Who needs to be a perfect mum? All of us, apparently, if we succumb to the ever-increasing pressure to do the absolute best for our kids. But this Mother’s Day, take the advice of guest blogger Stephanie Brantz: celebrate the fact that everything you do for your kids is perfect, just as it is, and understand that it’s ok to do more for yourself.
Every mother knows that time spent looking after yourself decreases in inverse proportion to the number of children you have.
Unless you’re blessed with nannies and cleaners or a large and willing extended family, entire days can pass in which by nightfall you’re left with just enough energy for a cursory swipe of the toothbrush before dropping into a catatonic state till it all starts again.
When my third child was a toddler, my sister stuck a note to our fridge detailing the downward spiral of available time after having kids.
1st child: You take your baby to Gymbaroo, playgroup and baby book club.
2nd child: You take your baby to playgroup.
3rd child: You take your baby to the supermarket and dry cleaner.
It made me laugh, because it wasn’t far from the truth. In the same way, a rule of diminishing returns often applies to a mother’s focus on her own health and fitness once she has children.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Attention to exercise, nutrition and general wellness is now directed at your offspring. Public pressure demands your kids be rosy-cheeked, active and well-rounded – which means (but is not limited to) fluency in two or more languages, mastering several musical instruments, competency in the swimming pool and involvement in multiple team sports (preferably with you as the manager).
Bonus points are awarded for degree of difficulty: ie, if the sport in question entails travelling more than two hours in traffic each way; if the swimming involves squad sessions before 6am; if academic accomplishments result in awards; and certainly (from my point of view) if one of the musical instruments is the violin!
Top prize, naturally, goes to the mummies who tick all the above boxes and still have a perfect figure, immaculate hair and make-up, wear uncreased linen and only ever pack organic lunch boxes.
You may detect a weary cynicism here, but I know some of those mummies – and while I take my hat off to them, I know plenty more who lurch from day to day promising themselves that “tomorrow” they will carve out a few precious moments to exercise, eat properly or, heaven forbid, have a facial, a massage or a manicure.
I know how they feel – most of us have been there.
Be The Best Mum YOU Can Be
I work in sports media now and spend much of my time around ridiculously fit people who exude energy and health. I even know how to achieve that – in my past life (before I started working in television in 2000) I was a naturopath and personal trainer.
However, in the 10 years I spent running a wellness centre, I distinctly remember days when I would see clients for 10 hours without a meal break, then race home, pay the babysitter and whip up a nutritious meal of ‘mac and cheese’ for the kids before falling into bed. Criminal really, after worshipping at the altar of organic food and preaching the gospel of physical activity in my day job.
It’s not always easy to pass Mummy 101, but there are certainly varying levels of accomplishment, and sometimes mothers need to give themselves a break.
While regular exercise and a balanced diet are necessary for optimum health, everyone lapses occasionally. Don’t beat yourself up, and perhaps just remember some basics:
- No child has ever perished from not eating broccoli or avocado, despite the nutritional benefits these foods offer.
- Organic food is desirable, but is not essential to continuing existence.
- Kids don’t generally control the grocery budget or the purchasing. If you don’t buy junk food, it won’t be in the house and everyone will benefit.
- Lead by example. Eat well and provide good food for your family. Teach them how to prepare healthy snacks for themselves at a young age (while they still listen to you).
- Water is the best drink! Make sure there are water bottles in the car, in your bag, in the kid’s school bags. Water is not only important for cell rehydration, it also helps to fill you up if you’re trying to stop snacking (yours and theirs), and as a bonus you’ll look and feel better. NB: adding Ribena to water doesn’t count!
- Keep exercise fun. If they like team sports, that’s great! However, forcing unsporty kids into teams can be counterproductive – not everyone is a joiner. There are plenty of ways to keep kids physically active and a countless array of other group activities that will ensure development of their social skills.
- Incidental exercise is a valuable way of helping keep you and your children fit and healthy together. If you walk or cycle when you can instead of taking the car, it’s better for you, for them and for the environment.
- Exercising – even a short walk – will give you more energy even when you’re tired. Fact.
- Sleep is the most important sanity-saver in the world.
- We can’t all produce overachievers. Some of us have to be normal. (This also ensures that people who always need to be better than everyone else have something to aspire to.)
As someone once wrote: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.” Start by being good to yourself.