By Charlotte Colehan
I am a do-er. I like to have several projects on the go, around at least two jobs, maybe an exam looming and definitely a cake in the oven. The archetypal multi-tasker, can’t-bear-a-wasted-day, irritating over-planner. There’s no denying that I can get a lot done in a day, and competently cope with many simultaneous tasks. And getting lots done gives me a buzz, it makes me feel great. But I also can’t deny the fact that I am somewhat of a rusher (my mum knew this all along). I didn’t refused to realise this fact until I was quite literally forced to slow down by the arrival of Miss M.
The kind of person who could not sit still to watch a film without a bundle of knitting to make it a productive hour, I was suddenly trapped in an armchair with a cluster-feeding baby who would not sleep anywhere but on my lap, all day, every day. And I’m really not that great at knitting. Molly is absolutely, unequivocally, categorically the best thing that ever happened to me, but there honestly is not enough on Netflix to get you through the first few months of breastfeeding.
The kind of person who could not sit still to watch a film without a bundle of knitting to make it a productive hour, I was suddenly trapped in an armchair with a cluster-feeding baby who would not sleep anywhere but on my lap, all day, every day.
I found the inactivity really hard, and it took me months to stop fighting it. I read all the articles about the baby years going by in the flash of an eye; I knew there would be years to perfect the art of French cooking or learn glass-blowing. And while I agreed with this logic in theory, I struggled to apply it on a day to day basis. I simply did not have the freedom I was accustomed to, to completely indulge myself in pleasurable activities at leisure, and I resented that any free time I now had was completely consumed in catching up on mundane but necessary things like laundry and personal hygiene.
Fast forward 18 months and I feel like out of the blue I have finally hit some sort of balance; less a conscious plan of action, more of a fortuitous crucible of changing habits, lots of mistakes, and a healthy pinch of self-reflection. Although having a baby was the catalyst that made me slow down, I think that these ideas could be used by anyone wanting to shift things down a gear.
You can say no
It’s the age old saying, you can’t please everyone. Yet a breakneck pace of life is often at least partially caused by constantly pandering to the needs and demands of others. I’m not advocating a narcissistic dismissal of friends and family; relationships are important and require time and nurturing. But really, honestly, You Can’t Please Everyone – and it’s OK to say no once in a while.
This applies to projects or hobbies too – I tend to dream big, and I used to still regularly try to bite off more than I can chew in the garden, in the kitchen, in the sewing basket. I’m slowly learning to say no to myself and to prioritise; not everyone needs a homemade birthday card, even though I love to make them; now is not an appropriate time of my life to learn the saxophone; it is not necessary to open a microbrewery in the garden this year.