“I just don’t think I can get up at 5am to do Yoga” said my lovely friend clutching a large glass of something alcoholic.
A conversation at the weekend got me thinking. There were 4 of us round the table, all mothers with children of varying numbers and ages, all under 5. One asked the group “I really need to get exercising again but I don’t know how to fit it in, how do you manage it?”
Turns out we all managed it differently, in fact one didn’t manage it at all at the moment, she has a baby of 6 months old (plus 3 others) and responded with refreshing clarity, “I just don’t right now.”
On paper I am the most annoying of mothers, that one who does get up early to do Yoga and is revelling in a new found love of hiit sessions feeling fitter than I have in years. The one that manages to squeeze in some meditation most days, probably whilst her children get themselves dressed without being asked and make the whole family quinoa porridge (this does not happen, ever).
Sometimes I do go to post a picture and hesitate. I don’t want to be part of some ‘Insta-perfect’ world, which doesn’t relay the realities. I want to share how it CAN work and encourage others to invest in themselves but not if this makes anyone feel like they are failing for not getting out of bed in the morning. At times I’ll photograph my house under a blanket of plastic toys or tell a story about that morning’s inevitable parent fail instead.
BUT I’ve decided, I should probably do both. We should all do both. We need to celebrate and not be embarrassed or scared to say, “check me out, I am totally nailing this”. But likewise we need to be honest. We do no-one any favours by pretending it’s all good all of the time, or spreading unrealistic expectations without the good grace to put on a caveat.
“I get up early most mornings to do Yoga. On about half of these days I don’t get through one sun salute before I’m joined by a little person who demands milk, needs a nappy change or climbs on my back. This is about as far from ideal as trying to eat soup with a fork and is exceptionally annoying.”
“I am now managing to do Hiit sessions 3 times a week but this is only after 21 months because our youngest finally sleeps through the night so I don’t feel like I am in a weird bubble of tiredness on a daily basis”.
So this is how the conversation went. I get up early, I have always been a morning person, I like having that little bit of time on my own in the morning. I also have to be really strict with myself or some mornings I use that same 30 mins on Twitter. I’d never tell anyone they need to get up earlier, it works for me but inevitably it won’t work for others.
A second person in the group went running in the evenings post bedtime, she found this helped her switch off from the day. You can start slow, a ten minute Yoga session is better than none at all. We also discussed the value of signing up to a series of classes because you feel you have to go once you’ve paid etc. etc.
The mother who asked the question hopefully got some ideas, some inspiration but also a lot of encouragement to do only what is right for her. If we go back to basics then getting enough sleep is surely the starting point. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any other options and getting creative with your time is one of the things I speak about regularly on my workshops, but it does mean that you manage your expectations and be that little bit kinder to yourself. Try not to compare yourself to others, be that celebrities, friends or even your own parents. Surround yourself with positive images and stories but use these for inspiration, keep in the back of your mind that there is always more to it than you see. Remember that these years are really short so try and embrace them. It might feel ridiculously frustrating right now that you can’t find time to go swimming every morning but review the situation in six months and see if you can’t mix things up. We all know how quickly things change with young children.
And my final piece of advice, the one thing which I swear by, is to write things down. Whether this be your goals for the week ahead, 3 things you are grateful for on a daily basis or journaling regularly.
This allows you to review if you are being realistic, what’s working and get some focus but more than that it is also hugely useful to acknowledge what you do achieve and I guarantee it will be more than you think.