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.
Ever used these tried and trusted beauties?
- Taking your shoes off before you put your child to bed, so the shoes don’t make a noise when you leave the room at record snail pace
- Ensuring you have gone to the toilet before you start the “book, rock, pat” routine so as you don’t have to “go” part way through and then have to “start all over” (usually another half hour at least on top of what you have already done) to put them back to bed. Cursing throughout the process.
- Singing the same song, over….. and over…… again. And when you tire of hearing the song, you hum it.
- Avoiding certain floor boards so they don’t CREAK!
- After you have been leaning over the cot (for ages) just to be sure they are asleep, you literally peel yourself away one body part at a time, so slowly and awkwardly that you could now qualify as a Mime.
- Turn the door handle and then hold the handle on the other side of the door so you don’t have to turn it again. This is especially useful if you have creaky door handles.
- You are almost out of the room, so of course the most logical thing to do now is hold your breath so that NOTHING, not even the smallest particle of air could wake your child.
- PRAY THEY STAY ASLEEP
- Drink wine
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.
When I was little, I hated swimming. To the point that I would sit on the step and scream. Mum gave the reigns over to dad and we would take private lessons. I remember clinging for dear life to the edge of the pool, the whites of my knuckles showing. I remember the screaming. It must have been horrible for my parents. I don’t need to be reminded of just how dreadful it was. Apparently, my husband was the same. Thankfully, as with most things, I grew out of this and grew a love for the ocean when we moved to Western Australia, when I was 8. When my first son was 18 months (he is now 4, next week), we stopped swimming lessons. It was winter, we were renovating our house and we had moved out. I can’t even remember the next ‘water encounter’ but it must have been that following summer. Poor thing. He didn’t want a bar of it. He had lost all of his confidence. I felt awful. We had totally dropped the ball on something so important, BUT I was determined that history wouldn’t repeat itself. The thought of my already sensitive little poppet not liking the water made me sad and in some ways that I had failed him. So, we have embarked on my own version of water exposure, initially led by Master one with some guidance from me as he gained confidence. I have observed other little sensitive beings who are resistant to the water (for whatever reason) so hopefully this may help you, if you need it!
Firstly, I have to say having a pool in our new home has helped immensely as we had access every day. But, if you don’t have one I would highly recommend private lessons (perhaps in a friends pool). Sometimes the influence of peers helps (when kids see other kids having fun, they copy) but I personally have found privately gaining confidence has meant a more positive experience in public (for you and your child!). If you can’t get your child near the pool, try going to the beach/river which is what I did. There were more enjoyable elements (like playing in the sand, and you only have to get your toes wet).
- Go as OFTEN as you can
- ACCEPT that they won’t go from hating the water to liking it straight away, it will be gradual and you might have days where you feel like things have gone backwards. Rest assured they haven’t, they probably just didn’t feel like it today.
- PRAISE for small achievements (verbal or physical rewards)
- Be POSITIVE (this is how you speak to them)
- Recognise your own AGENDA. It’s not all about your little person. If you are worried for them, annoyed – they will be aware of the negative feelings. Try to be conscious of this.
- EXTEND their skill. If they have achieved something (going to the next step in the pool), praise and ask them to try the next step. TRY once and then stop. You will know your child’s limitations.
- Every exposure is to try and gain small amounts of confidence.
- Have a GOAL. Our goal was only for Master one to be happy and confident in the water. Enough to get to swimming lessons without public meltdowns.
Not only is Master one back at swimming lessons. He loves it.
We did it! HOORAY! We stopped history repeating itself.
Stay tuned! this is Part One of the different COLOURS of motherhood and all the wonderful shades in between.
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.