What you think balance will look like in motherhood isn’t always what you end up with. But there’s still balance to be had, says Grace Timothy, author of Lost in Motherhood.
I was fairly aware my sense of balance would shift when I had my daughter. My recipe for self-care - cocktails and cheese sarnies in the bath – would probably not fit into our new life together, and the things that I needed to maintain an even keel between my career as a beauty editor and my life at home – basically a lot of nights out and lengthy roast dinners at the pub - would probably have to go for a while at least. But I figured I’d probably start yoga like the mums I’d seen jogging with buggies as I walked to the office. I’d take the baby for long walks on the beach, and I’d leave the baby with my parents so my husband and I could enjoy alone time somewhere fancy. I’d read lots of books, and once I was a mum, I’d probably find that baking would nourish my soul.
Well, it turned out none of those things would prove to be especially nourishing. The walks started well but usually ended with me running back to the car from the halfway point, a poonami covering both my baby and I in a great wave of crap. We struggled to get our baby into a good sleep routine and my mum knew it, so nights away weren’t an option. I couldn’t be bothered with yoga because I was feeding on demand. Plus, I didn’t trust my pelvic floor to make it through a single pose. Books were left to gather dust beside the bed because I was too tired to focus, and as for baking – it’s a chore and will never make me happy. Cake makes me happy, and the fact you can buy them ready made.
My balance was not to be found in yoga, meditation or recipes. It was in the little things that gave me back a moment of myself as ME, not a mum, wife or a dairy cow.
1. TV. I loved watching pretty much ANYTHING on TV, but for a while the more familiar it was, the better for my aching brain. Cold Feet gave me balance. Downton Abbey. Even the Kardashians played their part. It might seem slovenly and sad, but it’s not – it’s a godsend.
2. BATH. The old faithful self-care staple. Not the tepid bath you share with a baby, who let’s face it, will probably poo on your midway through, but the inappropriately hot tub that’s all for you. To float for a minute and not feel the aches and pains of a post-partum body.
3. DRAWBRIDGE DAYS. This is something we still do now – batten down the hatches and shut the world out for 24 hours. Luxuriate in your immediate family unit, be slow and don’t plan a single thing. It’s an antidote to the rushing around we all do the rest of the week.
4. MASCARA. Putting on mascara gives us 30 seconds to look ourselves in the eye, see ourselves and smile. To stop for a moment and think of our own faces and how we feel inside. And it just looks good.
5. BE REAL. Admit to yourself and your partner that there won’t be true, lasting balance for a long time. There will be pockets of it – days where you feel fulfilled, accomplished and like everyone is thriving. So enjoy those moments without feeling pressure to keep it up. Because most of the time, it’s out of your control anyway.