Being an efficiency freak, I like to optimise almost everything I do. I find better ways to get school lunch ready and try to work in parallel in the kitchen as much as possible. While the kettle is boiling, I quickly get other things done and I’m always aware of starting the longest thing first. In a way, I apply Project Management principles to most things I do, working along the critical path.
So when I had children my life was turned upside down. No longer did I have the time to do all the things that I could previously do. It took hours to get ready for a short outing and just at the time of leaving the house, a change of clothes would be required for various reasons known to mothers. Something had to give and I must have made the (very poor) decision that it was my own self-care.
Many times when I had a pedicure in the past, the beauty therapist told me things like “You really should moisturise your feet”. I couldn’t help but be amazed that mothers had the time to put cream on their bodies at all, let alone their feet. What would they be doing while the cream was sinking in? I kept thinking that this woman probably doesn’t have kids and she most definitely is not a business owner.
I also remember thinking that our paediatrician is insane for wearing beads and dangly earrings. I stopped accessorising because small children tend to grab things. I thought to myself that I’ll wear fun things again when they are bigger. As much as delayed gratification is a good quality, it can be taken too far if it interferes with self-care. The paediatrician has a constant stream of little kids through her rooms and there’s no good reason for her to stop dressing as she wants to. I stifled my own creativity and pushed my needs aside. I should have just found a way to manage and still be myself.
I read many books before becoming a mother in order to know what to do. It didn’t really help that much, and I had to fumble my way through the first few years. The advice other people gave was best for their family but not for mine. One piece of advice from Tracy Hogg is truly a gem, however: Start as you mean to go on. In other words, don’t start something that you must change later, such as baby sleeping in your bed.
One thing I was strict on was the sleeping arrangement. My babies slept in a bassinet next to my bed for the first few nights and then into their room thereafter. I didn’t encourage them to sleep in my bed because I knew it would be hard to get them out. The sleep deprivation with a newborn and recovery from pregnancy is enough. One doesn’t need to be woken by a gurgling infant very few minutes.
I think that this principle of start as you mean to go on, should really be applied more broadly. In a new job, in a new relationship, in accessorising around little children. I know that I had the thought many times in my business that I will be able to follow my dreams as soon as I turn this business around. Looking back, I can’t believe I put my own dreams, needs and interests on hold for so long. I didn’t realise just how much harm it would cause me.
With Mother’s Day yesterday I was amused to see how my girls scrambled around to tidy the house to help me. It has taken our family, including me, some adjusting to care for me. They mimic what they see and if I never care for myself, they seem to have trouble doing it too. But from what I saw yesterday, we have evolved and we now look after Mom in this house because we want her to go the distance.