Guilt. That little niggle that appears and worms its way into your brain, taking up valuable headspace.
Guilt over whether you’re parenting the right way; whether your children are content, fulfilled, academically stretched, safe, warm, loved, not active enough or too active. Oh! And did I mention the constant checking whether they’re even happy?
Then there’s the guilt over working or not working. Ruminating over whether you’re setting the right example—the “right” kind of work-life balance. Guilt over being on social media, or not on social media. Whether you’re on your phone too much and too digitally aware, or not enough. Every little thing, every big thing, seems to come with a side helping of guilt. Add onto that being an expat, which brings up a host of questions that are all riddled with guilt. “Should we stay or should we go?” “Am I damaging the children by moving away from their family?” “Are they going to get over leaving, their friends leaving, and being so far away?” “Do they even know their culture?” And last, but certainly not least: “ARE WE DOING THE RIGHT THING!?”
It’s time to stop and breathe before the guilt becomes all-consuming. It’s time to shift the focus to your mental health and wellbeing. You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all.
Self Care: Take time to help yourself
Self-care; It’s one of the latest buzzwords. Everywhere you turn, someone else is promoting it, which makes it easy to scoff at and overlook. But we really shouldn’t. Although it is now very trendy to drop a bath bomb into a candle-lit bath, pop it on Instagram and caption it with #selfcare, the reality of self-care is actually very different.
Self-care is a lot of different things and most importantly, it is different for everyone. Whether you need to take a five-minute break to drink a hot cup of tea in the kitchen, take yourself out for a walk, or even take that candlelit bath, by making sure you are taking time for yourself, you are actually helping stave away the guilt.
Polly, mum of one and founder of followyoursunshine.co.uk, a positive mindset life coach, reminds us: “We might be a whizz in the kitchen, have our gym routine down to a tee and be the best marketing executive on this side of the Atlantic, but if we don’t have a grip on our mindset and mental health, we will never be truly happy.”
Get Active: Release those endorphins
Elle Woods from Legally Blonde makes a valid point when she says: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t!” Often, the idea of going out and getting active is more daunting than the act itself, especially when you could potentially use it as another stick to beat yourself. But actually, getting out there and moving your body will have a positive effect on your mental health.
Whether you run, walk, dance, circuit, or swim, the important thing is for you to move your body. Jaclyn, a mum of three, says that the runs she does when she feels like she has the least amount of energy are the runs she finds most fulfilling and rewarding—mentally and physically.
Time Away: Nurture your relationship
It is all too easy to get lost in being “mum and dad” and forget who you were before the smallest members of your family arrived. Taking the time to get away together, to reconnect and remember who you are as a couple, is massively beneficial to the whole family. Two parents who have a strong relationship that they continually work on often means that they are on the same page when it comes to major parenting decisions.
You always need someone who has your back when you’re dealing with the attitude, the tantrums, and the trials that raising children brings. Struggling to find time to get away in the evening or are simply too tired?
Lisa, a mum of two, overcomes this by often booking a babysitter on Saturday mornings and having breakfast dates with her husband so they’re more energised. She says that they always come back after those dates refreshed and ready to spend the day together.
Time Together: Family Adventures
Sometimes. we all get lost in the mundane aspects of family life. It can be hard to not be consumed by the school run, office days, and essentially being the kids’ taxi service to and from various extracurricular activities. Even the weekly food shop can feel like a chore. While all those tasks are necessary, they’re not very exciting. So, sometimes you just need to have an adventure with your family to shake you out of that guilty mindset.
Emma, a mum of two, uses travel as a way to have exciting adventures with her family. She sees it as a chance to get away from the screens and gain new experiences together. Some of her favourite memories include sleeping in a tent on top of a jeep as she self-safaried around Namibia. But your adventures don’t need to be so far away from home to reconnect.
Mary, also a mum of two, enjoys child-led trips out on weekends, whether to the cinema, followed by a family lunch, or a just a picnic at the park.
Comparison is the thief of joy
In this digital age, the advent of technology gives many of us the chance to share our lives online. We have the opportunity to showcase our joyous occasions and proudest moments. It’s this technical miracle that allows so many of us to keep and build relationships with our families back home or abroad. Weekly Skype calls with grandma, Facebook photos for grandpa and Instagram stories to show Auntie Annie our day to day lives—technology brings so many of us much closer together.
And yet, when you mindlessly scroll through your Facebook feed, you can’t help but notice how Janet has it all together, or that Suzi is off on holiday again. Or maybe, you watch how Fran has all her children sat smiling at an educational talk. Then, you’re left feeling a bit deflated. Stop! Get off social media, and remind yourself that people tend to only share the highs and shiny moments. The lows that all of us go through often stay offline.
As the old saying goes: Comparison is, in fact, the thief of joy.
Appreciate the moment and go indulge in a little bit of self-care with that hot cup of tea you’ve been dying to have—minus the guilt.