My Essentials For The Week Ahead

essentials-for-the-week

For the last two weeks I have struggled to write. I have started a few things and then given up because I cannot concentrate. My mind has not been quiet enough for me to write.

Part of the problem is that there have been a lot of things going on in my life for the last two weeks. Part is that I need quiet space to write, not ideal when you are the mother of three, two of whom are pre-schoolers.

We had our pool filled in which meant a lot of time out of the house due to the extremely loud noise, my eldest daughters final exams, my son’s 3rd birthday, a charity walk, a whole lot of tiredness and grumpiness (not just from the children) and a several appointments this week.

I know that I am a person that needs a slow life, I need quiet, I need time at home, I need time outside, I need my early morning alone time, I need to move (gym) and I need a bit of a routine to feel grounded and productive. These last few weeks very little of these needs have been met. Life has felt messy and chaotic because of this and I need to get back on track.

To keep myself accountable I am going to write my commitment to myself here. My Essentials for the week ahead are:

  • Wake early every morning
  • Go to the gym or walk on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Meditate daily
  • Write in my gratitude journal daily
  • Go outside every day and feel my toes in the grass
  • Schedule two days where I am home all day
  • Play with my kids
  • Watch something that makes me laugh out loud
  • Prepare for the next day the prior evening
  • Ask for help with looking after my children for an afternoon so that I can write
  • Minimize my Facebook scrolling
  • Eat well and drink more water!

I am going to go grab my diary right now and write them in!

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone (and how it led to more coffees)

stepping out of my comfort zone

This morning I was chatting to another mum at kinder and I told her that I have always been introverted, I never used to initiate conversation with others, I used to almost wish people wouldn’t talk to me because I feared I would not know what to say. She asked me how I had changed this to get to where I am now.

I told this mum that I realised that I didn’t have many friends and that I wanted more.  And that it happened slowly, it had been a process. While I was walking home I reflected more on what had changed and how that change had come about. It is funny that sometimes it takes a question from someone else to realise how much things have changed for you.

 Accepting who I am and my introverted nature, but also pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone.

This year I have felt much more comfortable in talking to people, initiating conversations and connecting with others. I no longer (well, most of the time) shy away in to the background where I used to be most comfortable.

So, how did I get to this point?  I realised a few things: that I wasn’t gaining anything from standing back and not participating, it was holding me back from making friendships and feeling connected, and that I wanted to have more friends. I wanted to feel more connected and I wanted to feel more confident.

In 2015 I completed an online course The Abundant Mama Project. After the course was finished I joined the ongoing membership program for mothers who have completed the program. Each month we focus on a new topic. I think that this monthly work, along with a lot of reading on personal growth, has helped with becoming more confident. Some of the key things that I have worked on are:

  • being brave and stepping out of my comfort zone
  • letting myself be ‘seen’ in the world rather than staying in the background
  • challenging the thoughts and feelings of not being enough

At the beginning of this year I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in 2016. Some of the things on this list were:

  • to step out of my comfort zone in lots of areas of my life, challenging myself to initiate a conversation with a mum I felt I could have a friendship with
  • initiating conversations with other mums I did not know, setting myself the goal of having coffee with at least one kinder mum (I have had coffee with  more then one kinder mum this year)
  • make sure I stay connected or reconnect with long term friends. In all honesty, I probably haven’t spent as much time as I would have like with my longer-term friends but there are still almost two months left of the year!

Setting myself some challenges or goals around talking to people and building friendships might sound weird but it worked. Scary at first but easier the more you do it. The reward has been having more conversations with people, more friendship with people, more confidence in myself, feeling more connected to the community in general and yes… more coffee! Worth every minute of feeling uncomfortable and nervous.

The Importance of Self-Care in Motherhood

how-i-fit-in-self-care

I used to think self-care was sitting on the couch watching TV, mindless internet browsing and Facebook, or time away from the kids (once I was at the point of desperation for alone time). I now recognise that while there is a place for watching TV, Facebook and browsing the internet none of these things are what I need to feel refreshed, nourished and have a healthy mind and body.

Self-care is about consciously making time in our day to prioritise ourselves. As mothers, we need to look after ourselves so that we can look after others. I know that prioritising self-care can feel like we are being selfish but believe me, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our families. When I don’t look after myself I get grumpy, resentful and yell more. When I am looking after myself I am calmer, happier and a much nicer person to live with!

WAYS THAT I FIT SELF-CARE IN TO MY LIFE:

  • Waking up before the children get up to have time alone.
  • Meditation. Sometimes it is 3 minutes, sometimes 10. Usually I use a guided mediation but other times I will just sit and mediate without any guidance.
  • Gym membership. Generally, I go two to three times a week, jump on the treadmill for an hour and then have a coffee alone. The kids love going to the child care centre at the gym and I get some time out, win-win.
  • Getting outside. Feeling the grass under my bare feet, the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair. I try to do this every day and with young children it is a way of fitting in some self-care while I am with them.
  • Slowly drinking a cup of tea or coffee, holding it with two hands and enjoying every mouthful.
  • Journaling. Generally, in the evenings before bed I grab my journal and write. It might be about my day, it might be a list of everything on my mind, I might just write and explore something that is on my mind, or I may have a journal prompt to answer.
  • Reading
  • Going out for a coffee alone.
  • Colouring in. Yep, I occasionally grab an adult colouring book (Mandalas are my favourite) and my coloured gel pens and get colouring. Another one that is great to do while the kids are around.
  • Spending a night alone at a hotel twice a year. Pure bliss. I swim, read, eat, enjoy a big deep bath and sleep in. Oh and eat some more, did I mention eating uninterrupted?

Everyone will have different ideas of what type of activities feel like self-care to them. And it can change with the seasons too. I like walking outside and chatting with a friend when the weather is warm, but when it is cold we never go walking. When it is wet and cold I don’t sit outside barefoot either! I might sit under the pergola where I can still get some fresh air but not get rained on.

OTHER IDEAS ON HOW TO INCLUDE SELF-CARE IN TO YOUR DAY:

  • Having a bath.
  • Daily walks outside.
  • Exercise.
  • Go to sleep earlier.
  • Catch up with a friend for coffee.
  • Put your favourite music on and dance.
  • Afternoon nap.
  • Take a few minutes to massage lotion in to your hands and feet before bed.
  • Being creative – craft, painting, drawing, making something, colouring, baking.
  • Take a long shower and use your favourite body wash then rub in your favourite body lotion.
  • Getting a massage, facial, pedicure or manicure.
  • Buy yourself flowers.
  • Sitting in silence.
  • Watch something that makes you laugh out loud.
  • Light a candle.
  • Girls weekend away.

The list could go on and on. The important thing is to choose things that make you feel good. Make them things that you can realistically do so that you can fit them in to your day and week. If you decide that the only thing you want to do as self-care is to get a massage or to go shopping without your children but you can only do that twice a year, then you need to find things that you can do EVERY DAY and week. Schedule it in to your diary if you need the reminder to do it. Make it part of your everyday life, not something you save for when the kids aren’t home or when you have ‘more time’.

I am curious… do you currently have a self-care practice you love? Leave a comment and let me know.

A Letter to My Daughter on her 18th Birthday

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To my beautiful daughter

Wow. You are eighteen now. You are legally an adult. You can drive, drink, vote, sign legal documents, get a tattoo. Where did the time go? I may not be legally responsible for you anymore, but you will still always be my baby.

I remember having a dream early in my pregnancy with you where I saw myself giving birth to a baby girl. From that moment I knew I was having a girl. I think I felt connected to you from that dream onwards.

I clearly remember feeling you kick and move inside my belly. I used to watch you move, kick and roll around inside of me. Often I would see little elbows and feet jutting out of my belly.

When you were born, I held my breath as you paused for what felt like forever before you cried. You were a little blue but soon turned pink. When you were placed on to my chest and we were skin to skin I fell instantly in love with you. You were perfect and truly amazing. I used to just sit and look at you, taking all of your beauty in and feeling so grateful you were in my life.

I treasure every beautiful memory of being your mum. The early morning feeds and snuggles we had in bed when you were very tiny. The sleepless nights. The tantrums on the floor of the supermarket. The way you used to like me to tickle your back before you went to sleep. Cuddles on the couch after school. Watching all your firsts: first time walking, first tooth, first day at school, first job. Wiping away all your tears. Watching your excitement opening presents on your birthdays. Family holidays. All the little handmade gifts and art you made me. The interesting Mother’s Day presents you would select for me from the school stall. Watching you graduate primary school and now high school.  The basketball games. Watching you with your little sister and brother and seeing how much love you have for them. Watching you dance at your debutante ball. Celebrating each birthday and Christmas. The list could go on and on.

I am so proud of the strong, happy, kind, generous, intelligent, beautiful woman that you are now. You are one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met. You are such an amazing big sister to your siblings and seem to have endless patience with them. I know that they absolutely adore you.

You were the best surprise I have ever had and I am so grateful that you chose me to be your mum. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mum, how to love unconditionally, how to be more patient and how to let go.

As you move forward in to a new phase of your life as a young adult (and always), I will continue to love you unconditionally and support you. I will be here when you go through hard times and good times, for celebrations and tears, for all the everyday moments when you just need to talk about your day.

You will shine your light bright in the world and make a difference to those around you, I can feel it.

I love you with all of my heart, Mum xoxo

Graduation Reflections

Graduation reflections

Last week was my eldest daughters last day of high school. Thirteen years of schooling over. This past Monday we attended her graduation. The time has gone so fast. She has grown in to an amazing, beautiful young woman. I watched her walk proudly across the stage and accept her Certificate and her Achievement Award for Math and join her class of 2016 graduates. Tears welled in my eyes from the rush of love and pride I felt. This season of her life is over and now she will move in to adulthood. Wow.

My daughter’s graduation has reminded me of how eighteen years ago I was finishing up thirteen years of school. It doesn’t seem long ago, and yet it does. Eighteen years ago I was waddling up on to the stage to graduate high school while nine months pregnant.

My last year at school was unlike most peoples. A few weeks in to Year 12 I found out that I was pregnant. A shock and completely unplanned but from the beginning I knew that I would continue with the pregnancy. I did the sensible thing and looked at all my options but I always knew what my decision would be.

I was told initially by mum (when she was still in shock about my news) and by my English teacher to leave school and get a job until the baby was born. I have to say I never really contemplated that as a possibility. Why would I do that? I knew that if I wanted to give my baby the best chance in life, and if I could physically do it, I needed to stay at school. So I stayed.

I dropped a class (Math… because my brain did not work mathematically anymore once I was pregnant!) and I worked super hard during class time to complete my work. I completed my homework during my lunchtimes because I was too tired after school. I was lucky that I had an amazing group of friends who supported me during this time.

I worked during school holidays at Myer to complete the required hours for my Certificate II in Retail Operations that I was completing in conjunction with my VCE. I continued to work a few shifts a week at McDonalds every week. I worked bloody hard that year to set myself up to be able to give my daughter and myself the best future I could.

I was very, very lucky that I had the support of my parents during this year, and after my daughter’s birth. Without their support it would have been very difficult to have done all that I did that year. Oh yeah, did I also mention that my parents separated two months before I gave birth and we moved house. It was a crazy year!

I barely took a day off school that year and was at school right up until the last day of classes. The following day, a Saturday, I was induced and after two days of labour I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl on the Monday evening. She was truly amazing.

On the Wednesday, the day my fellow class mates were at school celebrating the end of high school with fun and pranks, I took my baby girl home to begin our new life together. And study. My first exam was on the Friday, 4 days after I gave birth. Yep, I sat my English exam while my little baby was downstairs crying. It was hard. But I had complete faith in myself that I could do hard things. I felt this new strength in myself from the time I learnt that I was pregnant. For me, motherhood showed me how strong and resilient I was. It showed me that I could get through hard times and it gave me the motivation to get through the hard and challenging times that inevitably came along.

Watching my daughter graduate on Monday I felt such immense pride in her. And in myself. I don’t often give myself credit but I am so proud of myself for bringing her in to the world, for graduating high school when many thought I couldn’t, for being a single mother for many years, and for raising such an amazing daughter.

Back to the Gym : My Mental Health Is Thanking Me

runners

This week is Mental Health Week. I thought I would share one of the main things I do for my mental health. I have suffered with anxiety in the past, and it is still always there in the background, occasionally flaring up as if to remind me to take better care of myself.

Last week I went back to the gym after a month, and if I am honest I have barely been there at all in the past three months. The moment I walked back in to the gym I felt the guilt about not prioritising my health. I felt like everyone was looking at me knowing that I hadn’t been there for so long. I couldn’t help but feel self conscious.

I jumped on to the treadmill and started it up, I started walking and felt my shoulders drop, my face relax, my tension slowly melt away. I am fairly sure I let out a sigh of relief to be back there. The hum of the treadmill is my happy place. It felt hard, my fitness had diminished quickly. I reminded myself that I must make the gym, or any type of exercise, part of my routine again.

Treadmill

Jumping on the treadmill a few times a week has been such an important time out for me over the last four years. I started going when second daughter was around 8 months old. The gym has a great creche and so I used to leave my daughter in the creche and go to a weekly yoga classes and the occasional treadmill walk, followed by coffee at the gym coffee shop with a close friend. If I hadn’t had my friend to have a coffee with afterwards I am not sure I would have ever got in to a routine of going. I continued going throughout my pregnancy with my son and started back again when he was 12 weeks old. It gave me the space I so desperately needed in the early months.

I can always tell when I haven’t been to the gym for a while. I get irritable, I find my anxiety flaring up and I feel restless. The gym gives me some time to be alone. Time for me. Time to let go of stress. Time to be able to let go of having to be constantly watching and listing out for my children. Time to have a coffee alone afterwards!

Last week, going back after a month long break felt like coming home, like a big release of energy. I am sure my mental health thanked me for getting back to it, for prioritising my health and my mental health again. I am guessing my family are thankful too.

Do you do any exercise? How does it help you?

 

 

Before and After

tulips-before-afterMy journey to finding me again began by acknowledging where I was and what wasn’t working for me. I was feeling frustrated, angry, irritable, negative, tired and lonely. I was yelling a lot at my family. I felt like I was no longer interesting to anyone other then my children when they needed something. I felt stuck. I wanted to be at home with my children but I also felt like my ENTIRE life was now focused around taking care of other people and the house.

I rarely went out without my children unless it was to the supermarket or to run errands. I rarely saw my friends. My self care was minimal, although I did take the time to go to the gym once or twice a week. Without the gym I may have lost my mind! I used to think that watching lots of television was self care…. turns out there are much better ways of taking care of myself.

I contemplated going back to working as a Social Worker but wasn’t sure I really wanted to get back in to that industry. I didn’t have the confidence that I could even do it! I applied for a few positions and when I wasn’t successful I felt like I had lost my Social Worker identity as well. In reality, that happened a long time ago, I hadn’t worked in the industry for over 5 years at that point!

I felt like I was JUST A MUM. Turns out that I wasn’t just a mum. I was a woman who was a mum. Motherhood was and is a big part of my identity but not all of it. I needed to make changes to allow me to see this.

These days I feel very different. I feel calmer, my household is calmer. There is much less yelling. I value my role as a mother. I have a much more positive outlook on life and I am very grateful for what I have. I am not tired all the time like I used to be. I have goals. I feel more confident. My relationship is better. I take better care of myself. I take time away from my family to just be me. I know myself much better and what I need to be happy. I watch very little television.

The primary things that I have changed are:

  • Self Care:  I have prioritised taking care of myself. I have replaced TV with things I enjoy and that nourish me.
  • Waking up early: I wake early before my children to get some time to myself, do a short meditation and plan out my day.
  • Sleep: I ensure I get enough, but not too much.
  • My attitude: I am much more positive now and I have developed a daily gratitude practice.
  • Recognising that my level of self care is very much related to my mood and my irritability and frustration, which impacts on my family. When I look after myself I am a much happier mother, wife and woman.
  • Doing lots of inner work: I have done lots of journalling, reading and online courses to get to know myself better and what I need.

Don’t get me wrong… I still have days I am grumpy and yell at my kids. I still have weeks where I feel like all I do is look after other people. I still forget my self care some days or weeks. I still have days were I can barely get out of the house because it all feels too hard. But for the most part, those days are far less frequent.

 

 

The Power of an Early Morning

 

Wake early routine

Waking up before the kids… this used to sound like my worst nightmare. I was tired, why would I want to wake up earlier in the morning? I needed more sleep not less!

I first tried it years ago. When I was a single mum to my eldest daughter, I used to get up in the morning at least half an hour before my daughter woke and do yoga before getting us ready for childcare and University. It made such a difference to my day. Unfortunately, this only lasted for six months before the weather got cold and I wanted to stay in bed as long as possible. I forgot all of the benefits of getting up early for the next 15 years.

Last year, I began getting up early again. Initially it was because we had a tradesman coming for a few weeks and I liked to be showered and dressed before he came. He was kind of sexy…. Ok, a lot. I felt so organised and prepared for the day that I continued to do this until Winter when I stopped again. A few months later I found the Rise and Shine Challenge that The Abundant Mama runs. It is a 10 day free email course and it is amazing. It made me think about, plan and implement the way I wanted my mornings to go. It helped me to think about how to create better night time rituals, and how to plan my mornings so that the rest of my day ran smoother and calmer.

Waking up early has given me time to myself, time to wake up before the kids get up, time for some quiet time before the chaos of the morning begins. It has meant that instead of being woken up by the children (which always left me feeling grumpy all morning) I get time to wake up gently. I feel calmer and more organised. I get time alone in silence.

Sure, some days they wake early too and I don’t get any time to myself before they wake, but because I regularly get that time, the days that they are up early I have learnt to just go with. Even a few days a week of having that early morning alone time makes a big difference to me.

What I use this time for has changed over the past year depending on what is going on in my life, what times my children are getting up, what I feel I need or want to do. Currently I get up at 6 am. I sneak out to the lounge and do a short meditation before setting my intentions for the day. I think about what I want to achieve, how I want feel and act. For example I might want to feel calm, connected to my family and productive.

For the last few months I have been using the Daily Greatness Yoga Journal and I am loving it. I can write my daily goals and plan my day. In the evening I fill in the things that I am grateful for and some of the daily prompts such as what I learnt today and any ideas or thoughts I had on the day. It is a really easy way of planning and reflecting on my day. Most days I follow this with catching up on social media, writing in my journal or reading.

I would love to have a cup of tea but every time I have tried my children hear the kettle and wake up. I would also love to get up and do yoga every morning but so far I haven’t made that happen. Maybe as the weather gets warmer.

What you use your morning time for is really up to what you feel you need. Some people make a set ritual that they do each morning, others have a range of things they do and just do what they feel like at the time.

Some ideas are:

  • Shower and get dressed before the children get up.
  • Plan your day
  • Have a coffee or tea and relax before your family wake.
  • Sit outside and breathe in the morning air.
  • Read
  • Journal
  • Go for a walk or do some form of exercise.
  • Mediate
  • Yoga
  • Eat your breakfast uninterrupted

It may be that you only have a 10 minutes alone before your children get up. Find something that makes you feel good that can be done in those 10 minutes. I know that it might feel impossible, it once did to me, but I really encourage you to give it a go. It made a big difference to my happiness, the way my entire day runs and to finding me again in my motherhood journey.

I know some of you reading will be saying that there is no way you can get up earlier, or no way you can get up without the kids do. I get that. Some people are not morning people. Some are not getting enough sleep due to babies, small children or a variety of other reasons. Some kids wake at the sound of a feather dropping. If you are not getting enough sleep right now, waking early is probably not right for you right now. If you are not a morning person I would really encourage you to give it a go but if it doesn’t work for you, can you put aside time in your evenings to have some time for yourself? Time to look after you. Time to reset after a busy day of kids, work, housework, giving all of your energy to other people and tasks. It makes a huge difference I promise.

Let me know if you get up early. How do you use the time? What difference has it made to you and your day?

Who am I outside of motherhood?

Day before B bornWho am I outside of motherhood? Who is Brielle the woman, not just Brielle the mum? This was the question I was asking myself as I entered 2015. I felt lost in motherhood. I decided that my New Years resolution was to find ‘me’ again. It wasn’t a quick journey, nor is it complete but I am getting a good idea of who I am and who I want to be as a woman and a mother.

I am a mid thirties Australian mum, with three children aged between 17 and 2. I became a mum as a teenager and so half of my life has been spent mothering. The photo above is me on the way to the hospital to give birth to her, to give birth to my journey in to motherhood.

I went straight from a teenager to a mother with no in between stage, no experimenting and learning more about myself as other young adults do. I had a responsibility to be the best mother I could and I took it very seriously. My daughter was the best thing that happened to me and made me strive hard to give her the best life I could. I went to University to study a Bachelor of Social Work, worked hard and provided her with all the love and support that I could.  Later I met my husband, got married and had two more beautiful children. My life was pretty focused on motherhood and what I felt that I needed to do to be the best mother for my children.

Looking back at my time since becoming a mother, I have always defined myself by where I was on my motherhood journey. I was a teenage mother, single mother, studying mother, working mother, work at home mother and stay at home mum. Over time I began to realise that I wasn’t sure who I was outside of motherhood any more. I wanted to get to know myself better. And so began my journey to finding me, finding my ‘me’ in motherhood. I will share more on this in future posts.

I know that there are so many mothers out there who are feeling the same as I did. Wondering who they are now, wondering if it is possible to find themselves again, feeling lost in motherhood. Let me share with you what has helped me and other ideas that might just help you find yourself in motherhood.

Tell me… are you feeling lost in motherhood? Are you feeling like you want to find yourself again?