I recently underwent one of the most challenging episodes I hope I’ll ever have as a mum. Poppit (3.5) tested my boundaries big time, was being fussy and digging his heels in deeper and deeper, and the more difficult he became the more intense I became…..or was it the other way around? We both shouted, we both threw a soft toy across the room, and I knew only one of us was behaving their age. I knew that we both needed to step away from the situation, and called on a friend to play with Poppit for ten minutes while I went in search of fresh air and my breath!
A similar situation played out a couple of nights later, leaving Poppit in tears and me feeling bereft and guilty. With a heavy heart and head I sat on the couch for 2 hours after he'd gone to bed, digging around for insight/ strength to be better. Better not just for Poppit, but for myself. It was at that point I knew some things needed to change and I needed to do things differently. To keep the things that work, dispose of those that didn’t and dig around for the additional tools I needed in my role as a single mum, stuck living on the other side of the world from my family and a lifetime of support, while trying to parent and live my life as consciously as possible. So here’s a hit list of some changes I made and practices I’ve ingrained.
1 | Spending more time outdoors
We’re averaging 1 - 4 hours each day! (Ha, pretty big average but never less and seldom more….it's been snowing remember). This has been largely motivated through conversations with a friend who is doing a project on the impact of weather and its effect on foreigners living in Scotland www.mikedelaitre.co.uk/winter , along with my new craze for rewilding both myself and childhood for Poppit. We’ll be hosting a screening of a documentary on this topic in April.
2 | Prioritize proper downtime…rest…sleep.
A time to stop all the freneticism that is life, lists and long overdue tasks. A time for the body, mind and soul to rest. Even for a little while, it really really helps to chill out and put all those lists into perspective. Last night I filled a bucket with warm water, popped some Epsom Salts in it and dunked my feet in for half an hour while I read. To begin with my mind was racing while I came down from the busyness I’d wound myself up in, but I could literally feel the build up of energy drain away, and my feet and lower legs felt amazing. And be really careful about your bedtime. A friend introduced me to Sleep Hygiene years ago, yes I know…weird name. Anyway I’m not always good at it but geez when I am, life is easier. Think of something you always manage to find time for like, I dunno, going to the toilet… well downtime is as important as that. MAKE TIME for it.
3 | Self-respect and modelling this to those around you.
For me this was so important at the time I was struggling. I took stock of what was and wasn’t serving me in life and immediately disposed of the things that were doing me no good. I quit a job I was working on. It was sooooo liberating when I realised I was only doing it because it was a job and I was trying not to let the business owner down. I got this sense of ‘Bronwyn, you’re worth it, don’t do what’s not worth it'….. deep. I had a difficult conversation that needed to be had, as there were circumstances within a close family relationship that were affecting my life. I don’t know that much there will change, but I felt better for being truthful. And lastly, making some changes to my relationship with Poppit, that’s covered next in ‘setting limits’.
4 | Setting Limits
I clued into the fact that I was afraid of upsetting Poppit and not knowing how best to cope with his emotional state if he was upset. I would do anything to avoid that – including letting him run the show at the expense of my mental state and his security in what is OK and what isn’t. I have been an avid follower of Hand in Hand Parenting principles, I knew from previous times that it was time to enforce some loving limits. I’ve managed to do that in a really loving and consistent way, and it's made a difference. He was going through this stage of throwing all his toys everywhere with more zest than playing with them. Once I got over the fact that this was annoying and was able to communicate to him in a respectful and honest way that he was creating more work for me, he actually took notice and started tidying up after himself. Being mindful of the decisions I would allow Poppit to make and setting very clear boundaries has transformed the way we spend our time together. He’s much more secure and confident and I’m, well…take a guess, (clue….something like really freaking happy and pleased with myself).
5 | Reach out and connect/confide in others.
For me, phoning a nearby friend to come and be present with Charlie, phoning friends here and overseas for a whinge, wining dining and more confiding with friends, and finally setting up a Listening Partnership (as recommended in Hand in Hand Parenting), psyched me up enough to feel better and clearer about what needed to change and tackling the situation.
6 | Reach out for support in the form of tools and resources.
Again, I can’t recommend Hand in Hand Parenting highly enough.
7 | Be organised to better manage times of heightened stress!
This is a winner and has dramatically improved things around here. We’re eating better and earlier and don’t have the same battle with getting out the door or ready for bed. We actually play together for an hour after dinner and before bed… that’s the stuff I had hoped for 3 years ago. With some organisation it turns out it's actually possible!
8 | Spirituality, whatever that means for you.
This is a new and big topic for me, as it’s something I’m giving more time, energy, head and heart space to. I’m curious and delving into understanding this side of things more, in an attempt at bringing more peace, calm and happiness about in my life. It’s a really BIG topic, but what I’m putting in is working.
9 | Do something meaningful each day
Be it a really nice meal, a snowball fight, a phone call to someone who you miss/ can laugh with/ be honest with, whatever equals meaningful to you.
10 | Be brave, be bold and courageous
Do something you have thought about doing but haven’t prioritised, or had the courage to start. It's worth it. For me, this is without a doubt going along to Nia and Groove dance and movement classes, they are delightful….fun…..energizing….they are just altogether AMAZING.
So on the matter of Self Respect, I accept I’m worth it, and you are too! If you don’t believe it then try some of the above to bring it into your life. I’d love to hear what tips you have for strengthening yours!
Have a week of making time to be brave, bold and courageous! Bronwyn x