Meaningful Motherhood episode 6: Jess Caire

Meaningful Motherhood episode 6: Jess Caire

How do you think it would impact your family to spend one week of every month living in another state, away from your husband and children?

This is the lifestyle of this week’s Meaningful Motherhood podcast guest, Jess Caire, who lives in Queensland with her family, but runs her business in South Australia.

I first met Jess earlier this year when she interviewed me on a panel at a women’s business conference, and later featured me on her Conversations With Jess blog. So it was great to turn the tables in this interview and be able to ask Jess to answer the questions instead. I was super-keen to chat to Jess about her experience of living across two different states while raising a young family, but what I found through this interview was that Jess had SO MUCH more to say about motherhood, and how her various life experiences have shaped her parenting decisions.

In this episode we chat about:

* how Jess flipped her life from being the wife of a FIFO husband, to being the FIFO-er herself, and how this made life exponentially better for her, her husband and her children.

* her experience with postnatal depression and adrenal fatigue

* why she hates the phrase “work-life balance”

* the impact of social media and “comparisonitis” for mothers and the importance of letting go of perfection

*  how a life-threatening accident on the Kokoda Track last year changed her view of motherhood and life in general

* why slowing down and “making space”

As always, I’d love to hear what you thought of the episode, so feel free to let me know what you think. Don’t forget to share with anyone else you think might enjoy this episode.

Cheers, Sarah xx

 

Meaningful Motherhood Episode 5: What to do about the mental load of motherhood?

Meaningful Motherhood Episode 5: What to do about the mental load of motherhood?

Have you heard of the “mental load”?

If you’re a mother, chances are you’re already bearing the brunt of it, whether you know it or not.

Today’s podcast episode is out and I’m talking all about the mental load – what it is, but more importantly, what we can do about it.

Feel free to listen below:

If you don’t have time to listen to the full episode, here’s a few brief notes from what we cover in the episode:

What is the mental load?

The mental load is the name given to all those invisible mental tasks we undertake, on behalf of our families, to keep our household running like a well oiled machine. We’re not talking here about mopping the floors, packing school lunches and washing load upon load of laundry each week. Rather, what we’re talking about is all the stuff we keep in our head – such as remembering to sign and return excursion forms by the due date, thinking about whether you’ve got enough squeezie yoghurts to get through the week, and figuring out what Christmas gift to buy your children’s teachers. The stuff that Mums have running around their heads 24/7.

Even if we have partners who do an equal share of the practical house and kid work, it’s likely one of you has taken on the role of “organiser” and it’s likely that person is you – the mother.

It’s constant, and it’s exhausting. It’s also what can change our experience of motherhood from one that’s fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable, to one that is frustrating and impactful on our wellbeing. It’s time for us to start offloading some of that mental load, for the sake of our own wellbeing, and that of our family.

This concept of the mental load isn’t new, but it’s something that has come to the forefront of our discussions recently, thanks to this cartoon.

However, what I’ve found is that so much of the discussion is, to be honest, a bit of a whinge-fest. Yes, it’s important that this issue is brought to light and discussed, but we need to do more than whinge. We, as women, need to have practical, actionable steps we can take to help ease this mental load.

So here’s the four steps I outlined that we can take to start addressing the mental load.

 

1: Acknowledge it

Start to become a bit more aware of just how much mental load you take on – you can even keep a journal for a day or two if you want

Chat to your partner/husband about it – explain what the load is, how much it’s constantly on your mind, and how it impacts your wellbeing.

Remember, this is just step one – you stiill have to take action – just knowing about it is not enough.

2: Offload what you can

Sit down with your husband (and kids!) and as a family, figure out how you can better share the mental load tasks around – in other words, delegate!!

Think about each of your individual strengths or circumstances and figure out what tasks could be offloaded, and to whom – don’t forget to offload age appropriate tasks to the kids. This also includes offloading some practical “work” tasks to others, to give you a bit more time to manage the mental load, if you’re not able to offload much of that.

What can be done together as a family? Maybe instigating a regular family meeting can help open the lines of communication, and take some of the responsibility of running the family away from Mum.

Remember – when it comes to delegation, you should “Expect More, but Accept Less” – so you can expect others to take on more of the tasks of the household, but you also have to be willing to accept that they might not do it as well, or in the exact same way as you. Just remember – “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad”!

3: Do less, and KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

Take some time to figure out if and how your family is over-scheduled. What can you remove from your week/month/yearly schedule? Where can you slow down and open up a bit more space for yourself.

Stop “should-ing” yourself into an early grave! Have a think about places where you might be placing too high expectations on yourself or others, and remember what’s really important.  Be honest with yourself – are there things you’re doing just for the sake of keeping up appearances, or maybe keeping others’ happy?

Perfectionism is not your friend – end of story

4: Autopilot as much as possible – don’t rely on your poor tired brain and do away with decision fatigue

Even after you’ve delegated, discarded and simplified, it’s highly likely you’ll still be left with a significant mental load list! Whatever you do, don’t rely on your poor, tired brain to do all the heavy lifting. Remember that routines and habits can be your best friend – having mundane tasks on autopilot actually gives you freedom.

Declutter, and make sure everything in your house has a particular spot – and make sure everyone else knows where that spot is.

Use calendar alerts to set reminders for anything and everything – eg. putting out the bins. This is one area where technology truly can be your friend!

So that’s it from me today. Don’t forget to find me through one of my social media channels, you can catch me on the Facebook page, join the Meaningful Motherhood Tribe Facebook Group, or find me on Instagram.

More than a Mother

More than a Mother

I’m a Mother. I’m also an Occupational Therapist.

And the two are more inter-related than I ever imagined they would be.

If there’s been one thing that has influenced my job as an OT more than anything else, it’s been becoming a mother.

As an OT, I’ve worked in a few different fields – vocational rehab, mental health, physical rehab, hand therapy, soft tissue injury management. But even these changes in work fields didn’t have the same level of influence over my daily work as an OT than motherhood did.

Why motherhood? How can something that isn’t even related to my job have such an impact on my career? And I’m talking about more than my decision to change to part-time work, or to need flexible hours. I’m talking about how my role as a mother had fundamentally changed the way I view my profession, the way I relate to my clients, the way I value the philosophy of OT in general.

Because motherhood is more than just birthing a baby and raising a child. It’s something else entirely. It’s what I consider to be the “greatest occupation” there is. Because for most of us who are mothers, we carry it with us everywhere we go. It’s the one role in our life which permeates all others. Once we become a mother, it changes us. It changes our physicality, our hormonal balances, our mindset, our psychology, our spirit. In essence, it changes our whole being. And from that point on, every decision you ever make in your life is influenced somehow, in some way, by the fact that you’re a mother.

I very easily could have said: I’m an Occupational Therapist. I’m also a mother.

But it doesn’t really work that way. Because, now, I’m a mother first and foremost. Even in the middle of my workday, when my children are the furthest thing from my mind, they’re still there, skipping around the edges of my subconscious.

To be honest, I never really gave much thought to how motherhood would change me. I guess I sort of figured it would change the things that I did, the structure of my daily life. But I didn’t expect it to make such a profound change inside of me – to alter how I see myself and perceive the world around me. I was completely unprepared for the upheaval it caused within me.

But I know I’m not alone in that respect. I speak to women every single day who talk about how motherhood has changed them. Women whose babies are just days old, through to seasoned grannies! Change is always the constant.

Which is why I talk about this in my postnatal wellbeing course, Body Mind Baby. Because as an expectant or new Mum, most women don’t get the chance to speak to health professionals about their expectations of motherhood – of what it means for them and how they see themselves, and how it impacts their wellbeing. So much of the antenatal and early postnatal care we receive is focused on the baby – are they feeding, are they sleeping, have you figured out what that pink rash is yet? And unless a Mum appears to be not coping, rarely will someone sit down with her for an in-depth conversation about herself.

Which brings me back to the fact that I’m a Mother and an Occupational Therapist. And just as I can’t switch off my Mum brain when I’m working, I also can’t switch off my OT brain as a Mum.

Which is a good thing, because there is sooooo much I learned at Uni through my OT studies, which has helped me along this motherhood jaunt. From human anatomy and physiology, to child development, psychology 101 and sociology. OT is an amazing profession and being an OT has definitely shaped me as a mother. For the better, I like to think.

I’m an Occupational Therapist. And that means I help people to live their best lives and to fulfill the roles and occupations within them the way they want to.

And as I said before, Motherhood is the greatest occupation of all. So I feel so privileged to be able to work with new Mums every day to help them find their feet in their new role and to figure out how it works for them and how they can best keep themselves well through this time of enormous emotional and physical upheaval.

I’d like all new Mums to feel confident having these important conversations about their own wellbeing, on a regular basis. To know that their health and needs are just as important as their child’s and that it deserves just as much airtime.
Because if being a mother is important, then shouldn’t we place grater importance on taking care of mothers?

Until next time,

Be well and Live Your Best Life.

Sarah xx

Ps. If you’re in Adelaide there’s still time to join my next Body Mind Baby course which starts on Wednesday 7th June. Check it out here or email me at sarah@bloomwellbeing.com.au for more details.

Coming up for air

Coming up for air

As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch, still in my PJs, hair unwashed, binge-watching Barbie episodes on Netflix with my feverish, and very unwell three year old by my side. We’ve been awake since around 10pm last night. It’s now 11am. I’m certain I can officially write this entire day off. Not a thing will be achieved. I’m pretty sure I won’t even stack the dishwasher.

maisiesick

Stuck on the couch with a sick baby.

Today, I’m cool with that. I”m certainly not thrilled. I had stuff to do today. Work stuff. Home stuff. In fact, I was looking forward to several unscheduled hours to tie up a few loose ends. That’s all out the window now. No creating new resources for work. No writing modules for my new teen girls life skills program I’m currently creating. No decluttering the kids’ toy boxes. After two nights of broken non-existent sleep, I’ve got no energy to do anything but lie on the couch and mindlessly scroll through my Instagram feed. But, like I said, I’m taking it in my stride today. It’s not the end of the world…

But if it had have happened three months ago, or even this time last month, it might have been a different story.

You see, the past several months have been hectic, crazy busy, intense. And I don’t say that in a “look at me, I’m so busy and important” attention seeking kind of way. i actually say it in an “I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been taking any of my own advice for at least the past year” kind of way.

It hasn’t been pretty the past several months. My clinic work hours have been long, My in-the-house work hours have been even longer. My husband and I had fallen into the woeful routine of “High Five Parenting”, exchanging barely barely more than a high five with each other as one of us walks in the door and the other walks out, our schedules so tightly packed and co-ordinated that I’ve even colour coded our respective schedules on my Google calendar.

The children, I hope, have remained relatively unscathed – I, on the other hand, have not. Coming off a period of adrenal fatigue from 12 to 18 months ago, from which I’ve never fully recovered, for these past few months I wasn’t managing well. I simply had too much to do and couldn’t do all of it. I also simply couldn’t shake this low level cold/flu/sickness that extended across several months. Coupled with a lack of motivation and energy this resulted in missed deadlines, forgotten emails, un-returned phone calls, turning up late to appointments, and a general feeling of letting people down. Which of course led to guilt, so much guilt. Plus a few little bouts of anxiety – such as the time I woke up at 4am, convinced I had left a candle burning in my clinic, and unable to get back to sleep. It wasn’t until I did an intentional drive-past at 8am on my day off, to check that the building hadn’t burned to the ground, that I could let that worry go.

None of this is like me. Not the real me. But it’s unfortunately too indicative of the “too much on my plate” me. It’s also exactly what I support women through in my work. I know, irony, right. Like I said, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been taking nearly enough of my own advice. With a diet consisting of way too much sugar and processed foods, and too may days consisting of too little physical movement, but still not enough (contemplative) stillness, my lifestyle has been totally at odds with my message.

That’s a particularly hard thing for an allied health professional to admit. I’ve struggled to say it out loud – for fear that if I admit to not looking after myself it will somehow render me unprofessional or incompetent. A health professional who doesn’t look after her own health? A health professional who has put on 20kg and can’t shift it? Oh, the shame. But it doesn’t make me any less of an OT or Pilates instructor, and it certainly doesn’t make me any less of a person. But what it does do is simply prove that I’m human. It also gives me a greater insight into just how effing hard it can be sometimes. For people who’ve never experienced this kind of exhaustion, fatigue or anxiety, they simply can’t understand that total lack of ability to get out of bed in the morning – even if it’s for something you love, or have been desperately looking forward to for weeks. That bone-aching tiredness that prevents you from moving your legs at more than walking pace, even when you so genuinely “want to want” to go for a run. That incredulous feeling of overwhelm when you have so much to do and don’t know where to start, so you simply choose to do nothing. Unless you’ve been there, you might be able to empathise, but you don’t truly understand. It’s a very bizarre and unsettling feeling. It makes you question your worthiness as a person, and makes you wonder when, or if, the “real you” might ever show herself again.

This isn’t a situation that’s specific to any one group of people, but I have seen it so, so much in working mothers lately – particularly in those mothers who run their own business. Being a business owner / mum is a struggle every single day, and for those of us in the midst of it, it can seem that no-one else sees exactly how hard it is, as my wonderful friend Carly from Sass Place so eloquently explained in this blog post.

But, luckily for me. It has all finally seemed to turn around in the past month. Since about mid September I’ve felt like I’ve finally come up for air. That i can come home from my day at work without contemplating another few hours on the laptop to finish some important task. That I can take a full day off work without feeling the pull of what else I “should” be doing. That I’m no longer rushing – everywhere and everyone. That I can go to bed at night without a mind frustratingly going over everything I didn’t tick off my “to-do” list. So what’s changed? In short, I started heeding my own advice.

comingupforair

I made a concerted effort to say “no” and “yes” in a more considered fashion. Better boundaries with working hours and additional requests that required a “no”, for which previously I may have said “yes”. And more “yes” to extra quiet time, earlier nights, screen time limits, meditation, and the reading of real, actual books. I had several big events I was committed to in the past few months, including three interstate trips in five weeks. Some of them were non-negotiable, some of them I brought upon myself and potentially shouldn’t have. I’ve certainly learned a lesson about over-committing myself.

I asked for help. I outsourced tasks within my business. I booked a few sessions with a counselor. I had an art therapy session. These things all helped. Yes, they all cost money. But for me, they were worth every penny – and more. I had to invest in myself. What I was saving in terms of dollars, I was paying for in my dwindling wellbeing.

I stopped pushing so hard and accepted a level of consistency in my business. There’s no magic solution for this one unfortunately, for those of you in the slog of a start up phase of a business. Maybe I always had to put in the hard work I have done over the past two and a half years to get my business to the point where it is now running comfortably and I’m about to start a waiting list. But what I do know now is that I’ve resisted the urge to add an extra clinic day to my caseload or add more after hours sessions, when previously I would have done just that – eager to provide more services. Right now I know that’s not the right move for me. It’s time to put a boundary on myself. What I also know is that while I perhaps couldn’t have brought my business this far with less work, I could have (and should have) implemented better self care strategies. There were absolutely habits and behaviours that I overlooked which could have made a big difference to my wellbeing.

I stopped mentally beating myself up for not achieving my self-imposed expectations. The big “aha” moment came when my counselor asked me – “Have you always placed these kinds of high expectations on yourself?” It’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. I can spot a chronic over-achiever a mile away, but I couldn’t identify it in myself. What I’d always told myself was simply hard work, commitment and drive, was actually, in fact, great expectations and setting myself up for a fall. I just couldn’t see it in myself. I expected more of myself than I’d ever expect of anyone else. Who else can say that about themselves?

Which brings me back to today – as I sit here, trapped on my couch by an overheating toddler. This moment, a mere month ago, would have sent me into a tail spin. I would be trying to finish presentations or balance my expense account while caring for a sick child, getting distracted, making mistakes, and ensuring whatever tasks I tried to do only got done half as well, while taking twice the time. It all came from a place of fear. That my business, or perhaps my world, might fall apart if I didn’t keep pushing. When in fact it was the opposite. It was the push that was causing the cracks to deepen.

I’m not saying there won’t be another time where its appropriate for me to start pushing again. But I know that right now, is not the time. A forced slow down is exactly what I – and my family – need right now.

So today, as i sign off from this blog post. I’ll turn this laptop off, switch Netflix over to re-runs of the Gilmore Girls, now that munchkin is sleeping and just embrace today as a day when nothing will get done. Because the world won’t fall apart., my business will still be standing tomorrow, and I’ll still be good at my job after a day off.

Until next time,

Keep well, Sarah xx

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day

Daughter.

Sister.

Friend.

Student.

Athlete.

Worker.

Confidante.

Non-comformist.

Activist.

Performer.

Lover.

Artist.

Seeker of truth.

Seeker of light.

Traveller.

Adventurer.

Mother.

All those things you were, before you were a mother, you still are.

Just with greater complexity. Additional intensity.

Because you are also a mother.

concept of love and family. hands of mother and baby

And in the very moment you became a mother, the whole world changed.

A change so dramatic it shook your very core for months, perhaps years. Though it was imperceptible to others.

Did it change the way you viewed yourself and all those “before you were a mother” roles? Perhaps you gave them up. Dismissed them as unimportant. Or did you decide they no longer blended into your new filtered world. That the sharp, daring angles of your previous life no longer fit in this surreal new landscape of motherhood.

Because, you became a mother. And you will forever see the world through the lens of motherhood.

At that moment your child entered your life, a filter was thrown across your world view. One that seemed perhaps so uncertain, so strange, so fragile and frightening at the time. But as time passed, you slowly became accustomed to this foreign haze. And now, you barely notice its existence. For that filter is your new normal. And if it were ever torn from your life, the world would suddenly seem unnatural and cold and harsh and a lesser place to be.

Because even though you are still all those things you were, before you were a mother, you are now a mother. And that changes everything.

And that is why we celebrate today.

Because you are a mother – and everything you do, every choice you ever make, will be, in some way, influenced by the fact you are a mother.

But you are also so much more than just a mother. You are still all those things you once were, for as long as you still wish to be. And whatever you else you so desire to become. Because while a filter may change the way you see things, it doesn’t prevent you from seeing them. It doesn’t exclude you from being them.

You can be whatever you want to be. You can be a mother, yet so much more.

Be more. Be you. Just more you.

Happy mothers day to each and every mother.

All my love, Sarah xx