Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Self-care for moms: Re-framing

I am the queen of inner critique, trust me. I have a constant inner monologue going on about everything I do, telling me where I'm falling down in these invisible standards of perfection. It's a daily struggle to deal with and I've only become aware of it recently through a lot of reflection about why I was trapped in certain thought processes. We all have it to some degree, and a bit of it is healthy, it keeps us on our toes. But too much and we get trapped in a cycle of self-hatred, procrastination and perfectionism and nothing gets done. Or we go around in a negative mental attitude all the time. Whatever our daily frustrations with mothering are, I think it's important to tackle them and re-frame them in a positive way, to help us cope with our responsibilities better.

I'll give you a few small examples of mine. (My bigger examples I save for my therapist/husband/close friends) Most recently I found I was getting frustrated with the seemingly endless "routine" in the house. Every day in the last 3 months that I've been parenting alone (as my dh was in a new job 6 days a week, 9am-7pm) I was the one to pull back the curtains in every room, turn off the fairy lights that serve as a nightlight in our bedroom, open the windows for fresh air, clean up the previous days dishes etc. I had got to the stage where I was going around muttering aloud "here we go again" because the days just seemed to come on each other quicker and quicker. It felt like no time had passed since I last turned off those fairy lights and I felt my life was slipping by without me doing anything of note. (I do realise I've just had a baby, and THAT is my "thing of note" but I mean something concrete that to the outside observer would warrant some notice) All I was doing was making meals, cleaning up meals, breastfeeding, changing nappies. I was mainly at home taking it easy so I could recover physically from the birth but I felt so trapped mentally. Like I was wasting my brain just being home mothering these three children. When I'd been doing the muttering and grumbling for a couple of weeks I happened upon a book by Jennifer L. Scott called "At Home with Madame Chic" and she talks about seeing the joy in your morning routine. I had already read Stadlen "What mothers do especially when it looks like nothing" book, well, skimmed it because it is too cerebral for my baby-brained state, full of statistics and very few real-life examples. Jennifer's book made me re-frame my actions every morning and now I mentally thank the lights for giving us light all night. Corny maybe, but it works for me. I pull back the curtains on my (newly decluttered) windowsills and enjoy the few seconds that I glimpse the outside world before I go to the next window. I now pause to smell the morning air coming through the kitchen window while I'm filling the kettle, and it feels like I'm setting myself up for a more positive day ahead.

Ditto unloading the dishwasher. I can load it as I go along, a few dishes here, a cup there, after each meal. But give me a fully-loaded clean dishwasher and a counterful of dirty dishes waiting to be put into it and I'll run a mile. It just depresses me and I'll put it off, using clean dishes out of the dishwasher until there are two loads on the counter waiting to be washed... a vicious cycle. So what I now try to do is remember, 30 years ago a mother in Ireland wouldn't have had a dishwasher at all. I am bloody lucky there is a machine there ready to wash my dishes for me and save me 1/2 hour standing at the sink. So if I can appreciate that, and unload a dishwasher when it is clean, before the build-up on the counter happens, the kitchen stays neat. I'm still working on this, but at least I know what I have to do.
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This post was written a couple of months ago, and I have since been rejoined at the parenting helm by my right hand man. The stressful first four months are over, and there is someone here to load the dishwasher and do the laundry now, phew. We're still in survival mode though, a lot has to take a back seat. There are a couple of things I need done every day to stay sane (not showering, that's optional) I'm talking making a healthy dinner for us all, and getting dressed in presentable clothes. If those are done I'm happy. We're working on the clutter and the dishes still, but I'm getting better at realising perfection isn't possible or even desirable. Re-framing. It can save your sanity.

Nee x


  1. Thanks Niamh, I needed this today! I expect too much and then get frustrated when I can't get it all done...time to give myself a break I think. Aoife x

    1. I'm still working on it, trying to focus on the positive. Must be even harder with 4, hats off to you! Thanks for the comment, Nee x


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