Overwhelmed by motherhood(?)

Before I became a mother, my days were usually devoted to doing what I wanted to do. While I’m not for a second suggesting that I don’t want to look after my daughter, there has certainly been a huge change in my day-to-day life. Apart from spending a lot more time at home (which, being a home-bird anyway, I love), my days are now devoted to someone else. Sometimes, that’s hard.

I want to emphasise that 99% of it is wonderful; she’s a blessing and I absolutely adore her. But there are still times when I feel overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job. You’re always “on”. Always alert. Even when your baby is sleeping, your brain is still listening out for sounds and movement. So I try to take full advantage of the times my husband is looking after her.

Photo Credit: Meredith_Farmer via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Meredith_Farmer via Compfight cc

But still, it can be tough. Simple tasks like cooking and cleaning are suddenly made much more difficult when your attention is required elsewhere. Shopping or meeting up with friends is that much tougher when you’ve got a pram with you. Sometimes even finding a few minutes to grab a quick shower can be tricky.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s so easy to lose your identity. I know, at times, I have. I’m still the same person I was before I had a baby; I still like the same things. Obviously, my daughter’s wants and needs come before my own, and that’s OK, but everyone needs a little “me time” to keep them sane. It’s important not to lose your sense of self.

Source: disjointedthinking.jeffhughes.ca

Source: disjointedthinking.jeffhughes.ca

During one particular period of overwhelm this week, while trying to remind myself that things are different now because I have a child, a little voice inside me piped up and said, “Yes, but you’re more than a mother”. It resonated with me, and I’m sure it will resonate with a lot of you.

Yes, I will always be a mother. Yes, when you get right down to it, my child will always come first. But that doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t take care of me too. I’m also a daughter myself. And a wife. And a friend. I’m a writer, a reader, a watcher of TV, an organiser, a web surfer, a shopper, a worker… There’s a lot more to me than “just” being a mother.

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Motherhood is such a wonderful experience; I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Seeing my little girl smile is the best gift I could ever receive. But it’s also OK to acknowledge that I’m still more or less the same person I always was. I still have the same likes and dislikes. I still have the same hobbies and passions. I still watch the same TV and read the same books (albeit in much smaller amounts). I’m still me.

If you’re also feeling a little overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood, I want you to know that you’re still you, too. It’s OK to wish sometimes that you could just switch off for an hour. It’s OK to want to have a soak in the bath, to curl up with your favourite book, to spend a few hours baking, to go shopping with friends. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK. It doesn’t make you a bad mother; it just makes you human.

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With that in mind, I set up a private Facebook group as a safe haven for those of us who realise that being the best mother you can be includes taking care of yourself. It’s a place to tell other like-minded mothers a little about who you are. All of you. Not just the part that looks after your babies. Tell us about the dancer, poet, gardener, painter, cook, crossword puzzle solver, trainspotter… in you. Ask a question, give and receive some support, share a laugh, post some helpful tips and tricks, or vent a frustration. Go ahead and share a picture of the kids. I mean, they are, after all, a huge part of you. They’re just not all of you.

Join the group here. And spread the word to other mothers who want to embrace their true selves, too.

It’s time to celebrate you. All of you.

Celebrate You


{If you feel that it’s all a bit too much, please speak to a trusted friend or GP. Everyone gets the baby blues, ranging from being a bit weepy to post-natal depression. The latter is very common, is treatable, and is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Having a baby doesn’t suddenly mean you have all the answers. We’re all thrown in the deep end, and very few of us are strong swimmers. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a float until you get your sea legs. 🙂 }


No longer walking my path alone

This site is all about embracing life, and that’s what I’ve spent the past few weeks doing. Quite literally, in fact. My first baby was born on April 29th 2013, and I’ve been in awe of her ever since.

ScoutSaysHello

Bright eyes!

So far, motherhood has been amazing. I’m incredibly excited about the new challenges it will bring. Obviously my life has changed and, with it, my path, but I couldn’t be happier to be walking it hand in hand with her.

How many of you are walking your path with little ones? What topics would you like to see me cover in future posts?

 

 

Plan to be more productive – some helpful hints to get the most out of your day

Productivity1The best way to be more productive is to spend more time planning. That may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. It’s difficult to be productive when you don’t really know what to do next. How many minutes and hours have you wasted by just looking around and wondering where to start? That’s where having a plan comes in handy. There’s no time for ‘what now?’ or ‘I know there’s something I’m supposed to be doing…’.

So spend a few minutes each evening planning out your next day. Grab your laptop, tablet, or good old fashioned pen and paper, and start writing down a list of all the things you need to do the next day. Notice that I said “need”. These are your priorities – the things that absolutely have to get done. You have to pick the kids up from school, and you have to do that important work presentation.

Productivity2Now jot down all the things you’d like to get done. This is usually where things like cleaning come in. Yes, you’d like to tackle that pile of papers, and it will need to be done eventually, but right now it’s not as important as sitting down to a meal with your family, or helping a friend who’s going through a tough time. Put it on the list and realise that it’s not going to go away, but also recognise that it’s not a priority.

Productivity3Your priorities will be different to the next person’s, so re-jig your list until you’re happy that it really does reflect your order of importance. Me? I do mine chronologically by hour, so I slot in all the things I have to do at the appropriate time, then fill in all the blank hours with things from the remainder of my list.

What’s important here is that you be realistic — I never schedule a lot of housework on a day when I’ll be running around town because, of course, I’m going to be physically tired. However, those are great days to finish reading those library books that are due back soon. Similarly, days spent sitting at a laptop for a few hours are great for fitting in a brisk walk or some of the chores that require a little more effort than others. Also be mindful of when you’re most energetic. I like to get the bigger tasks over and done with early in the day so I can spend my evenings relaxing, but some people only come alive when the sun goes down.

It’s also important to slot in some “buffer time”. Being realistic about how long something will take is one thing, but life always throws little obstacles in our way. The washing machine will break down, the phone will ring with someone requiring attention, the internet connection will drop, an unexpected visitor will show up… Or you’ll just plain run out of steam. Don’t jam pack your day with activities; you want the satisfaction of being able to complete all your chores with some time to spare, rather than rushing and racing to keep up and feeling worn out and fed up. Being productive should motivate you, not make you feel miserable. You should want to clap yourself on the back, not collapse in a heap.

Productivity4To give you an idea of how to plan your next day effectively, here are some things to consider:

  • Write your list and prioritise it, as outlined above, not forgetting to include time for the everyday routine stuff, like meals, showers, etc. (When I first started writing lists, they would often go astray when I forgot to include time to eat lunch or to get ready to go somewhere). Include everything, even if it’s an hour of catching up on your favourite TV programme.

  • Pick out the clothes you’ll wear, making sure they’re washed and ironed, and include accessories. What’s the point in having the perfect outfit picked out in advance if you then spend half the morning looking for appropriate footwear? (A helpful hint here is to check the weather forecast for the next day. This may dictate your choice of clothing, and also prompt you to put your umbrella in your bag!)

  • Look at each item on your list and gather what you’ll need for each one. For example, if you have a presentation, you’ll need your notes, so go get those and put them in your bag, or if you’re planning a workout, make sure your gym bag is packed and ready to go. 

  • Make sure you have contact details for anyone you have to meet, and send a quick reminder to them so that you don’t waste time waiting around for someone who’s forgotten your appointment. If it’s a friend, a quick text message saying, “Are we still on for tomorrow?” will suffice; if it’s a professional meeting, an email saying something along the lines of, “I look forward to meeting you tomorrow at 2pm at the Conference Centre” should do the trick.

  • Plug any electronic equipment you’ll need in to charge.

  • Pack a lunch or some snacks.

And that’s it. Carry your list with you the next day so that at any given time you can glance at it and immediately remind yourself where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing. You’ll feel more in control, less stressed, you’ll be less likely to forget anything in your rush out the door, and you’ll get so much more done than if you were trying to play catch-up all day. You’ll also sleep better because you won’t spend half the night tossing and turning, trying to remind yourself of things you need to do.

Productivity5Try it this evening and see how much stress you save yourself and how much more you accomplish tomorrow. Being prepared = being productive.

Clean your living room… AND your lungs!

I’ve read a lot about the benefits of keeping a clean and tidy home, such as:

  • Less stress (particularly when visitors drop by unannounced or with very little notice);

  • A sense of calm and order;

  • Less time wasted looking for lost items;

  • Less money spent replacing lost/broken items, or buying something only to discover you already have one tucked away somewhere;

  • Fewer accidents from tripping over clutter, etc.;…

Yes, the benefits are many, but here’s one you may not have even thought of:

Your health!

Seen as a picture tells a thousand words, here’s what I discovered over the weekend while cleaning the floors:

Under couch

Not a pretty sight! I regularly sweep, mop, and vacuum the floors in our home, but I never move furniture to do so. But, being on maternity leave and, thus, having a lot of time on my hands, I decided to have a go at cleaning under the couch. And, as you can see, it was long overdue!

I had absolutely no idea it was so bad, particularly when the rest of my floors are usually quite clean. But what horrified me more than the sight itself was the fact that I’ve clearly been breathing in all that dust and dirt over the past… oh, YEAR AND A HALF. As someone who has suffered several lung infections, I can tell you that the idea of having clean, breathable air never strays far from my mind, so this really was a big wake-up call for me.

Added to that is the fact that I’m now nine months pregnant. The idea of my baby breathing in all that nastiness, especially seen as babies spend so much time a lot closer to the ground than us adults… Well, let’s just say I won’t be leaving it so long before cleaning under the couch again.

With asthma and other respiratory problems on the rise, this is one area you can’t afford to let slip. So, for the sake of your health, and the health of your family, move one piece of furniture today (get help if it’s heavy) and get rid of all that lung-clogging grime. And, while you’re at it, plan a short trip to an unpolluted area where you can spend time getting some exercise, enjoying the wonders of nature, and taking some deep breaths of fresh air.

 

 

Accentuate the positive – why and how it works

CB1Every time I read a book or listen to a podcast or browse a website about self-improvement, I inevitably come across the same idea – that you attract whatever it is you focus on. In other words, if you think negative thoughts you’ll always be unlucky, whereas you should think positive thoughts to attract good things into your life.

I don’t know what it is about me (my need to label things, I guess), but I wasn’t satisfied with this tip. I felt like it was thrown around too many times without ever being fully explained. It’s easy to say, “To be happy, you just have to do X” without saying why or how it works. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday while listening to a psychology podcast to hear the theory explained.

It’s called “confirmation bias“. Essentially, what it means is that people are automatically biased towards confirming their existing beliefs. Several studies conducted during the 1960s showed that people will register the evidence that supports their theory and neglect or disregard the evidence that conflicts with it. Why? Because we simply don’t want to be wrong.


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Applying that to our own situations, if we tell ourselves that we have great lives, it’s not that our lives will suddenly change overnight, it’s that we’ll suddenly start seeing the good and ignoring the bad. We’ll want to be right so badly that our brains will collect as much evidence as possible to support our belief. We bias our brains to confirm our theory.

 

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Did you ever notice how, when you have to be up early the following morning, you worry that you won’t get enough sleep and then, sure enough, you’re still staring at the ceiling at 3am? All of a sudden, you’re a “bad sleeper” and you’re “tired all the time”. Every time you feel run down, your brain says, “Aha! I told you so”.

Now, did you ever notice how, when you advise your partner/spouse/child/colleague to do something a certain way, they ignore you and do it their way and then it invariably goes wrong? And then they try it your way and it works? Yup, there’s that “Aha! I told you so” moment again, and now your brain is telling you that you’re a genius and that you know the best thing to do in any given situation. Yup, there’s that confirmation bias again, only this time it’s for something positive (assuming you don’t let your ego get to you too much).

So now I know the science behind it… and you do too! If you tell yourself that things are a certain way, your brain will help you out. Nifty, huh? Next time you catch yourself in a negative thought, stop and ask yourself if what you’re thinking is really the case. Does it really always start raining as soon as you leave the house? Really? Stop right there and tell yourself, “It’s great that it stays dry when I have to leave the house”. Now you’re noticing and celebrating the dry days, not blowing out of the proportion the odd rainy day.

 

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So I’ll tell you what every other self-improvement book/podcast/website will tell you – focus on the positive and your life will improve. But at least now you know the why and the how, so you’re much better equipped to actually implement it.

Try it and see!

 

Ditch the Distractions – Simple Steps to Stay Focused & Improve Your Concentration

Source: media02.hongkiat.com

We all want to be more productive. More efficient. But how do we do it? Something I’ve been struggling with for quite a while (in fact, I’m struggling with it right this very second) is focus. How many times have you started to do something, only to remember something else, or to see something out of the corner of your eye, or to hear something that brings back so many memories… How much quicker would things get done if you could just cut out distractions and concentrate on the task at hand?

Source: brain-smart.net

Let me share a story that I think ties in quite nicely with this topic: my husband is a huge American football fan. Of course, with each game being approximately three hours long, you can imagine how much time it takes up for him. Which is why I was intrigued to hear that, when someone he knows records a game, he edits out all the stoppages. The result? He can watch the game in less than half the time.

That’s what learning to focus can do for our lives – it can cut out all the breaks and help us get the job done in half the time, without skipping any essentials. So how do you eliminate distractions?

This is something I’ve become more and more aware of recently. I try to read a book, and then I notice a Facebook notification. Before I know it, I’ve spent an hour online. Then I wonder why I have to keep renewing my library loans. Or I sit down to write something, and all of a sudden I’m totally engrossed in what’s happening outside the window. Two hours later, when the job I started still isn’t done, I bemoan my life and start to dread what I’m supposed to be doing. From then on, every time I think about that task, I immediately start thinking of any excuse to get out of it, based on the false assumption that it will take me too much time.

Source: uniter.ca

Now I’m not saying you should go sit in a blank cube of a room or immerse yourself in a sensory deprivation tank – I’m simply suggesting that you take a few small steps to minimise distractions. Put your phone on silent, turn off the vibrate function, and even turn it upside down so you’re not distracted by the screen lighting up. In fact, go put it in a different room so that you’re not tempted to check for messages at the mere sight of it sitting by your side.

Yes, it’s tough at first, but it becomes so much easier. Recently, my phone got wet and I had to leave it in a bag of rice for a few days. The first day, I went to check it on a fairly regular basis. The second day, I only checked it a handful of times. The third and final day, I barely even noticed that I didn’t have it with me. And even though the phone is now fully dry and functional again, I often just put it down and go about my business. Whereas once it was like my right arm and I didn’t even leave the room without first putting it in my pocket, now I frequently let it sit in a corner and only check it occasionally. What am I missing out on? Nothing!

Source: sandymetcalf.com

So that’s the phone taken care of, but what about other devices? What about when you’re typing away on your computer and all of a sudden you see a notification pop up alerting you to a new email, or a new friend on Facebook, or a new tweet? Personally, I don’t like changing notifications settings because, sometimes, they’re useful. So what do I do instead? I just close down the browser tab. Or I don’t open it in the first place. I needed to finish writing something this morning, so I switched on the laptop. Normally, the first thing I’d do is boot up my browser. This time? I opened up the Word document I was working on and just got stuck in. It’s so much easier to concentrate on one thing when you don’t have other things open in the background, luring you away.

Source: lovell.com

The same is true of the TV. How could you possibly concentrate fully on something when there’s all that noise and movement in the background? TV shows are designed to suck you in and hold your attention. Why would you want your brain to have to fight that when it’s trying to focus on something else? And why would you sit by the window when there’s all sorts of activity going on outside? Yes, it’s fine to sit by a window when the setting soothes you and a glimpse out at nature refreshes and inspires you, but that’s unlikely to happen if your window faces out over a busy street or a scene with a lot of hustle and bustle. Turn away!

Source: 4.bp.blogspot.com

Sometimes, it’s the people on your side of the window that distract you. In this case, you just have to make it clear that you’re not available, and you should ensure that you do it in advance if you can. It may take a while for this to sink in, but your family will soon get the message. Make it easy for them — don’t set up shop at the kitchen table or a busy family spot. Instead, pick a quiet corner and, if possible, close the door. Hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign if that’s what you need to do.

Source: aninspiredapproach.wordpress.com

And one final tip. I recently watched a video that suggested that you’d increase productivity if you just stopped procrastinating and did things as soon as you thought of them. Sound advice, you might think, until you end up dropping the duster because you’ve just remembered you need milk. Doing things as we think of them isn’t increasing our productivity, it’s detracting from it. Even while writing this, I remembered something else I need to do. If I’d gone and done it, I’d most likely spot something else that needed doing. And so on, and this post would never get written.

Source: thejesuswave.wordpress.com

So how do you ensure that, by just focusing on one thing, you don’t end up forgetting that second thing? Do what I do and write it down! That way you can go back to finishing what you’d started, without the second thing taking up valuable brain space, and without worrying that you’ll have forgotten what it was by the time you’re done with your current task.

Life will always throw obstacles in your way — your brain will always want to re-live a long-ago memory just when you want to get some writing done, your phone will always beep just when you were about to start in on the ironing, and your new email will seem infinitely more urgent just as you were about to go put on a wash load. But guess what? All those things will still be there when you’re done.

The dishwasher will get emptied in just a minute or two if you don’t keep stopping to reply to text messages. You’ll have the beds made in a jiffy if you don’t gaze out the window, wondering which direction those dark clouds are moving. You’ll have the table cleared in mere moments if you don’t keep your eyes fixed squarely on the nightly news.

We all lose focus at times. It’s only natural for our minds to stray, or for the doorbell to ring unexpectedly, or for the washing machine to suddenly spring a leak. Those things are inevitable and often unavoidable. But most things aren’t. The next time you go to do something, make a note of anything that distracts you. What can you do to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

Source: templatesold.com

By being mindful of what distracts you, you can start to put preventative measures in place. Pretty soon, that chore that used to take you a whole hour to get through is now done and dusted in ten minutes. And guess what? Knowing that you no longer have to find a whole hour in your schedule to do it means you don’t dread it, and it’s going to get done much more often. Your kitchen will be cleaner, you’ll have read so many more books, you won’t have a whole house full of half-finished jobs… All because you ditched the distractions  for a few minutes.

What distracts you? And how are you going to deal with it?


De-junking the junk drawer

Most people have a junk drawer. Me? I have a whole cupboard (or ‘press’, as we call it here in Ireland). Whenever my husband’s looking for anything, I inevitably end up replying “it’s in the press under the table”.

I did a bit of a clear-out of it just after Christmas, but it was still looking pretty messy and disorganised when I recently peeked in.



JD1

Quite the state of disarray. Luckily, my beloved IKEA came to the rescue in the form of this set of mini drawers from the MOPPE range.


MOPPE Mini chest of drawers IKEA Untreated wood; can be treated with oil or glazing paint for a personal touch and a more durable surface.



All I had to do was sort out all the small little bits and bobs that were handy to keep around, but not so handy to keep together. I came up with the following piles:

  • light sources (bulbs, torches, etc.) – these were quite bulky so took up the two bottom drawers;


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  • batteries & plugs (we have WAY more batteries than this, I just have to go around the house and find them!);
  • basic DIY (measuring and levelling);



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  • nails and screws; and
  • sticky stuff (sellotape and glue).



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Obviously, there were a few bits and pieces that wouldn’t fit into the drawers, given that they’re quite small (width 15cm x depth 17cm x height 10cm per drawer, approximately). There were a few screwdrivers, pencils, etc. that were too long, so I used this empty box of washing tablets for those:



JD5

I’ve been finding these tubs very useful lately. I’m also currently using one to store medicines, and I think I’m going to use the one I’ve just recently finished to store the million pens and pencils I seem to accumulate!


Anyway, when everything was stashed away neatly, I popped the boxes back into the press, along with the drill and box of drill bits. Here’s how lovely and organised it looked afterwards:



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Not bad, even if I do say so myself. 🙂 Admittedly, it all still looks a bit bland, but the next plan is to remove the labels from the box of washing tablets so that I can clearly see the contents, and also to paint and label the drawer set. They had some beautifully painted ones in IKEA, and I was sorry I didn’t take a picture of them at the time because I can’t seem to find anything similar online. But that’s all for another day! My main focus for now is just finding a home for everything. I can worry about how pretty the home is later. 😉


The MOPPE drawer unit is great, and I can think of a million different uses it could have. For instance, it would be great for organising different threads, spices, crayons, tea lights… Pretty much anything small and fiddly. The only downside I’ve found to it is that, being wooden and untreated, the drawers don’t exactly glide out. I’m hoping to solve that by running a wax candle along the edges, or something similar. (Suggestions?)


At this stage, I’m sure some of you are wondering what happened to the other shelf of stuff that was there. Well, it’s a little more organised, but not enough to be shown… yet! That’s another little project that’s on the list!


What does your “junk drawer” look like? And is it, like mine, more than just a drawer?