Sometimes I feel like I'm failing at everything since becoming a mum.
The guilt takes over and I feel like I'm doing nothing right - I have those moments where I feel like I'm compromising my work quality and falling short as a mum. I am constantly chasing my tail, behind with play dates, not on the ball when it comes to homework and thank-you notes, I have a laundry mountain and turn to chocolate to make everything seem a little better. Instagram doesn't help. Seeing how others are seamlessly floating through motherhood in lycra with their children in starched whites eating broccoli makes me feel worse. I vow to be THAT mum, who is on top of everything and still has time to bake with her kids instead of collapsing on the sofa with a cold tea, and I fail again.
Perhaps it is a simple organisational fix? Perhaps it is in my DNA? But I have a sneaky feeling that I am not alone in feeling like this.
In a bid to beat the frazzle, especially at this time of the year, I've researched some simple tips to get on top of family life in order to help make 2018 the year that we get a little more confident in managing our busy lives.
1. Go to bed early
I have identified this as the most important factor when it comes to being on top of things. If you are in bed early you are ready to face the day with a more rested demeanour. A good night's sleep is a huge mood booster. Even if your night is interrupted several times, at least you are getting a bit more shut-eye than you would have had. Those box-sets are wonderful for the weekends, but when it comes to keeping your week on track with school and work responsibilities, it is the number one tip for being less flappable.
2. Be more empathetic
When there is a tantrum underway or when your five-year-old refuses to put on their shoes, it is easy to just lose it and descend into rant territory. Repeat the mantra 'this is not about me' and bend down to have eye contact with your child. It forms an instant connection and reminds you to try to feel what they are feeling. These little ones of ours have not yet learnt the tools to deal with their feelings and emotions. Try to remember that they are not trying to annoy you. I once heard a quote that I try to remember in times when you feel the ultimate frustration. 'When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.' I think this just about sums up parenting perfectly. Hang on - this too shall pass.
3. Preparation, preparation, preparation.
Sunday nights I am a mummy boss. EVERYTHING is done, I have outfits laid out, the ironing is up to date and the kids have the most perfectly packed lunch boxes in the world. By Tuesday evening, it is chaos again. I'm exhausted and all my wonderful plans are falling apart. I reach for the chocolate and decide that next week will be different. The laundry mountain has turned into a volcano and it is starting to erupt. My patience is starting to wane too. The key to getting over this is to view every evening as a Sunday evening. Those early nights have started kicking into play now, so just tay to take half an hour every evening to zip around and reset for the next day. Take the time to double check school bags and revie what lies ahead for the next day and NEVER go to bed without leaving the house in reasonable order. There is something so lovely about waking up to a neat home.
4. Your family calendar is your best friend
EVERYTHING goes into this. It is the glue that will hold your family life together. You will know when vaccinations are due, you will remember that the school play has been changed from Wednesday to Friday and you know that your girlie weekend away is in just 27 sleeps. Everyone in the house should synch their day to the calendar - childminder or partner. You are all literally on the same page. Check it every evening to see what's ahead for the next day. This will change your life - especially when your kids start to have better social lives than you do!
5. Take 'me' time
I always used to feel like a lush when I focused on myself, but neglecting your own needs will add to the chaos. If you go to bed early, read a little - it helps to have a little escapism in your life. It is a form of adult imagination that is integral for your mental well-being. Take a walk whenever you can. Listen to music and if you can, take up a hobby that is just for you. Some take a hobby that is related to exercise so they can introduce fitness into their life while also getting some headspace. Practice mindfulness - there are some amazing apps available to help with this. Everyone needs an outlet - us mums have to make the effort to carve out our own.
6. Take a digital detox
Reaching for your phone is a good way to feel less alone when you are at the baby stage. There is invaluable advice and help out there to keep you feel part of a community. But we are all guilty of using our phones a little too much. Being glued to it half the night is not good for our health and well-being. Comparing your life to others is bad for the confidence too. There is no harm in keeping on top of WhatsApp messages or reading some good articles, but understand when you become a slave to your phone. Be mindful about how long you have been on. We try to leave our phones in the hall by the door when we get home in the evenings so we are not distracted by pinging or vibrating. It is just too easy to reach for it and you end up with limited conversation with your partner or gravitating back to it the moment we start to relax.
7. Stop beating yourself up over things
I should have spent spend more time with them. I should have listened more. Why didn't I read that extra story? It is so easy to self-flagellate when you are a parent. It is a huge responsibility to be in charge of shaping these little lives but remember that it is about you as a family whole, not just about how much you discipline your children. You are part of this happy bunch (who are more resilient than you think). Try to refocus yourself as one piece in the game, rather than being the game-master. That is too overwhelming and exhausting. The priority should be creating a happy home and so what if you skip the kid's bath once in a while.
We are all under immense pressure, but I want my children to remember me as a patient and steady mum who knows how to handle every crisis and who will remain unflappable throughout their lives. I'm ready to flip the flap when it comes to being a better parent and vow to work on my mummy moxy with a new vigour this new year.
Are you with me?