I’m not a Mum but I do know that I struggle with self care….and I know a lot of you do too. Please don’t press delete yet. I have another message from your child which will make perfect sense to you. The last one I wrote had such a huge impact. I realised having your strong-willed sensitive child speak to you in this way would make you sit up and listen!
That makes total sense really because I know how much you love and care for them, but what about you?
I’ve noticed how tired you are lately. You get snappy and pull that frowny face. You shout a lot. You always seem to be at the sink washing up or loading up the washing machine muttering to yourself in a growly voice. You know the one where you don’t open your mouth to talk. Your nose crinkles up and your breathing gets all heavy. I don’t know what you are saying but it feels big and heavy. It doesn’t feel like you are here really…you know with us? I feel bad telling you that because I don’t want to be another thing on your to do list, but you know Mummy, you are not happy like this and I want to help.
I’ve realised that you never ever stop. Even when you sit down you are on your phone or ordering the food shop. We get bundled in the car and rush around from this place to that. I want a duvet day. Do you remember when we used to have so much fun watching Disney movies and doing crafts? You didn’t even make us wash or clean our teeth. It felt good just to be us and not have to rush or worry or do stuff. We called it Rainy Play Days. I love the rain Mummy and I sometimes wish it would come so we could stay in and be still.
The other day when you were ironing Daddy’s shirts, you did a big sigh. No it was massive.I know you think we don’t listen, but I see you Mummy and I feel you. I feel when life gets heavy and when you need a rest. Why don’t you feel it or listen to it? If you just stopped for a minute and stood still, you could feel it too. Mmm…..maybe you don’t want to…it doesn’t actually feel very nice.
You see, when it gets heavy for you, it gets heavy for me too. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be a burden. I actually want to help you. You don’t ask for help though and I’m not sure if you will snap at me if I ask or if you even notice when I try. Yesterday I gave the dog some water and I played with my brother so you could cook tea. You got cross with us because we were fighting. We were play fighting and we were having fun. You didn’t like the noise. You see, you want quiet too. I think we want the same things.
I see how hard you try. How you do all this stuff for us and yet really none of it matters to me if you aren’t happy. Do you think I care if I don’t have ironed clothes for school? Nope. Do you think I care if we eat baked beans on toast every night for tea? Nope. I love that and jacket potatoes. You don’t have to cook a roast dinner every weekend. It’s hot and it’s sweaty and it makes you super mad. We sit down to eat and I lose my appetite. You don’t eat much either. It makes so much washing up; all those pots and pans. Then, you are at the sink again when I’d really like a snuggle with you. You could read the Sunday paper and I wouldn’t make a noise. I like our quiet snuggles. I want to be close to you. You do get a little bit proud when you serve up the roast. I think that’s mostly because when we are all gathered around the table together, you are happy, but that’s after you have shouted ‘Dinner!’ 50 times and threatened to throw all that hard work in the bin. Why would you do that? That doesn’t make me listen. In fact when you shout louder, I don’t listen. I want to run and hide under my blankie.
I heard you say on the phone to Nanny yesterday that nobody cares about you and you wish that life wasn’t so stressful all the time. I’m sorry you feel like that Mummy. I don’t want to be a burden to you. I care about you. I’ve noticed that what also makes you happy is when Daddy takes you shopping or when you go to that Shaaar place with your friend. You know the one where children aren’t allowed. It’s got lots of swimming pools and mud baths. You come home with red nails and your toes smell of peppermint. I get sad then because I think that sometimes being away from home makes you happier.
I think you give us too much and without meaning to sound ungrateful: it’s things that we don’t really need. If you asked me what I really need, I need a Mummy who isn’t tired, who loves me and laughs with me. One who does things for herself. You know like Sarah’s Mum. She is a really good painter and their house is super messy (ssssh don’t tell anybody I said that), but Sarah says her Mum is happy when she paints and they do a lot of fun painting stuff and drawing whenever I go round there. That means Sarah gets to hang out with her Mum all the time.
I think be more like Sarah’s Mum – well not with the painting because you don’t paint but you are really good at making cakes and I’ve seen you smile when Strictly is on the TV. Maybe you could go out dancing? Yes! When we danced in the kitchen to Olly Murs we laughed a lot and it felt good. It felt like you were here and you liked spending time with us. Not like you wanted to run away to that Shaaar place. Is it a Shaaar? Or a Spa, no it’s a Spa. Yeah, I’m not sure about the Spa, it makes you happy but for how long? I mean surely there must be an easier way to be happy every day?
And please stop inviting people round because that means more roast dinners and more hoovering because ‘people can’t see the mess in here!’ and then it’s my turn to sigh Mummy because I like to get messy sometimes. Messy feels relaxed and you know, we don’t really keep things neat and tidy for long. We try to but it doesn’t come easily to us. I tried to make my bed yesterday and you walked past and said my room looked like a bomb had hit it. I even drew the curtains. You don’t have the time Mummy to even see the little things I try to do to make sure you are happy. I want to help you.
You know I really love you Mummy and I’m writing to you because I think that living like this – just because everybody else does is crazy. Its not worth it. Can we just be ‘us’? It’s not worth your sighs and your frowny face.Nothing could be more important than your happiness. I really do love it and you when you smile. So please take care of you and let’s slow down and do it differently.
Your Child x
Living like this showed me …
- that my worth was based on what I did and what others thought of me (I’m a work-a-holic and an over achiever)
- that kindness was something you did for other people and not what you gave to yourself (I didn’t feel my feelings because I was externally focused on how other people felt)
- that if you made everybody else happy, you were kind and people liked you (that’s actually called co-dependency and it’s unhealthy)
- that there was always something to be done and we couldn’t stop until it was finished (except daily life doesn’t have a full stop)
- that being a Mum was hard work and kids drove you nuts (It is easier if you have boundaries)
- that other people’s happiness was more important than mine (I now make a living out of helping people find happiness)
- that it had to be a certain way – perfect (I am a recovering perfectionist with OCD and chronic anxiety)
- when everything is busy and stressful, you neglect your own needs to cope and that is a high price to pay
I don’t have to need, I’ll just cope
What an awful thing to do. To silence your voice and shut off yourself. I’m not writing this for sympathy. I’m not writing this to make my Mum wrong or blame her. I know she did her very best by me. She gave me more than she had. I’m showing you how the way you treat yourself has a knock on effect on your kids. Even if they don’t listen to you, they watch you. They notice what you do and they copy you. They are the world’s best mimics.
Are you enjoying yourself?
How do you feel? Or are you just doing what you need to do to get by?
I want you to recognise that the way you treat yourself shows your child the way
So let’s do a bit of a self care audit
(I found this one on Pinterest)
Time to Reflect
When you’ve gone through it and reflected, I want you to reflect a bit more:
- What is more important than taking good care of yourself? If you tell me your kids then I will ask you to go back and read this letter again. As a child I would rather my Mum was happy than run herself ragged and be a shouty ranty pants. I really would.
- What stops you from doing it? What are you prioritising over self care? If you can’t say no, do you need better boundaries?
- How hard is it for you to ask for help? There is no shame in not being able to do it all. You are enough. You truly are.
- What are you making it mean? (is self care over indulgent for example?)
- Do you find yourself saying you don’t have time? That’s an excuse which is French for ‘it’s not a priority.’ What you don’t have 10 minutes a day where you can sit with your cup of tea and breathe? You are a priority. You matter.
- At what cost is not taking a few minutes for yourself every day (hopefully more) to you and your family?
Self care isn’t just about having a bubble bath or getting a manicure (don’t get me wrong, those things are lovely and I’m an avid fan of Spa Days as much as the next woman!). It’s about recognising your worth, knowing your needs matter, tuning into yourself and being your own best friend. You want that for your child don’t you? First you have to want it for yourself. So be your own best friend and ask yourself: How do you feel? What do you need right now? Check in and see how you are from time to time.