Why No-one Should Survive Parenthood

Photography: Alexandra Gorn

By Clare Williamson

I often get asked the question, how do you do it? I am a mum, I have two small children, two businesses and I love kickboxing and fighting competitively. To other people I guess I must sometimes look a little ‘superhuman’. I’m not.

Just over a year ago, I was drowning in overwhelm and had lost complete sight of what life looked like outside #beingmum. From the outside, I was still grinning, but beneath that smile I was feeling the physical symptoms of stress and my confidence was lacking. My children and my schedule were ruling me. I was tired. Mornings were the worst, and from there we just descended into chaos every day. One child would niggle at the other or spill something and I would be so tired that I would just immediately shout. I wasn’t really shouting at them. I was shouting at it all to stop. I couldn’t enjoy my children or be fully present to share the precious moments with them because my line of coping had been crossed. And this made me feel terribly guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t meeting my own expectation as a mother, guilty that I was shouting all the time, guilty that I felt I needed more than ‘just’ this to feel fulfilled.

Motherhood had definitely pushed me into a weird state of autopilot, a bit like treading water.

I felt like I couldn’t give 100% to any area of my life due to the fact I was constantly multitasking. I’d get the things done that I needed to each day for my family to survive, but I had forgotten to do the things that filled MY cup and sustained MY health. I found myself in a constant state of overwhelm and unsure who to reach out to for help. I think a lot of my mum friends felt the same, but none of us would say out loud that while we were all surviving, we definitely weren’t thriving.

Then June last year I was given the chance to train to become a Life Coach. As I progressed through my training I realised that this status quo wasn’t OK. To just survive parenthood is not good enough! The precious moments, the important people in our lives, the beauty around us all matter just as much when you are a mum and I realised that I had stopped noticing them because of the autopilot, the sleep deprivation and overwhelm that had become a daily part of #beingmum. I had disconnected from the people who matter most to me; close friends and my best friend, my husband. I could now see that the reason I was unable to stay present in any one thing was because the next thing I had to do was pulling me along. I realised I had a responsibility to look after myself and be healthy and happy in order to be the best mum I could be to my children and for them to be healthy and happy as well. Just surviving was not OK. I had to dig deep and start investing in me, even though that felt rather uncomfortable.

So that’s what I did. Through becoming a Certified Life Coach, I was coached myself, and slowly began to fill my own cup again, and with a full cup, I am now able to fill the cups of my children, the cups of my friends, and the cups of my clients.  If the overwhelm starts to kick in again, I have strategies I can go back to that unpick the overwhelm, and gentle reminders to look after myself that I keep in what I call “My Little Book of Golden Heart” that I made for myself.  No-one can pour from an empty cup. And motherhood is a life experience that deserves to be enjoyed to its fullest. Children grow up too fast before our very eyes.

Through Life Coaching you peel back the layers of your life, like an onion so to speak. You become aware of the things that are overwhelming, draining, or flat-out making you miserable and commit to working on them one-by-one. With the plan in place, the overwhelm lessens and you start to feel happiness every day again, feel glimpses of hope that life can be all that you want it to be, and you pursue it with excitement. You design a life you love.

To design the life that you want, instead of surviving the life that you currently have, you need to start with the intention to make yourself and your needs a priority. In an aeroplane, if there is an emergency, parents are told to put their own masks on first, so that they are then able to save their children. Life is no different and if you don’t, your plane will crash, just like mine did. Don’t step over that line into barely surviving, work on you for your own and your family’s benefit.

So now I hear you ask, but where do I even begin?

Here are my top tips for designing a life you can love.

  • Set your intention

“Everything that happens in the universe starts with intention”

If you don’t truly have the intention to change life ‘how it is’, you won’t be able to create life ‘as you desire it’.  You must intend to change

  • Make a commitment to follow through

This includes making a commitment to prioritise you.  Don’t make this bigger than it is, it is the small choices we make as mums that can impact in so many areas.  Start by asking yourself some questions:

  1. Do you know what your needs are?
  2. Are you living your daily life with your needs in mind?
  3. If not, do you know why not? If you aren’t clear on your own needs you will continually run into trouble trying prioritise themMake a commitment to filling your cup:
  4. First, decide what you need to fill your cup – make a list
  5. Next, establish if each need is being met, just put a tick or a cross next to each one
  6. Next to ones with a cross write why you think this need isn’t being met. Your answers will undoubtedly fall into one of 3 categories – too busy, not a high enough priority, or a physical/cost/other barrier like “I can’t afford to…”, “I can’t get anyone to look after the kids, so that I…” etc
  7. What needs to change so this need is met?
  8. Is the change realistic/achievable?
  9. If not, what is an alternative that will have the outcome you need so your cup is full and your whole family thrives?
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