I often get told that I am a very calm person. So often of late, that I thought, perhaps I should write about it. Firstly though I just want one thing clear, I am not always calm. I have totally lost my cool with the boys, I have bad days, I have bad nights and I feel permanently sleep deprived and often wonder if I will ever be able to “sleep-in” without interruption ever again.
You know those people who you see… they might be friends, acquaintances or strangers, and they look physically impressive? And we take one look at them and think wow I wish I looked like that and we go for a jog once for 2 kilometers and are then perplexed that we haven’t achieved a result? Well that’s because those people ACTUALLY WORK REALLY HARD. I am NOT one of these people but I do think that overtime I have become brain-fit for lack of a better term, and there is always room for improvement.
I don’t believe I learnt the profession of being a Psychologist just from four years of study at University. I have learnt it from studying people, every single day. I am fascinated by human interaction. I am very interested in how people behave, speak and use body language to convey messages. I am also incredibly interested by what people don’t do. I listen and observe. I take all of this information and I reflect. I reflect on my own behaviour, my beliefs, my actions and I adjust, acknowledge, maintain or improve. Which leads me to my main point. The power of reflection. I use positive affirmations a lot in my practice because I believe that if you don’t have positive beliefs that outweigh the negatives then you need a reminder and a tool. But it’s not just about reading them and hoping “yay I feel great”. It’s deeper than that. It’s about reflecting on their meaning, pausing and applying it to a past belief, current belief or how you want your future to unfold. That’s a bit philosophical and you are probably wondering how that all makes me calm. Well it doesn’t. It’s not just one thing. I suppose I am trying to say that it takes practice, just like it does for people who have achieved physical well-being. And, it’s a way of being that I have come to establish over time. Also, I will never claim to know everything and regularly seek advice from people wiser and more knowledgeable than myself. I am always, always open-minded to new and different ways of doing things even if there is not a lot of evidence to support it. It means that I am not closed. I see possibilities, I give things and people chances and above all I keep learning because it’s learning and reflecting on experiences, that helps us grow. I do all of this to improve my mental well-being and so I suppose, it is how I remain generally, calm.
I love being in the garden. Wherever I can I try to involve the boys and today whilst I was making some cuttings from a succulent plant in the garden I thought Yes! Lets make a Terrarium. This was SO easy and didn’t cost anything to make. What you need:
1 x plastic container “(any shape or size. I used an empty flour container)
Soil from the garden
Plant cuttings (from succulent plants preferably as they propagate easily)
Place stickers on the inside, the themes are endless but we made a space garden! You could make a dinosaur or fairy theme. Place dirt/soil up to the line of the picture, as you want to be able to see the background. Push cuttings into the soil. Water lightly (you don’t want to water too much. You could use a spray bottle).
We put the Terrarium in the boys bathroom. The plants will like it in there as it will get humid when you run the shower or bath.
I was talking to a mum at pre kindy drop off this morning and she (didn’t realise it) but embarked on a huge information dump on the impact of sleep deprivation on her little family, not getting enough “me” time, trying to “train” her son with a grow clock to sleep longer in the morning etc etc. I was nodding. I totally got it. You are all nodding. You totally get it. I tried to alleviate some of her concerns by merely acknowledging how she felt. We have all been there. I also gave her some small but hopefully meaningful tips on how I was trying to cope as a mum, which I thought I would share here with you.
Happy mum, happy kids – now I don’t mean walking around with a ridiculous grin on your face all day. No one feels THAT great all the time. Plus, this is totally unrealistic. But, if you are feeling generally good within yourself this positive energy flows onto your kids. It also helps you to cope better with the small things that on not so great days might otherwise send you into a spin where you snap at your kids and the day spirals out of control.
But how do we achieve this? Who has the time to feel great?
Here are 6 things that I have found helpful:
- Be KIND to yourself – it is critical to your general well being as a mother to prioritise break time – even if it’s 10 minutes. I have always been of the opinion that “the washing can wait’. Basically my rule of thumb is if you need a coffee or a tea or a glass of water and to read one chapter of a book or literally sit outside and just “be” with the universe while you don’t have someone demanding food or hanging off your leg, then the list of chores can wait. The washing isn’t going to look after your kids for the rest of the day. You are. Sometimes (actually quite often) you can’t schedule this break time, so you have to go with the moment and take the moment of peace when you can.
- ACCEPT the things you cannot change. The biggest one for me is the early rising. After four years of early wake ups (at its worst, 4am but usually in the 5am somewhere) I still personally struggle with this as I have never been an early riser (by choice). I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if your little ones are up at the crack of dawn or before this it is not going to miraculously change tomorrow. When you hear that voice from their bedroom cry out for you and you roll over and look at the clock and see a time starting with a 5 (and you want to cry), just remember, your kids have probably had a solid 10 hours at least and they are happy and ready for their day!
- Be CONSISTENT with your messages – little people respond very well to routines, in fact its quite important for their development. It gives them a sense of safety and security when they know what to expect. I find the night time routine the most important for our day as it achieves two very important things. The kids are in bed at a time developmentally appropriate for their age (under four should be before 7pm) and you and your husband/ partner get quality time together that is often rare when you have little children.
- Go for a WALK – I haven’t said exercise here because I think sometimes we look at that word and think “urgh, WHEN am I going to get the time to do that!”. I also think that we tend to place too much emphasis on the length of time to exercise rather than just doing something. Walking around the block helps to clear your head. Preferably this is done on your own but if not, load up the pram with food and water and take the kids. You will all benefit.
- CONNECT with nature – I know it sounds totally hippie of me but the benefits of being outside, breathing the fresh air and taking in the scenery is not only great for you, it’s excellent for your kids as well. If you can feel the household getting difficult ie everyone is cranky and world war three is about to break out – pack a bag, pack a snack box and GET OUT of the house. Go for a drive and play at the beach, the river or a park.
- Take your TIME – we often feel incredibly rushed as mothers to get things done. The list is endless. There is always something to do. But, when you know you don’t have to be somewhere by X time just Try, TRY, to take your time. And by this I mean, allowing you kids to dawdle without rushing them out of the house, taking the time to pack your bag even if it means it takes an hour to get out of the house, not wrapping up an activity that your kids are enjoying because you have a pressing agenda to do something else. Walking slower. Slowing down takes considerable conscious effort so it takes some practice to be aware that you need to slow down and be in the moment.
I hope you find this list useful. We can’t achieve all of these things, all of the time but certainly I have noticed that even the smallest of changes can have huge positive impacts.
beautiful fabric sourced from a stunning Perth based store “Calico and Ivy”. To be used for my next projects – cloth dolls and softies.
So I was a little bit excited when a friend of mine asked if she could place a custom order for a doll to be made as a gift for a friend expecting a baby girl. Well, excited is putting it lightly, I was ecstatic. Up until now I have been using fabric that I have collected over the years including stunning Laura Ashley cottons, sourced vintage fabrics and those bits and bobs that have been handed down to me either by my mother or from my nanna. But, a paid project…well I couldn’t resist buying something tremendous and new from the most amazing craft store, Calico and Ivy. For crafters/knitters/sewers and the like it is literally paradise and a place of beauty. When I was there one of two staff members struck up conversation. She said that people have spent hours in their store, literally hours. I wish I had hours to swish around the store dreaming of all the things I could make, perusing the beautiful inspirational books at leisure, looking at all the trinkets, conversing with the staff about my next project. But I had minutes, because I took children. I took boys to a place of peace and tranquility and wrecked it. I just wanted my little piece of heaven.
When I parked out the front of the store, Master two was snoring peacefully in the car. Perfect. He even transferred to the pram. Hoorah! Only one child to have to worry about. Enter Master one at the top of his lungs “Mum LOOK! He’s awaaaaaake”!. I laugh now writing this. I was not laughing when it happened. We enter the store and are welcomed by the staff. Thankfully I had a goal. We conversed. “It’s Ok I have children too, I understand” said the staff member. And she did. We chatted some more but internally I was frantically trying to “take in the paradise experience” in enough time before Master two potentially screamed the place down from not getting enough sleep or master one from breaking something VERY expensive. WTF was I thinking?! I don’t think we had made the 5 min mark and I went looking for “the toy box”, praying they had one so that he could sit down and play with the toys. They did have one, but there was a ball in the box ………….and my paradise session ended. Game over. You know when they find a toy and they look at you with that “if you try to take this off me I am literally going to make a scene of epic proportions” look? The one where they have the potential to run around screaming like a crazed animal? Yup, we had THAT moment. So I allowed the ball. For those who know my son well, for a three and half year old, his ball skills are very, very good. So, every opportunity he gets, he likes to practice. Thankfully the instructions of “no kicking” and “no throwing” were adhered too. He impressed the staff with his bouncing and catching skills. How old is he? My son can’t do that and he is seven. Ok, awesome that you are bedazzled by the ball skills, but I am quietly praying I can source my fabric at a store that I get to visit once in a blue moon without actually buying the contents of the store, because we have broken everything in it. When the ball was bounced down the stairs with a “thud, thud, thud…and boing!! in an unknown direction with a “look! LOOK MUUUUUUUM! Look what I am DOOOINGGG”. I magic mother inspector gadget extender armed the ball to safety, caught one handed of course whilst holding crying baby, promptly paid for my fabric and handed the ball to the shop attendant. And she calmly said “Oh, is that our ball?”.
Of course I don’t mean this literally but, this is fast becoming my go to phrase of 2015. Let me tell you why. There are two things that have really surprised me about being a mother. 1) I never thought my children would assert their feelings about what they want to wear so early in life. I also thought, girls would be more prone to this behaviour (how gender bias of me), I was SO wrong. You know how you go to the supermarket and see Mothers with children half dressed or dressed in a costume with gumboots and wearing an array of accessories? and, you think smugly to yourself “why on earth did that mother let her child out in public like that?”. Well, let me tell you, she absolutely did not dress them like that and to change the attire to something more socially acceptable for the public eye would have resulted in a meltdown of epic proportions. Trust me when I say you would much rather deal with the occasional glance over and “why did she let her kid wear THAT out” than deal with said meltdown. I, am this mother. Not only have I lost all choice over what my 3 year old son wears, he has now entered a phase of extreme dress-ups! Where, anything goes. Scarfs, gumboots in 36 degree heat and usually more than one beanie at a time, capes, masks and full head to toe, superhero costumes, out in public. It’s got to the point where my son now asks “Mum, can I wear my spiderman mask and spiderman gloves to the shops?” and I pretty much just say “sure, why don’t you just wear the whole costume”.
Secondly, and this has been so far the hardest thing. Fierce independence, also to the point of biblical meltdowns, if independence is quashed. It’s testing the qualities I thought I had oodles of – patience…. calmness. I am sure somewhere its kharma for me also being a personality type that’s quite resistant to help but c’mon! Give me a break. My son has to do EVERYTHING himself. And the latest is fastening the belt buckle in the car which is supposed to be a 5-star harness rating that I am sure children (of a certain age) aren’t supposed to be able to do. Try telling this to ‘my way or the highway 3 going on 10 year old’. And, it always happens when you are tying to go somwhere in a hurry. I just want to leave and you have decided to embark on a new level of independence and today is the day you absolutely must do this yourself. As a mother of course, you let them try, and you let them try and you let them try. Small interjections of “Let me help you” or ” if you just let me help you with this part”…end in (screamed in my face, to the point of face turning a brilliant red and face semi contorted) “NO MUM……..I DO IT…..” escalated to a pure scream with his eyes almost popping out of his head at even the hint of me trying to help. Hence, one must have humour to cope. Or a seriously large bottle of vodka.
What I have learnt with my son is that you just leave the situation. I think to myself “You want to do it on your own? Fine”. So, when I get the first round of “No Mum, I’m doing it” I try to take a deep breath in, calm blue ocean, step away and leave him to it. The end result is one of two things. After 10 minutes of trying without my “presence” I will hear screams of frustration, then, silence, then “Mum……can you help me?”. Reverse psychology, I love it. Or half an hour later “Mum…..MUM!! I did it!”. I of course race back in. Applaud, applaud. Congrats son well done you did it all by yourself, congratulations we are all now 100 years old…..can we go now? Awesome.