath. I get to. This choice of wording is often enough to remind us of the privilege of parenthood, allowing us to more easily accept and appreciate all that accompanies it.
Talk to someone
My final lesson is to talk to someone. It’s not mindfulness but it is beneficial for your mental health. I asked my tribe over at Drive the Network what they did. I got lots of “yes, I remember it well” and “it’s so hard, I am going through it too” comments which helped enormously to know I wasn’t the only one! I also got some good advice from blocking out time, telling clients I am unavailable and delegating tasks. Many of these things I have done but I found comfort in knowing that I hadn’t missed anything major.