At my Mum’s house, there’s a magnet on the fridge with the following phrase on it:
It’s called the Serenity Prayer, and it’s been around for donkeys years. Now, our family isn’t really religious, but this particular magnet has been on our fridge for as long as I can remember. We’re talking at least two, maybe three decades and four house moves – and yes, she’s had the same fridge the whole time too! They just don’t make ’em like they used to, right?
I learned this quote verbatim at an early age, sometime in my teens. But it’s something I’m only truly appreciating now that I’m a mother.
One of the biggest things about motherhood, at least for me, has been simply accepting what is happening around me at any given point. Because acceptance is not really in my nature.
But acceptance is a key factor to more meaningful motherhood.
When I was younger I thought the important part of this phrase was the “wisdom” bit. Knowing stuff is always the be-all and end-all when you’re academically minded and hell-bent on smashing your Year 12 grades (ie, a nerd). However, there were definitely times when it was “courage” that I strived for – the courage to change things. I truly LOVE change. I thrive on it, seek it out, revel in it. But there have been times when my courage needed a bolster. Like moving to the UK for two years. And then deciding not to go through with the second year because I happened to meet a nice boy when I came home for Christmas. Big changes, big courage. (ps. the boy is now my husband, so I guess that change was for the best.)
But I never, ever considered the first part – the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Because in my youthful mind, full of all that wisdom and courage, I never really had to accept ANYTHING. Didn’t like my job? Easy, I got a new one. Didn’t like my career? Easy, I went back to Uni. Didn’t like a boy? Easy, just dump his ass! I prided myself on NEVER settling, never accepting the status quo, always expecting more from myself and always believing in my ability to change the minds of others, to mould my own world and to have (almost) complete control over pretty much my whole life.
Until I became a mother.
Then things changed.
Because you can’t convince an infant to tell you in plain english why they’re crying. You can’t educate your way out of teething. You can’t brainstorm your way out of toxic nappy explosions. You can’t guarantee your toddler will never throw a public tanty.
There are lots and lots of things you simply CAN’T do or control when you’re a mother. It pains me to say that – I hate the word CAN’T – it’s never been part of my vocabulary – “There’s always a way!” I’d say. But I’ve had to change my tune in recent years.
I have to ACCEPT that my three year old CAN’T tie her shoelaces – because she simply hasn’t integrated this skill yet, so she’s dependent on me to help her get dressed, no matter how much I want her to be independent. I have to ACCEPT that my 15 month old CAN’T understand when I tell her “we’re only five minutes from home” – and that she will cry and scream for those last five minutes of the car journey until we get home and I can pick her up and comfort her. I’ve also had to accept that I no longer have the level of spontaneity and freedom in my life that I seriously cherished as a single woman. It’s simply not there anymore. At least not at the moment.
Acceptance is a bitch.
I know so many of us Mums who struggle against it daily. Especially us over-achieving late Gen X-ers who spent two decades doing and having it all before being thrust into motherhood in their mid 30s. But I truly believe it’s this battle against acceptance that’s leading us into all sorts of angst and misery in motherhood. Because we get so overcome by all the things we can no longer control, all the things we can no longer do, and when we focus on these – life starts to look pretty shitty. Especially compared to the kick-ass lives, bursting with freedom and control, that we were living up until a minute ago.
We do need to be more accepting of these things which are outside our realm of control.
But we also need to change how we FEEL about acceptance.
Acceptance which is given begrudgingly, tinged with anger and resentment, isn’t going to cut it. “This is what it’s like being a Mum – get used to it.” That tone and language doesn’t help anyone.
The Serenity Prayer asks for “the serenity to accept”. That’s the key. Acceptance should be given freely, without bitterness or disappointment. We need to be comfortable, calm and content with our acceptance.
Because when we can truly accept the things we cannot change – that’s when our experience of motherhood can change for the better.
Until next time,
Keep well, Sarah xx
ps. we delve a lot deeper into the concept of acceptance for motherhood in my “Mindful Motherhood” online program. If you’re a Mum looking for a more sustainable way to navigate the stress, guilt and overwhelm that seems to come part and parcel with parenthood, please check out the program here.
Have you seen this pic? It’s been doing the rounds on facebook lately.
Just like Mummy…
It certainly strikes a chord with me.
When I saw it last week it made me realise that it’s been at least four months since I last weighed myself. And that’s all thanks to my daughter.
Right now, I have no idea what I actually weigh. I have a rough estimate, and I know it’s still a good 10-15kg above my “ideal” weight. But I don’t know the actual number.
However, there was a time, not that long ago, when I could have told you to the 100 gram mark, how much I weighed. Unknowingly, I’d developed a nasty little habit of stepping on the scale. Every. Single. Day.
Now, I can’t say that I ever really let that number on the scale define me, but it could, and certainly did, alter my mood. If it was down I was happy. If it was up, well that just plain sucked. Even if I was having a “feeling thin” moment where I felt like I was lighter, my confidence would implode if that number was actually higher than the previous day.
My weigh-in habit had slowly but surely become a full-blown addiction. It was the second thing I did every morning – after peeing of course – that 100g less fluid weight would make a difference! At the time I didn’t feel like my daily habit was having any significant negative consequences on my health or self esteem, it was just something I did every day. As much a part of my morning routine as brushing my teeth
Until I started seeing my three-year-old daughter stepping on the scales. Every. Single. Day.
Of course she’d seen me, and my husband, step on the scales over the past three years. So she wanted to do it too – kids always want to do what the grown-ups do – right?
When she was around age two it was highly amusing when she’d step on the scale, look at the number and say “six dollars!” before tearing off to play elsewhere.
But early this year, at the age of three, she started stepping onto the scale much more frequently. She’d drag it out of the under-sink cupboard, place it on the exact spot on the floor where I would place it (to avoid the wonky tiles and an inaccurate reading), then she’d tap her toe on top, wait for the zero to appear, and step on.
Until one day I watched her do this and it clicked in my head. This was now becoming a habit for her – AT AGE THREE.
Sure, she really had no idea what she was doing. No idea that she was measuring her weight in kilograms and grams. And she certainly had no idea how much she was “supposed” to weigh – and all the social and emotional baggage that went along with that. But I knew this didn’t make it a harmless exercise.
How long did she have? At what point, what age, would she suddenly understand the concept of weight? Of “ideal” weights, “goal” weights, overweight, underweight, obese – thigh gaps. At age 5? 8? 10? Right now, she’s three. But in the blink of an eye she’ll be 13. And then she’ll be in the thick of it.
At 13, it’s highly possible that ALL she will care about is how much she weighs, what she looks like, what she’s wearing, how clear her skin is, how many boys think she’s cute. Unless…
Unless I can guide her in a different direction. Because that’s NOT the 13 year old experience I want for her, or her younger sister.
I want both of my daughters to value themselves for so much more than an inconsequential number on a scale.
I want them to understand that they have TRUE value in this world. That they have the ability and opportunity to do, have or be anything they want. That they can contribute AMAZING things to this society of ours. That their potential is completely untapped, beyond anyone’s comprehension or expectation. And that it truly doesn’t matter how much they weigh – as long as they have health and happiness.
Yes I want them to be healthy – I certainly don’t want them to be obese, or to have a life-long struggle with their weight like I’ve had. But I don’t want them to focus on their weight, to let it define and control them like it does for so many amazing, and otherwise successful, confident and accomplished women I know. Women who seem so “together” on the outside, but who can be crumpled by a simple flashing number on a digital scale. Women like me. I said earlier that I didn’t feel like my weigh-ins had a huge impact on my self confidence or self belief. But I was wrong.
That very day, after my daughter scampered off to play like a regular three year old. I picked up those scales and I put them away on the top shelf of the linen cupboard, behind a pile of towels.
I haven’t stepped on them since.
And it feels good. Since that day I’ve had freedom. Not to eat whatever I want, or to put on weight. But freedom from constantly THINKING about my weight. Even though I never let it consciously define me, I’ve now realised that on a subconscious level it truly did impact my psyche and erode my self-belief.
I know I’m not at my “goal weight”, I certainly don’t have the “perfect body” and I’m as far from a thigh gap as you could possibly get. But I don’t really care anymore. I respect my body more now. I focus on what it can do for me – how it can move me and what it can achieve.
Removing the scales from my life has meant that I can focus on my body in a much more subjective way now. I have to actually listen to it. I choose my food based on how it makes me feel. I can tell if I’ve been overdoing the wrong sorts of foods for me because I’ll feel my stomach bloat or my head get foggy or my sinuses get blocked. I no longer rely on that effing bloody scale to tell me if I’m doing the right things for my health. Because it has no idea. It never did. The really irritating thing is that I ALWAYS knew that. I knew the scale couldn’t really tell me how healthy I was, or how far along my health journey I’d come, yet still I let myself define my success by that flashing number. Do you know how infuriating that is!
So now, I’m letting my struggle go. I’m not battling with my weight, or striving to LOSE weight any more. I’m just focusing on simply being me – the best, healthiest, happiest version of me I can possibly be. I’m still conscious of what I put into my and my daughters’ bodies – but I no longer make food choices from a place of fear. I make decisions now based on health and a conscious respect for the amazing machine that is the human body. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m now at a place where I don’t really care how much I weigh – so I don’t need scales anymore.
And neither do my daughters.
There’s so much said these days about how difficult it is to regain your health and fitness after having a baby. People talk about how tired new mums are, how time poor, how sleep deprived, how gym memberships are too expensive for those of us on maternity leave. And you know what. That’s all true.
Absolutely true. If you’re a new mum you probably are sleep deprived, you probably do have less free time in your day and less disposable cash in your back pocket.
So yeah, the time and money needed for getting fit, healthy and well are likely to be a lot more scarce than they were pre-baby.
But you know what. None of that matters!!!
Because at the end of the day, time and money are not the most important factors in whether you’ll get healthy or not. Think about all those super-rich or commitment-free people you know in the world (or that you used to be!) Are they all super-healthy? Not necessarily. Because it’s not actually about time or money.
Want to know what it is about? Inspiration and commitment.
Last week I was talking about inspiration, and how it’s so much more powerful than motivation. Go check out the post if you have time, but basically what I said was that having something that INSPIRES you to improve your health, rather than just a kick-up-the-backside short term motivation blast, is a much more effective path to health and wellbeing.
New Mum? No time for exercise?
Now what’s more inspiring than being a new Mum?
All of a sudden you have this teeny little bundle of preciousness in your care, and he’s relying on you 100 percent to look after him. To be there for him. To keep him well. And the only way you can really do that, is if you’re well yourself.
I’ve never met a mum who doesn’t want the absolute best for their child, who doesn’t want them to be as well and healthy as possible. The trick is to shift that thinking over to yourself as well.
So rather than seeing your children as your barriers to exercise, eating healthy or taking some “me-time”. Use them as your inspiration for exactly those things.
Which brings us to the second part of the equation: commitment.
You can’t just be inspired to be healthy and well. You have to be committed. Dedicated to creating and maintaining a lifestyle geared towards optimal health and wellbeing.
That’s why it doesn’t matter if you can no longer find two hours in your day for your back to back RPM classes. Because if you’re committed to being well, then every decision you make within your 18 hours (or more!!) of awake time per day is helping you get there.
It’s about eating nutritious, satiating food. Building movement into your whole day on a regular basis. Getting sufficient rest. Drinking enough water. Reducing your toxic exposure. Being kind to yourself. Gratitude. Mindfulness. Socialisation. So much more than just time and money. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. That’s exactly what this blog is for. We’re going to be covering all these topics and more.
But for now, just remember. NOW is the time. The perfect time to change your life for the better. For your own sake, and for the future of your family.
Are you on some kind of health journey? If you’re reading this blog, chances are the answer is yes. So let me ask another question. What has prompted you to be on this journey – is it motivation or inspiration?
Inspiration. Trumps motivation. Every single time.
Most people don’t undertake health transformations for no reason. There’s usually a catalyst. They see themselves in an unflattering photograph, or the scale clocks over to triple figures, or they get chest pains after running for the bus. Something happens to make them think – “Crap, my health isn’t great, I’ve GOT to do something about this”.
That’s motivation. But motivation is fleeting, it doesn’t usually last for long periods. Once those skinny jeans fit better, or the scales start reading a happier number, the reasons to maintain that health journey start to lose importance, and the commitment fades. That’s because motivation is usually extrinsic, it comes from outside of us. It’s about pushing ourselves to do what we think we SHOULD be doing. That’s never going to last long, because eventually it becomes draining and tiresome.
What you really need is inspiration, not motivation.
These two terms are often used interchangeably. But there are distinct differences, and these differences are the reason why some people’s health journeys are more successful than others.
As I said, motivation comes from our environment, from outside of us. Inspiration, however, comes from within. It comes from somewhere deep inside of you that drives you, because you absolutely know with all your heart and soul that whatever it is, is the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
When you’re inspired to make a life change it doesn’t necessarily become easier to do, but you’ve got more chance at sticking with it. Because whenever the road gets tough you focus back on your inspiration – your reasons why – and they’ll always be there. Your health becomes a priority, it takes precedence over everything else, it becomes a part of your identity.
This is why people who are inspired achieve their goals fully and more greatly than those relying solely on motivation.
So what’s the take home message? Get inspired. Take some time to figure out exactly why you’re on your health journey.
Ask yourself “What is my motivation for A, B or C? How can I turn my inspiration into motivation.”
It’s a subtle mindset shift, but it can have powerful results.
Do you want to lose weight to rock your bikini on holiday in Fiji in three months? That’s motivation. Or is it to lose weight so that you’ll still be healthy and fit enough to travel to Fiji when you’re 80? That’s inspiration.
Do you want to quit smoking because it’s making it hard for you to catch your breath on the soccer pitch. Or do you want to quit smoking so you live long enough to coach your grandkids’ soccer games? Inspiration.
Over to you. I’d love for you to share your experiences of motivation and inspiration below. What have you found has made the difference in helping to achieve your goals?
What do you want to change in your life? Go on, I know there’s something you’d like to be different – most of us have a list as long as our arm.
The sticky bit is that change is hard. Really hard. For whatever reason, we humans are definitely creatures of habit and we find it hard to move outside of our comfort zone, even for the simplest of things.
This is the reason why “6 week programs” and “30 day challenges” are all over the place right now. We all seem to need a bit of an external push to create the change we seek. So I thought I’d add my two cents worth to the mix. These are my two favourite pieces of advice for creating positive change in your life. And they’re totally linked, so really it’s actually one piece of advice in two parts.
Part 1: Act as if.
Now I didn’t create this advice, it’s been bandied around so much over the decades that I don’t even know who thought it up. But here’s the crux of it – work out what or who it is that you want to be – then act as if you’re already that person. Simple really. Want to be the person who eats healthy food, not crap? Buy healthy food and stick it in your fridge. That’s what a healthy food eater does. Don’t overthink it. Just do it (to borrow another well used phrase.)
Part 2: It’s easier to create a new habit than it is to break an old one.
It’s true that we really are the sum of those things we consistently do every single day. Our habits are deeply ingrained, not only into our lifestyle, but into our very neurological makeup. Our brains love habits – because once we’ve created one, the brain doesn’t have to think about that particular activity anymore, and it can have more time to rest. Brains are lazy like that – they don’t want to do any more work than they have to! So once we’ve created a habit we’re hardwired to keep it. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break habits, but it can be hard. However, creating a new habit does seem to come a bit easier. So I always encourage people to create new habits to help crowd out the old!
Socrates – he knew his stuff.
Want to curb your 3pm-sugar-fix-must-have-chocolate-now habit? How about you start implementing a 2pm green smoothie habit? You’ll find that you probably won’t need to 3pm sugar fix after that. Try and think of different ways you can hack your bad habits. Sneaky, but effective.
So there you go, my top two bits of advice for creating change. Because change is good!
Until next time,
Live your best life.
Do you have an injury or pain you just can’t seem to shake? Does it get better after treatment, but then comes back after a few more days, weeks, months? This is really common, it’s what I like to call a “lifestyle injury” – meaning there is something happening in your life which is causing or exacerbating the injury, or not allowing it to fully heal.
So often when we’re faced with the pain of a lifestyle injury, we get intermittent treatment to simply eradicate the pain. But this isn’t sufficient to actually address the problem. If you don’t delve deeper into what the injury actually is and find out why it is occurring, then you’re never going to fully resolve the pain or symptoms. Over time, you’ll just start to live with that little niggle in your back, or the tightness in your shoulders, or those creaky knees. These things will become part of your new normal, they’ll become a chronic injury, and you might give up trying to treat them. Don’t! Keep seeking treatment – but seek a treatment that focuses on the problem, not the solution.
Want my example?
Last year I kept getting pain in my right calf whenever I ran. For a few weeks I put my running on hold as I was really worried about sustaining a calf tear. I took myself to the physio twice, but it didn’t really seem to be improving. Then, one day, I noticed the pain after a long car drive and it made me wonder whether driving was the real problem. Over the next few days I noticed that whenever I was driving, I would externally rotate my right hip, so my right foot was pressing the accelerator on an angle – placing extra strain on my peroneal muscles (along the side of the calf.)
Bingo! I had found the real problem. It wasn’t the running at all, it was my foot position on the accelerator pedal while driving.
After that day I started to make a very conscious effort to ensure my foot, knee and hip were all aligned when driving. Within a few days my pain had gone, without further treatment – just some dedicated stretching. I started up my running again and haven’t had a problem since.
So, what’s behind your “lifestyle injury”?