Motherhood is hard work – I don’t think you’d be able to find a single person willing to refute this point. But it is also the most amazing a rewarding position in the world. There’s no other job where you’d get up at all hours of the night, work beyond physical and mental fatigue, deal with copious amounts of bodily fluids (theirs and yours) and continue to smile every single time you hear a babble or coo or when your little one wraps their little arms around you.
But sometimes I need a break from my child – and that’s okay. And it’s okay if you need a break from your child too.
To parents of generations before us, this concept may seem quite bizarre. Even my own mother looks at me funny when I mention that I need a break from my child (as gorgeous as he is). You see, to them choosing to be a parent is committing yourself to that child 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Which is a lovely concept but one that simply doesn’t factor in the sheer exhaustion and frustration that comes along with it.
Long gone is the idea that as soon as you become a mother, that’s it – your own identity fades. I would go so far as to argue that maintaining my own identity and having things that are just for me actually makes me a better mum.
Keeping My Career
I was a Paramedic long before I became a mum. I worked hard in my career and loved it so much it became part of my identity. Months after I had my son I began to long for that independence my job offered. While becoming a mother changed how I look at my job, I still love the independence and satisfaction that comes with the role.
So I continued to work as a Paramedic while I also build my own business. It’s incredibly challenging and I love it. It allows me to be creative in different ways and allows me to explore a different side of myself.
The Need For Balance
Ask anyone to look after another human non-stop, day in and day out and I guarantee you they will complain of burnout. Children don’t understand a parent’s need for rest, sleep, quiet or the requirement of using a bathroom on your own (apparently toilet breaks are now a spectator sport).
And, as mother’s, it’s our primal instinct to respond then our child needs us – waking to every cry and call for help.
This constant state of being ‘switched on’ is not only fatiguing but also induces higher levels of cortisol, the hormone produced by stress and related to increases in health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, several digestive issues, hypertension, heart disease and cancer, to name a few.
Just a few minutes a day of stress reducing activities can significantly reduce cortisol and help report and maintain this balance. A break from my child gives me the chance to ‘switch off’, relax and take some time so just be.
We’ve all heard that you can’t look after someone else until you look after yourself and never is this more true than when you are a mother. Think about all of those airline safety talks where they explain that you need to apply your own oxygen mask before helping someone else – it’s true with parenting as well.
But even more than that, it’s built into our biology.
When our children are babies they rely on us for a healthy supply of milk. When Alexander was in NICU I learnt very quickly that if I didn’t look after myself, if I didn’t eat well, drink enough water or get enough rest, then my supply would quickly drop. Amazing isn’t it – our bodies are literally telling us that we need to look after ourselves first in order to look after our babies.
So why do we forget this valuable lesson? Why do we think we need to be in ‘Mummy Mode’ all the time? And why are we made to feel so guilty for taking a break from our children?
When was the last time you had a break from your child? And going to work doesn’t count. I’m talking about a real break where you get to choose what you want to do, and you can choose to do absolutely nothing if you wish? You’ll be amazed at how good you feel after.