Life’s big questions.. Who am I? What do I want to study? What job do I want? How do I want to spend my spare time? Am I happy and the best version of myself?
Take a look in any bookstore and you’ll see no end to ‘self-help’ books. Our society is absolutely obsessed with ourselves and so we should be right? It has never been more acceptable than now to be ‘internally-driven’ or ‘self-focused’. We all love to stick it to the man and chase our own dreams!!!
Nothing quite smashes this mantra like parenthood! Suddenly our world shifts and the spotlight refocuses directly on these helpless, totally dependant little bundles. We are swiftly attached to their every need and it doesn’t take long for any of our personal desires to fall to the wayside. This focus and dedication is perfectly natural and mostly necessary for the careful upbringing of little ones. Our decisions, conversations, diets, holidays, even friendships are now influenced by the needs and wants of the kids. But I’d like to explore the underrated importance of balancing out this parenting role with taking time and making the effort to be more ‘selfish’.
I feel like everything said regarding parenting advice ALWAYS needs to come with a disclaimer…
EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT!!!!
Do what is healthy (mentally, physically and emotionally) for you as a parent and don’t let guilt drive your decisions.
As an individual
I don’t know if it comes from growing up in a Brady Bunch size family, but my alone quiet time is crucial to me! I need to escape to gain perspective, gather my thoughts and stay creative. This doesn’t mean I’m running from my family or my responsibilities, I just know I’m a better person and therefore a better mother because of it. And yes, sometimes escaping means grocery shopping alone… it’s like a mini vacation… A flagship Chanel store has nothing on my happy wonderings through the produce aisle.
It’s incredibly important to me that I slot in my ‘be selfish’ time. Often this entails bribing a babysitter (thanks Aunty Bec) so I can sneak off to a coffee shop and read a book every once a while, or see a poorly scripted but wonderfully cheesy chick flick at the cinemas (I’ve become a huge fan of ‘lone wolfing’ it to the movies). Yes I generally feel sick from missing my daughters within an hour of leaving home, but by the end of my little ‘breather’ I feel incredibly recharged.
It can be a bit tricky to find your escape again… We get so used to making decisions based on what suits the kids, or what will keep them entertained. But take a moment to think back to those dreamy days when the norm was after work drinks and Sunday’s watching ten hours of Kardashian trash…. Is your idea of escape going for a mini hike? Curling up on the couch with a book? Baking a ridiculously complicated multi layer cake masterpiece?
My fabulously lame and very beloved escape while I was pregnant with Lola was going to Aqua Aerobics twice a week!! I think I was the youngest there by at least thirty years and definitely one of the least fit but I LOVED IT! The beautiful older ladies loved to cat call my growing belly every single time (always exclaiming how HUGE I was… subtlety was not key), but were so sweet and interested in how I was going. And doing something active (even just slightly so) regularly did absolute wonders for not only my pregnant health, but my mental wellbeing and (this actually surprised me) how I felt about myself. I was proud! For the first time in a long time I was purposefully looking after me!
If you are really struggling to justify taking time out for just yourself try to think of it as an incredibly valuable lesson to teach your kids. They will not feel abandoned, but will see Mum (or Dad) valuing themselves as an individual not just as a parent.
As a couple
Ask yourself… When was the last time you had a date with your other half, or caught up with a close friend… and none of the conversation revolved around the kids? Two kids down and I still struggle with this. My hubby and I are so excitedly in love with our little girls that we can (and often do) talk about them for hours and hours. It’s so important to celebrate your kids and find joy in their achievements but when did you last get as excited about your partner’s achievements? It’s such a harsh look to take (believe me, thinking about it makes me cringe) but don’t let your beautiful children be your primary source of joy!
One of the best questions someone asked me while pregnant with Evie was..
‘So who becomes most important when baby comes along? The husband or the child?’
Honestly my natural reaction was ‘the child, obviously’! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always adored my husband Howard (well maybe not always ‘adored’ per se, but you know what I mean)… but I was definitely preparing myself for a shift in priorities once Evie was born. Cause the kids come first right?
After speaking to some older, wiser and still-lovingly-together couples, the resounding advice was..
A solid relationship between mum and dad is the greatest gift you can give your children.
If the mum and dad are both in the picture then their example will teach the kids all about relationships… good and bad. Taking purposeful time for each other as a couple is not only crucial for the relationship, but also for your kid’s understanding of love, trust and commitment.
If just the thought of purposefully taking time to listen to your partner talk about their day makes you feel exhausted (cause by the end of the day most of us would probably prefer to lounge half asleep in front of the tv) then stop and think about the amount of time and EFFORT you’re 100% happy to invest into the kids… Why not your partner?
Because you know what… When you’re beautiful, accomplished kids have flown the nest and are making millions while funding your retirement, it’ll just be you two again. I really don’t want to get twenty years down the track with an empty house and a stranger for a husband. These early parenting years will be the hardest to carve out time for each other but are probably the most crucial! It doesn’t feel super romantic ‘scheduling’ in couple time (the spontaneous side to me cries) but maybe trial it for three months and ask yourself afterwards if it’s helped!
Ultimately, try to value yourself as much as you want your children to value themselves one day. And treat your partner in the way you’d like your children to grow up expecting.
“Wife to someone ridiculously handsome. Mum to a sassy, hilarious little girl. Past pro events planner who you now find in my loved escape of both exploring the inspiring and FUN world of kids interiors and fashion, while writing REAL, relatable and (hopefully) humorous posts on this incredible and overwhelming parenting gig!” @_baby_bean
Elise’s Website: babybean.co