I’m Pippa Best, the co-founder of Story Of Mum. Before motherhood, my career defined who I was and how I spent my time – working, mostly. When I gained a child, I felt I lost my identity.
My life had changed so much that my old strategies no longer worked. It was only when I stopped trying to do it all, and learnt how to make time for myself alongside work and family that I finally became a successful working mum. … and by successful, I really mean happy.
In the years before kids, I remember spluttering with horror at a coach suggesting that I take five minutes of each tightly scheduled hyper-productive day just to stare out of the window. Unsurprisingly, I struggled to accept the idea of taking time out for me in those early months when ‘all I was doing’ was mothering.
Trying to make sense of the reality of motherhood at 35, I fell back into a familiar pattern of overwork at first – trying to do it all, perfectly – as a mother, and then as a working mother. ‘Doing’ was my coping mechanism – an attempt to keep that sense of never being enough away.
That To Do List that stares a working mother down each morning is stuffed full of impossible expectations, many of which we set for ourselves. Along with the social pressure, there’s always something to prove, if we want to: that we’re just as efficient as the worker who isn’t a mother; that we’re still a good and loving parent, even when a vital meeting clashes with the school play; that we really can have it all…
Does this sound familiar?
- How often do you feel like you’re not enough?
- How often do you give yourself (or accept) a list of tasks that’s impossible to complete without letting go of time for yourself?
- When did you last think about what you most need, and make time to do it, without feeling guilty?
Busy trying to do the impossible, so many mothers shove their own needs aside, pushing on towards greater productivity, filling every moment of the day with tasks. Hoping that finally we’ll please everyone.
Of course, the more demands you have to meet, the harder it becomes to make time for you. Your children or family need you, along with your co-workers, boss, potential clients. With all those calls on your time, it’s easy to forget or deny that you need looking after – and to lose touch with what it is that you need to stay strong and happy.
Sadly, it’s often not until we’re completely exhausted, or ill, or facing big life challenges – that we finally stop and notice that we need to look after ourselves better. We need to notice far before that. And we need to do it. Regularly.
It took me at least a year to put myself on that To Do list. To notice what I needed, and to make regular time for that – exercise, rest, a quiet retreat or a night out. It meant that I also had to take some things off the list – a constantly tidy house for example!
When I finally accepted being a ‘good enough’ working mum instead of those unrealistic expectations of a ‘perfect’ working mum, everything changed. I became more productive at work and at home. I was happier – and so were my family. And my big dreams had space to grow.
Now much of my working life revolves around helping other mums to make similar shifts. So if you haven’t been looking after your own needs recently, take a few minutes now to make a list of what nourishes you. And then give yourself permission to do something from that list every day.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing at first. It can be a walk through the park or a bunch of daffodils. A quiet coffee. A yoga class. A favourite film. A Mamas’ Retreat with friends. Maybe even just allowing yourself to stare out of the window for 5 minutes after all…
If it helps, consider this time an investment in your productivity. But above all, take the pressure to prove anything, or to be perfect, off your list, and put yourself on it instead.
Look after yourself. Because you are already good enough.
To find out more about Pippa and Penny Best, the founders of Story of Mum, explore their website: http://www.storyofmum.com/
or why not contact Pippa over Twitter: Story Of Mum