Can we, as busy mums, ever really be off-duty?
I’m asked this question a lot when I talk about my Mums Off Duty blog. Are mums ever really off-duty?
Becoming a mum or dad is such a powerful thing, and gives you this all-encompassing new role, identity and purpose. It can feel quite overwhelming.
As a stay-at-home-working-mum, I know that my daily thoughts are so centred around being a mum and all that that entails, I almost need to force myself into thinking about other things. I’m sure you feel the same, us mums have a lot to think about!
Learn to switch to ‘off-duty’ mode
Personally I love working from home and the flexibility that it gives our family, but it does mean there is no physical separation from my ‘mum work’ and ‘work work’. This means I’m pretty much always thinking about everything all at once! My husband often comments about my random thoughts that I blurt out loud, and that he can’t keep up with my train of thought. I have a very busy mind and it means I have to work very hard to focus on just one thing at a time.
It may be different for mums that have returned to their day job away from the home – perhaps even more challenging!
Having to switch off ‘mum-mode’ and switch on ‘work-mode’ is a skill that needs to be honed. If you can learn to toggle between mum and work modes, you can probably teach yourself to switch to ‘off-duty’ once in a while too.
Remember who you are
I set up my Mums Off Duty blog to encourage mums to take some time out from their busy schedules to prioritise themselves.
In the busy days of motherhood, especially those tough, sleep-deprived early days, it is so easy to forget about you. It’s easy to forget who you are, what you need, what you like…just everything that made you you before the babe came along.
When those blurry early days are over, and you find a bit of space to breathe, that’s when I think it is so important to start letting yourself think about you again. If you don’t, I think you could run into trouble, both physically and mentally.
Take notice of your wake-up call
My wake-up call was my back. Before I had Ethan, I did a lot of exercise. I ran, I did Pilates, I took dance lessons. I didn’t get back into exercise when I should have because I was too busy being mum, and I started to suffer from excruciating lower back pain. It was so bad at one point, I could barely even stand up from sitting, let alone pick Ethan up, without spasms of pain shooting up and down my back. My health was compromising my ability to look after my son.
The doctor and physio told me I had to reevaluate my lifestyle and make some changes. This included looking after myself more, and getting back into regular exercise again, which I have done. My back has massively improved. I do still have occasional bouts of pain, but not as bad or as often.
If you get a similar wake-up call, from your body or your mind, please make sure you listen to it and make some changes.
Time off-duty is a necessity
I think that some mums feel guilty about taking some ‘time-out’. It isn’t a luxury though, it’s a necessity. It’s not about stopping being a mum. It’s about making a conscious effort to make some time to prioritise you, even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day. It may take some planning, but it’ll be worth it.
It may also feel strange at first! I remember when my son started pre-school when he was two-and-a-half. It felt so odd to be on my own, after all that time we’d spent together pretty much 24/7. I missed him, of course, but it also felt extremely liberating.
Rediscover your passions
So what I really want to encourage us mamas to do, is to try and plan a little regular time when you can be ‘off duty’, and do something that you really want to do.
You may find it takes you a while to decide what that is. What did you love to do before motherhood that you might like to start doing again? Is it reading? Listening to music? Running? Writing? Would you like to learn something new? Maybe you just want to watch TV. Or sleep. I recently got back into reading while enjoying some me-time on holiday. Whatever it is, please try and find the time to do it. Don’t neglect yourself.
Part of looking after your kids and your family, is looking after you. Such an important thing to remember.