I remember sitting in traffic when the babies were first born one rainy Manchester day in November. I was alone, which means I must have been on the way to or from a doctor’s appointment as that was the only place I could ever get out of the house without the kids to go to back then and I was probably in a rush knowing whoever the kids were left with at the time was probably struggling with 2 newborns and a toddler until I returned. Anyway, I was sat in my mum-mobile, behind a line of cars queued at a roundabout and I can remember thinking how great it would be if a car was to hit me right at that moment. That’s not something I’ve ever said aloud before because I know it’s not a ‘normal’ thing to think when you’ve got 3 young children at home desperate for their mummy to return but I was sooooooooo tired, all I could think about was how great it would be to GET SOME SLEEP and if that meant whilst being in a coma, then that was a risk I was willing to take.
ERR HELLO?? Is there anybody in there? I think it’s pretty safe to say I wasn’t firing on all cylinders back then. In fact, I wasn’t firing on anything other than coffee and around 2 hours sleep a night and there should probably be a law about allowing parents of newborns behind the wheel of a moving vehicle anyway. Not good. I suppose I wasn’t happy in the literal sense of the word, whether that was a touch of postnatal depression or just the sheer exhaustion at that time of my life I’ll probably never know but I did work out certain coping strategies to increase my serotonin levels (besides the obvious – wine and chocolate) and put my mind in a more positive space so I wanted to share them with you if you too are dreading the daily grind like I was once upon a time.
Something I started doing a long time ago is writing grateful lists and I’ve blogged about it here in the past. That’s not always in the literal sense with pen and paper, but sometimes just in my head I can look around me and list things I’m grateful for throughout my day (hot water – for my shower, coffee – for my mental health, cbeebies – so I can drink the coffee, toys – for the kids to play with, wine – for my mental health also) it could literally be anything that I would truly miss if it wasn’t around anymore.
2 – Think positively
I honestly believe that polluting our minds with negative thoughts can manifest themselves into our daily lives so when I hear my inner Negative Nancy chirp up and try to make me doubt myself, I shake her off and detoxify my mind. Most of what we all worry about never comes to fruition anyway, so there’s no point worrying about the future that we have no control over changing. I feel in much more control of my life now I’ve shifted my mind set into this way of thinking, which doesn’t mean to say my thoughts don’t slip back from time to time (my default setting is pretty pessimistic at times depending on what’s going on with us – poorly kids being my main trigger for negativity and anxiety at the moment) – but I think knowing what external influences get you down is a huge step in thinking positively because you can remind yourself that it’s not forever!
3 – Surround yourself with positive people
When I was pregnant, I found my threshold for dealing with other people’s problems diminishing faster than my waist line. As soon as I got an invitation to a pity party disguised as friendly coffee and a chat, I could feel my mood shifting negatively and I didn’t like it. I wanted to think happy thoughts and transfer them to my unborn children and the experience made me ‘clean up’ the people I was surrounding myself with. We all love a good moan from time to time and I’m there for my very close friends 100% but it’s quality, not quantity with people in our lives so I’m a much happier person now my friend group has shrunk and I’m not mirroring anyone else’s negative reactions to life.
4 – Talk
To your partner, friend, parent or doctor. Talk to anyone who has kids and I promise you, they’ll relate to what you’re going through even if it was a long time ago for them that they parented newborns. Just having a friendly ear to listen to your problems can really put them into perspective. Social media has helped me a lot since I became a full time stay at home mum, by meeting other people going through the same stage in their lives I found a lot of compassion and empathy that reminded me no matter how hard my night or day was, there are thousands of other parents going through exactly the same. We’re all in this together. Parenting is hard work, but I love the feeling of team spirit amongst us!
5 – Stop trying to make everyone like you
This is something I learned over the past few years. When I was younger I used to think I needed other people’s approval to be happy but that is such a waste of energy. The people that love you, love you for who you are – flaws and all – and anyone who mocks, mimics or makes you feel uncomfortable in their presence is not worth your time of day in my opinion. Becoming a mummy has made me so much more confident in my own skin. My kids adore me (for now), my husband loves me (and hopefully always will) and my friends and family are my whole world. I really don’t need to be accepted by anyone outside the amazing group that surrounds us with love every day and neither do you!
6 – Stop comparing
I have a real love/hate relationship with social media and I think it can be a little negative at times. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Theodore Roosevelt once said “comparison in the thief of joy” and I tell myself that whenever I feel down about the wonderful world people portray that they’re living in through their Instagram accounts and Facebook profiles. It’s not healthy to compare our clothes, cars or summer holidays and I feel much happier now I’ve learned to ignore it.
There’s no shame in having down-days (or like me down-months). Even if everyone around you seems to have their life much more together than you do when you see them outside the school gates in their pristine clean jeans with coordinated handbag and eyelash extensions while you’re leaning on a second-hand double buggy seriously contemplating putting the hair on your legs to good use to file the fingernails that you’ve neglected since pregnancy on, just remember that this stage in your life is as temporary as their fake tan. You will be back to your glamourous (or at least, clean) self soon. Kids drain every ounce of energy out of you faster than the energy drains from an iPhone 5 when you try to have a couple of conversations on it, but that’s so that they can grow and develop and – hey the quicker they do that, the faster they can leave home 😉
It was Winter when the babies were born and Winter in England means darkness, rain, gale force winds and if you’re lucky enough for it to warm up at any point, it probably means it’s about to snow too. So during the first few months of Kian and Kaira’s life, I would take Ariana to preschool and walk. We would walk for hours in the fresh air, pacing the streets for up to 2 hours sometimes. The babies would be wrapped up tight in vests, sleepsuits, cardigans, pramsuits, blankets, foot muffs and raincovers and I would get into my hat, coat and gloves and stomp come rain or shine! I know somewhere between the grey clouds, the sun shone through and drenched us with Vitamin D and it definitely helped my seratonin levels and weightloss at a time when I needed it most.
8 – Nutrition
It’s really difficult to make the time necessary for yourself when you’re a new parent. Just remembering to brush my teeth some days was a huge accomplishment when the twins were born so the thought of planning meals for myself as well all the meals I had to prepare for my family was impossible. I would have rather starved than add anything to my to-do list and in fact there were days when Ste would return from work and I hadn’t eaten anything other than coffee and biscuits all day.
Buying a Nutribullet changed all of that. I love being able to throw whatever fruit and vegetables we have in into it without any planning and drink a liquid meal while I’m busy with the kids. The amount of vitamins and minerals contained within one smoothie is astronomical (there’s a word I never thought I’d have to spell) and drinking them really helped my energy levels back then and now while the kids enjoy them with me too. As experts have recently revealed, 80% of the body’s seratonin (or feel good hormone) is released from the gut, so we really need to take good care of that part of our bodies. More about our recipes can be found here.
Taking a multivitamin with a probiotic is also a great idea to boost the immune system and protect us parents from all of the lovely bugs our lovely kids bring home (no sick days off for us unfortunately). I also really recommend taking St John’s Wort, known as natures Prozac. The plant based medicine is proven to relieve symptoms of mild depression with no known side effects. I took it for a long time during the twins first year of life and I think it did make a positive impact.
9 – Me time
I feel pretty patronised when I read advice online about coping with life as a parent, especially when that advice is all about ‘making’ time for myself, which to me implies that time is something I can just conjure out of thin air and enjoy. Magical extra hours in the day I can simply click my fingers and puff they’re there and suddenly the kids don’t need me to tuck them in or wake them up or find that long lost essential doll that they just NEED or will have a full on meltdown and the housework is done and the fridge is full and so I can hot-skip-it to the thermal spa down the road, cover myself in chocolate and drink wine until the sun comes up. Doesn’t really work that way though does it? I don’t know about you but just walking around Sainsbury’s when the kids are with their dad on a Saturday afternoon actually feels like a mini-break in the Lakes used to, back in the day when we enjoyed such frivolity. I’m sure my face is on the Wanted Wall (if there is such a thing) in my local supermarket for the amount of time I wander the aisles with a look of desperation on my face. Really, I’m not there to steal your food, I just don’t want to go home!
Making time though, I do recommend and even if that’s just 10 minutes after the kids go to bed, before cleaning the kitchen for the fourth time that day, just to read blogs (like mine, brilliant!) check your Instagram so people know you’ve not fallen off the face of the earth and return texts to those long lost loved ones who are good enough to ask how your day’s been time and time again, without expecting a response any time soon. You’ll feel better putting yourself first even if that’s only for a short part of the day and remember it’s not forever, you’ll soon you’ll have more time on your hands I absolutely promise you.
10 – Take responsibility
Another Theodore Roodevelt quote that has stuck with me through the years is:
“if you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month”.
Taking responsibility for our lives reduces the anger we feel toward our circumstances immediately. Whenever I feel hard done to, I remind myself that I am responsible for the life I’m living. Being a victim and wallowing in misery only leads to attracting more negativity into your life but reminding yourself that you are in control and taking responsibility is so empowering. It has really helped me through some dark days!
So they’re the tips that have helped me blow away some dark clouds over the past couple of years. Being a stay at home parent can be both the best and hardest job in the world at times but if I’d had a crystal ball and could see what our lives would be like now, when we had 3 kids aged 3 and under, I think I would have marched on with a spring in my step. We worked very hard to get to where we are now and seeing the kids play together, being so close in age is what it’s all been for and it makes all those hardest times SO worthwhile.
The best self-help book I ever read is by Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’, it changed my life (literally, I quit my job and went travelling around the world within months of reading it!) I try to think positively on a more regular basis now, but it does take practice, DAILY practice according to Jeffers. As she says “we have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic”, if that’s the case we could all probably benefit from retraining our brains to have a more positive perspective.
A great resource if the dark days of winter are getting you down is available from the following link 12 Ways to Ease Seasonal Depression There are some great tips here for anyone that needs a ‘pick me up’ this winter.
Love from Leyla