Busy making New Year’s resolutions? While your aims may have shifted slightly from the ones you made before you became a mum, we’re guessing you’re still making the same type – do more, achieve more, be more. And now you’ve welcomed a child into the world, it’s only natural to put even more pressure on yourself.
‘But you don’t need to change anything about yourself to be a great mum,’ says life coach Nicola Gibb. ‘You’re already doing a brilliant job!’
So, instead of trying to reinvent yourself, why not have a go at accepting how great you are? Because you’ll feel a whole lot happier if you do.
‘It’s easy to lose track of who you are amid the sleepless nights, growth spurts and daily ups and downs, but you haven’t lost yourself since you’ve had your baby,’ says Nicola, ‘but become even more yourself.’
Recognising what your intrinsic qualities are will mean you’ll value what you bring to your role as a mum. And that will help you accept the mum you are, rather than the mum you feel you should be. Want to feel more confident, and shrug a load of pressure straight off your shoulders? Read on…
Discover your strengths
‘Creating a list of what you enjoy doing can help you work out what’s most important to you right now,’ says Nicola. ‘Write a list of words or phrases that resonate with you and that describe your feelings, strengths, ambitions and passions. Ask yourself, what’s important to me?’
You might enjoy feeding your tot his tea – or his curiosity. Maybe you feel satisfied after a big day out – or a cosy day in. ‘These are the things to spend your time and energy on,’ says Nicola. So, if ‘having adventures’ is on your list, but ‘homemade food’ isn’t, then you can safely forget about preparing a freezer-full of purees and spend the time exploring with your tot instead.
Share your loves
Feel like you need to give your tot the very best of everything and the thought of compromising makes you shudder? Just think about this for a second: when you share something with your child that makes you feel excited and full of life, you also share the very best version of you; and when you’re energised and invigorated, he will be too. So, if you like reading, make the most of storytime together or, if you love nature, go on a walk with him in a back carrier.
And if messy play makes you stressed or crafting isn’t your strength, don’t agonise over it, just do what you can – or don’t do it at all! ‘Creating a vision board will help you to focus on what’s important to you,’ says Nicola. Start with a big piece of card and stick on photos or pictures from magazines of things that make you, you. Now think about how you can share all these things with your baby. These are the things that will nourish you both.
Find your happy
When you’ve got a baby and a million and one things to do, it can feel like you haven’t got a second to tune in to how you’re feeling. But the next time you get a moment to yourself, ignore the pile of washing and tune in to yourself. Pick up a photo or put on some music that reminds you of a good memory, and find a quiet spot to sit and close your eyes.
‘Think about the positive memory, and recall the people, the place, the smells and how you felt,’ says Nicola. ‘How are you feeling? Acknowledge that feeling, whether it’s a warm contented glow or excited flutterings in your tummy. Really settle into it and, as you do, try to pinpoint what it is that’s giving you that feeling. It might be being with people you love, being spontaneous or just simply being in the moment.’
And once you’ve identified these more can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it things that make you happy, do them more often! ‘This exercise will help you to discover how you can add more of your true self into your role as a mum,’ says Nicola, ‘so get into the habit of taking a couple of minutes every day to reflect on a fulfilling memory to help you re-discover what makes you tick.’
Forget the rest
Accepting what you love and value will also help you to acknowledge what you don’t enjoy and what aren’t your strengths. As mums, we only have so much time and energy, and it’s important to dedicate this to the things that matter most and ignore the external pressures that can make you feel like you should be doing something different.
‘Look out for the word “should”,’ says Nicola. ‘If you’re saying or thinking “I should” rather than “I want to” or “I’d love to”, then whatever it is you feel you "should" be doing isn’t something that’s going to make you a better or happier mum. Every time you hear yourself saying or thinking ‘should’, write that sentence down on a piece of paper, acknowledge it and then throw it away. It will help to physically remove the thought and pressure.’
Accept your needs
As much as you love your baby, it’s ok to need more than what he gives you. Maybe you crave more purpose or predictability, more time to yourself or more support. ‘Writing down these things will help you tap into how you’re feeling,’ says Nicola.
At the end of every day, get into the habit of spending five minutes jotting down a few things that have made you feel good, and a few things that didn’t. ‘Look back to see what patterns you can spot,’ says Nicola, ‘and ask yourself, what would have helped me then?’
Doing this will help you be more objective about working out what support or small changes would make a big difference to you, and this rests entirely on what’s important to you. For example, if parenting as a team is something you really value, then something as simple as your partner giving you a hug every morning and saying, ‘We’re doing this together’ is what you need to sail through your day more smoothly.
Know you’re enough
Yep, we’d all like to be Supermums who can do it all. But we’re not. No-one is! So once you’ve worked out what’s important to you – and what’s not – accept that it’s ok to prioritise some things in your baby’s life over others. That’s not always easy when family life (or your baby) throws all sorts at you, so remind yourself.
Get yourself a pack of pretty Post-it notes to write notes to yourself about those things that you’re great at, that you’re doing brilliantly. If it’s a priority to make all your baby’s food yourself, then stick one up in the fridge saying, ‘Look at all these lovely veggies!’.
If you love making stuff with your tot, then pop one on the box of crafty supplies saying ‘We have so much fun making stuff!’. Think about what makes you feel like you’re on top of your hamster wheel, too – so if your airing cupboard is organised within an inch of its life, then it needs a Post-it saying ‘How neat is this?!’
Put one up on your nappy changing station that says ‘It’s important to me that my baby is comfy’. Whatever it is that you value, remind yourself how great a job you’re doing! Because once you acknowledge and celebrate that you’re an amazing mum – just as you are – you’ll feel so much better!
Nicola Gibb is a life coach who specialises in working with mums and mums-to-be.
‘After I had my first baby, I had to learn to listen to my own intuition. For the first few months, I fought against it as everything I read told me to do things differently. Once I learned to follow my own feelings, my journey as a mum came so much easier and I became a lot less stressed and a lot happier.’ - Alex Kremer, from Hertfordshire, is mum to Eden and Rufus.
‘I’ve finally accepted that I need a purpose and a sense of achievement outside my role as a parent. Stepping out of that role to work, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, helps me to be the best and happiest mum that I can be.’ - Pragya Agarwal, from Liverpool, is mum to India and April and Prishita.
‘I’ve accepted that I’m not perfect and I can’t do everything. I used to feel overwhelmed if I couldn’t finish a task at home because I was busy doing other things with my children. But now I know it’s not the end of the world if the dishes aren’t washed straight after dinner and, as long as the kids are happily playing and laughing, I feel happy and relaxed.’ - Natalia Pareja, from London, is mum to Lucas and Leandro.