Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Are you taking time to look after yourself? Seriously are you? Your small people need you to do that and you need to do that for you. Let me tell you the story of a mummy martyr (recovering).
Hi I'm Kirsty and I am a recovering Mummy Martyr. I am Mum to 3 special boys aged 12, 9, and 3. I'm also an extremely hard worker and my #lovelanguage is to GIVE. With these powers combined I make the ultimate parent machine. I can make dinner, help with homework, toilet train a toddler and do the online shopping all at the same time. I can work full time, be a supportive colleague, ensure my family's emotional needs are met and be a good friend and aunty. I could go on about all the great things that I can do for other people and achieve in my life. I really am awesome at that (At this point I may have lost you as you're thinking 'wow she's not very modest is she'. But stay with me I'm coming to my point).
What I'm not good at is caring for myself.
I have spent the last 12 years of my life (yes 12) filling up everyone else emotional buckets and draining mine. I had been doing it for so long that it became my new normal. Friends and family tried to tell me along the way.
"You should do yoga."
"Why don't you ask for help?"
My response... "don't have time for that, too busy doing stuff and achieving!"
So that was fine for a while until one day the building blocks of my 'life of giving' came crashing down.
We had just come through a a nasty virus where all 3 children had extremely high temperatures which brought on vomiting and extreme lethargy.
On top of that I had just finished a ten week term of teaching very full of beans five year olds.
Then I got sick.
Did I listen to my body? No.
Did I rest? No. I went back too soon and then it happened.
The dreaded BURNOUT. The medical symptoms were a chest infection and a sinus infection but it was so much more than that. Something changed inside. I slumped into a very dark place where I no longer had the ability to look after anybody else... the light went out inside.
Scary, very scary.
Luckily for me I had an extremely supportive (read worried) husband and a great boss. I took a full week off life and focused on me. The kids and husband went to their various daytime places and I just stayed at home with the dog - sleeping, taking baths, listening to podcasts, and thinking. I finally took up yoga as my friend had suggested all those years ago. I started meditating, dreaming and did a lot of thinking about life.
I realised that for 12 years I had been pouring from my own teapot and filling up the cups of everyone around me, but I had left nothing in the pot for me.
12 years! When I read that back now this sounds like madness but this is my story. Perhaps you can relate.
The next step for my recovery was to visit my boss and tell him that I needed to drop down to a 4 day working week. I didn't think about the mortgage and I didn't take my preschooler out of daycare either which would have been my usual thing to do. I started what I now call #MentalhealthMondays. I saw a therapist, I swam in the ocean, I ran along the beach, I went for bush walks, I put pen to paper in vibrant cafes. I did anything and everything that I thought sounded self-indulgent. At first it felt foreign and a bit weird but boy did I get into the swing of it. Before long I was a pro and I couldn't wait to share my Mental Health Monday stories with the world. My colleagues got into the fun and started taking more mental health days (I even had the boss tempted).
Luckily for me I am now 6 months on from this compelling experience and I am stronger than ever. I am still 'a giver' of course because that's part of what makes me special, but I always leave something at the bottom of the teapot for me. Now when I think about it, I am a better Mum for it. My boys are growing up seeing how to look after their mental health, they have learnt that it's important to take time to nourish your inner self and are now privy to so many useful tools and strategies to incorporate in their own life. I have more energy and zest for life - I feel like anything is possible again. This is surely inspiring to those around me and I know that I am much more fun to be around these days. I heard a quote in one of my favourite podcasts that said...
"The thing about rock bottom is that it's a great foundation for something stronger."
And boy am I stronger as a result!
I hope my story has inspired you to look after yourself like you would your best friend or your children. If you think it might help inspire positive change in somebody you know, please share it with them.
If you haven't developed your own set of consistent values for your family and you would like to, I invite you to read my book 'Values Guided Parenting'.
Values Guided Parenting supports you to think strategically about your parenting. It guides you to visualise your end goal (your grown-up, adult children), and deeply consider what kind of people you dream for them to become and the values you aspire for them to live their lives by.
Next, you'll use this visualisation to develop a personalised guide for confident and proactive parenting and discover ways to bring your values-guided vision to life!
Download your copy of the eBook from www.parentlikeyou.com/shop.
Kirsty Foster xoxo
Author of the book 'Values Guided Parenting'
Founder and Editor of Parent Like You - Online Magazine