A massive chunk of our role as mums is to be kind. But, while we get very good at treating others well, sometimes we forget to do the same for ourselves. Self-kindness is just not on a mother’s To Do list as much as it should be.
That was definitely me for a long time. In fact, I went so far in the wrong direction that I became an expert in being awful to myself – and, trust me, that’s not a field of expertise that’s particularly handy. It was this treatment of myself, in part, that led me deep into depression and took a whole lot of time to work my way out of.
Now, life is all about self-kindness, because I’ve realised that (a) I need it, and (b) I can’t give much to others if I’m suffering.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about self-kindness while in the throes of parenting.
Self-kindness for mums
Watch how you talk to yourself
The biggest thing I learnt while recovering from depression was that my internal self-talk was incredibly damaging, and, most importantly, that I could change it.
Usually the advice tells us to fight hard against that inner critic – we’re always told it’s a black dog or a demon, and that we have to battle it until it goes quiet. But I spent years doing that, and the battles just got louder.
Instead, I finally learnt to take a kinder approach in how I spoke to myself.
Once you become aware of how you talk to yourself, and get to know that you don’t have to put up with constant internal criticism, you can mindfully change the dialogue.
Read this too:Self-care: Why a bubble-bath just won’t cut it
While we’d all love to practise self-kindness with frequent trips to lie on a beach in Bali, ski in Switzerland, shop in Hong Kong … oops, I’m getting carried away…
Yes, big, grand gestures would be great, but the little things are actually the biggest things of all. It’s really easy to be nice to yourself when you’ve got a cocktail in hand, poolside in Vanuatu (dreaming again), but amid the daily mundanity is where you need it most.
I think every morning: “What’s one thing I’d like to do for myself today?”
Self-kindness looks different every day, so I think every morning: “What’s one thing I’d like to do for myself today?” My answer might be:
• Go for a walk in that beautiful sunshine
• Eat that favourite chocolate that’s hidden in the pantry
• Read a book (even if it’s just for 10 minutes while I eat lunch)
• Wear my new skirt (even if I’m just working from home that day)
• Reduce my to-do list slightly so the day feels more relaxed
They’re not big expectations, but those things that seem tiny? They pile up together to create a string of self-kindness that threads through your life – and that’s pretty cool.
Spend time around kind people
We soak up the words and actions of the people we spend lots of time with, so it makes sense that if we want to be kind to ourselves we should be around those who are kind to us.
That might be your friends, family, and your partner – but don’t forget to teach your kids to treat you kindly, too. Sometimes we put up with a lot of crap from the small people we spend so much time with, but no longer! They can treat you kindly by:
• Speaking to you nicely
• Taking your plate and cleaning up after dinner
• Doing something thoughtful for you
• Writing you a lovely note
• Asking how your day was
Set the expectation high, because you’re a top-notch mum who deserves it, and because it’s good for the kids to learn that kindness to all is important.
Take your own advice
We treat our kids with such kindness: listen to their worries, reassure them that they matter, open our arms when they need a cry… the list goes on.
If we want to be kind to ourselves we should be around those who are kind to us.
I give my children all sorts of pearls of wisdom to help them feel better. I encourage them to like themselves and treat themselves well. They have lists on their walls to remind them of the things that make them feel good. And we talk about what to do when they’re being hard on themselves.
But that saying, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’? That was me.
These days, when I’m being harsh on myself, I stop and think about what I’d say to my kids if they were in a similar situation.
You are enough
I don’t know about you, but I’m really hard on my parenting. I find it easy to beat myself up if I think I’ve said the wrong thing or haven’t been patient enough.
I think it’s important to consciously remind ourselves often that our kids don’t need us to be perfect. They need us to be… us. We are enough.
Like me, you might be a work-in-progress at practising this self-kindness through parenting, and that’s okay. A work-in-progress is perfectly wonderful.
What do you do to be kind to yourself?