BEING a mum is exhausting and all too often we’re bombarded with adorable images of sleeping babies in spotless homes and clothes.
In reality, being a parent is far from that and often means making constant choices and facing the relentless and exhausting judgement from others, especially if you decide to do something like go back to work early to let the TV “babysit”.
Parenting expert Lauren Burton explains why being selfish is actually GOOD for mums[/caption]
But parenting expert Lauren Burton says it’s time for us to ditch the traditional archetype of ‘the perfect mother’ – who is totally selfless and puts her kids before everything – and admit that being a bit more “selfish” is actually good for both mum and child.
“When I talk about being selfish I do not mean putting all your needs at the expense of your child’s needs. I mean putting yourself first,” explains Lauren, who runs The Compassion Coach.
“‘Put on your own oxygen mask first,’ is a great metaphor for this and it doesn’t mean you won’t tend to those you love.
“If you are exhausted you will not show up calm and present with your children.
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“If you can’t say no to anyone, your children will learn that other people are more important than them.
“If you can’t create quiet time your children won’t use the creative part of their brains.
“Setting clear boundaries with your kids helps them feel safe.
“Doing things such as telling them when you want space to yourself, saying no or simply setting clear bedtimes isn’t being selfish, it’s helping everyone in the family thrive.
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“In reality when mothers take some time for themselves and put down the mum-guilt, they find it easier to show up for their kids (and other people they care about), are happier and better mums overall.”
Here, three mums explain why being “selfish” makes them a better mother…
‘I was mum-shamed for going back to work early but it was right for me’
Charlotte Pearce, 30, mother of nine month old son Iroh
“I knew when Iroh was about five or six weeks old that I wanted to go back to work.
“I missed using that part of my brain.
“I also noticed that I was on a bit of a downward spiral with my mental health. I was finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning and I knew I wasn’t being as present with Iroh as I wanted to be.
“I’ve had periods of bad mental health so I knew that working was one of the things that would help me feel better.
“When I mentioned that I was going back to work at a mother and baby group, I definitely felt some of the mums giving me the “what about the baby?” look.
“But staying at home all day was making me anxious and that anxiety was stopping me from really being there for my son.
Charlotte with son Iroh[/caption]
“Going back to work lifted my mood and made me a much better mum.
“When I’m with Iroh I’m at my best, able to fully focus on him and we really enjoy being together, because I make time for myself.
“What I’ve learned about being a mum is that whatever you do, someone will judge you for it and you’ll feel some level of mum-guilt. So I just do what makes me and my family happy.
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‘I let the TV babysit so I can have time to scroll through my phone’
Katie Sadler, 41, mother of a 7 year old boy and 5 year old
“In my mind a mum is someone who’s always there catering to their child’s needs, baking bread, making sure they’re doing healthy, educational activities all the time. It’s a big expectation!
“I’m a single parent and I don’t get a lot of time for myself. I’m also an introvert and I need to have a quiet morning otherwise I’m in a really bad mood for the rest of the day.
“So when the kids get up we have a nice cuddle and then they go downstairs by themselves and watch some TV while I stay in my bedroom on my own for 20 to 30 minutes.
“I might do some exercise, have a shower or just scroll through my phone for a bit. It’s time to myself, just to be alone.
“A mum recently seemed a bit outraged that I send my kids downstairs to watch TV first thing in the morning.
“Some people might think this selfish but it gives me energy to be there for my kids for the rest of the day.
“I also like them to be in their own rooms after 7pm. They have endless energy and I want to be able to keep up with them and properly be there for them, these moments to myself allow me to do that.
“I see this as modelling behaviour for them.
“I want them to know that if they need time alone, it’s ok to ask for it. My older one can now read and loves books, so I want him to know that if he wants to be by himself and read his books then it’s ok for him to do that.”
‘I get up at 5.15am to be selfish – it makes me a better mum’
Estelle Keeber, 39, mother of two boys aged 11 and 13
“Being a “selfish mum” depends on the context that you look at it.
“I’m a single mother, I do the school runs, the school clubs and I work full time for myself, but to make sure I can be the best I can be for my boys I get up at 5.15am so that I have a couple of hours to myself.
“I go for a walk with my dog, go to the gym and spend some time on myself. It means I feel more prepared and ready to deal with the rest of the day.
“It’s important to me to show my boys that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity. “I want the practices that I have to encourage my boys to take care of themselves too.
“Children also need to understand that they’re not always going to get a yes to everything they ask for.
“But we need to communicate with our kids so they know why it’s a no. For example, last week I was ill and so this week we moved their curfew forward because I needed to go to bed early. I explained this and because they understood the reason behind it they’ve been sensitive that I needed that time for me.
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“Some people might think that’s selfish but I think by educating them around my boundaries and other people’s boundaries it sets them on the right path for adulthood.”
Follow Lauren Burton, aka The Compassion Coach on Instagram here.