A person who does the work of many. For free.
That’s one of the definitions of being a mum I’ve seen bandied about on social media, and the job description is spot on. The question is who’s looking after the person who’s busy looking after everyone else?
What with the broken nights, the school run, the nursery pick-ups and drop-offs and the gazillion other things that need to happen every day, whether you’re a working mum or a stay-at-home mum it’s easy to forget about looking after yourself.
The thing is self-care is really important for everyone, especially if you’re a mum because who’s going to look after them if you’re running on empty?
I’ve teamed up with Simplyhealth to help support their new #MyEveryStep campaign, which is all about the little steps we can take to help lead a healthy and happy life. So what little steps can we take to look after ourselves as mums?
There’s no need to spend any money or try and find time you haven’t got – by making a few simple changes it’s easy to make sure you’re looking after yourself too. Here’s what I’ve learnt in six years of motherhood.
10 simple ways to look after yourself as a mum
1. Accept help. And if it’s not offered but you need it, ask! We’re very good at batting off offers of help, and being guilty of the ‘but no-one can do it as well as me’ mentality, but don’t martyr yourself. Because trust me, one day you’ll reach the end of your rope.
2. Make time for me-time. Whether it’s a hot bath without someone coming in to use the loo or curling up with a book after they’ve gone to bed, just spending a few minutes each day by yourself doing something you love is great for mental wellbeing.
3. Catch up on some sleep. Easier said than done I know, but sleep deprivation is cumulative and if you don’t catch up on at least some of the sleep you’re losing things are likely to get messy (if in doubt see my 10 stages of sleep deprivation). We take it in turns to have a lie-in at the weekend. I get Saturdays and Misery Guts gets Sundays and no little people are allowed into the bedroom under any circumstances until at least 10am.
4. Try and eat well. Like sleep, eating well is easier said than done too, especially when you’re tired and short on time. But eat well and you’ll feel better, eat badly and you’ll feel worse. Because our evening meal is always the last thing that gets thought of in our house and we found ourselves relying a little too much on takeaways we recently signed up to a healthy recipe box service where you get everything you need for your evening meal delivered to your door. So there’s no ‘what shall we have for dinner tonight?’-‘I don’t know what do you fancy?’-‘I don’t know what have we got’- ‘oh, let’s just get a takeaway’ anymore.
5. Have something ‘else’. When I say ‘else’ I mean something that doesn’t involve being a mum or a wife or a partner or a sister or whatever it is you do for a living – something that involves being just you. Like a hobby or a pastime that doesn’t involve wiping bums and faces. For me that’s my allotment, which I hot-foot it to (alone) at every available opportunity. I’ve written before about why my allotment makes me a better mum, and it’s true – because it gives us all a break from one other.
6. Exercise. I’m a great believer in exercise for the mind as well as the body and go running and swimming several times a week. But exercise doesn’t have to involve a major health overhaul, money or even workout gear. Gardening on my aforementioned allotment is a great all over workout physically as well as mentally. Or try simply going for a brisk walk.
7. Remember you’re more than ‘just’ a mum. Remember who you used to be before you grew a human being? Me neither, sometimes. But it’s important not to forget who she was because you won’t always be needed in the way they need you now. Keep in touch with old friends, make new ones and try to meet up without the kids in tow.
8. Make time for your other half. Kids are very good at demanding undivided attention and it can be easy to forget about each other and the fact you did actually have a life before you became parents. There are times when I realise Misery Guts and I haven’t spoken about anything other than the kids and where they’re supposed to be and when for days. Turn the TV off, put your phone down and talk to each other.
9. Learn to say no. No to the washing mountain, no to the ironing and no to the fridge that could really do with a clear out. These things will need doing at some point but do they really have to be done right now? Could you make yourself a cup of tea and have a sit down instead?
10. Give yourself a break. Do your best and if sometimes that means beige for tea or you’re the one that has the meltdown, so what? Lay off the mum guilt because the chances are you’re doing just great. And tomorrow is another day.
What little steps do you take to look after yourself as a mum – or dad? Do you have any advice or tips? I’d love to hear what they are!
This post was written in collaboration with Simplyhealth. I’m proud to be supporting their #MyEveryStep campaign, shining a light on the little steps we can all take to leading a healthy life every day. As always all opinions are my own and based on my own honest experience. To find out more about Simplyhealth’s #MyEveryStep campaign follow @SimplyhealthUK on Twitter and Instagram.