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?