Grocery shopping on your own – and other “me-time” activities for Mothers.

Grocery shopping on your own – and other “me-time” activities for Mothers.

“Since I became a mother, even going to the grocery store on my own feels like a holiday!”

Have you ever said this in jest? Or something similar? Makes you laugh right? But pre-kids would you ever have considered a trip to the supermarket to be a bit of “me-time”? Nope. Didn’t think so.

doing-groceries-alone-pinterest

So what is it about motherhood that so drastically skews our concepts of “time out”, “self-care” and that all important “me time”? Why do we as mothers feel the need to be so grateful for any time spent on our own, even if it’s just to do mundane tasks?

I get the feeling that it comes down to one very important misconception: that we are only “On Duty” as mothers when we are WITH our children, and that any time we are away from our children is a break from our motherhood role.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. To explain this further I want to introduce you to a concept called “co-occupation” – which is an Occupational Therapy term referring to “the interplay of the occupations of two or more people”*.

Motherhood is the perfect example of a co-occupation, because motherhood is all about the intrinsic linking of a woman and her child. Without a child there is no mother.

So how does the co-occupation of motherhood impact us? At first thought, we might presume that the role of motherhood only occurs when we are physically with our child – “doing with” such as playing games with your child, reading a book together, eating meals together, going for a walk or bike ride: “doing to” such as changing a nappy, administering medication, or rocking a baby to sleep; or “doing alongside” – such as watching your child play independently, driving them to school, or extra-curricular activities.

These are generally the times when we see ourselves as being “On-Duty” as mothers.

But what about the co-occupations that occur when a mother and child aren’t physically together? The “doing for” and “doing because of”? Those times we fold mountains of laundry while watching our favourite TV show, or book dentist appointments in our lunch break while the kids are at school, or bake a batch of muffins for school lunches while Dad takes the kids to the park, or listen to a parenting podcast while on our morning walking, or yes, doing the groceries alone while someone else cares for your child.

These times aren’t “me-time” – but sometimes I feel like we’ve been led to believe they should be. That we should be grateful for any opportunity to relish some time alone without our children – even if we’re still doing stuff “for” them, because all time spent without our children present is equally as restful and rejuvenating.

It isn’t.

Because these things are still “co-occupations” – things we do for, or on behalf of, our children. Certainly they might have been things you would have done, or would still have to do if you didn’t have children. But now that you DO have children, tell me, have you ever managed to do a grocery shop without thinking what you need to feed your child? Or have you ever taken an hour to go shopping for yourself, only to see a million things you’d like to buy for your little one?

Even when we do things without our children present, they are still at the forefront of our mind. And that’s why it feels like you never get a break from motherhood – even when you technically “took a break”.

I want mothers to understand the difference between “time away from their children” and “time off”. Because those two things aren’t the same.

But why do you need a break? Isn’t motherhood enough?

Nope. Sorry, I know sometimes we think it should be. But we are all more than mothers. We are individuals first, and we deserve to have an identity apart from our motherhood status.

So what’s my suggestion? How can you actually take a worthwhile break?

You need to find something to do that is just for yourself – something that doesn’t classify as a co-occupation, and something that has these few elements to it:

  1. It should be something that you do, just for you – 100 percent. Not something that you do for yourself that your kids also benefit from, like baking food for their lunchboxes or crocheting them a beanie. And not something you do with your children present – such as Mums and Bubs Pilates, or coffee with your Mums group. That’s not to say you should stop these things. They’re all great – they’re just not enough!
  2. It should be something active. Now, I love passive “time out” activities – such as getting a massage or a pedicure, as much as the next mum, and they’re often touted as an excellent “me time” activity, but they’re not especially engaging. They don’t require any effort on your part, but they do give you lots of time to think about how nice it is to have time away to yourself, without the kids – it’s a kind of escapism. But that’s not the point. For me, these tasks fit into the realm of self-care, which is lovely, but they’re not as rejuvenating and fulfilling as truly meaningful, engaging activities. It’s a subtle difference between “self-care” and “me-time”.
  3. Which brings me to the third factor – it has to be something meaningful to you. We OT’s love, love, love the concept of meaningful occupation. It’s what our whole profession is built upon – the notion that engagement in meaningful activities is what makes a person truly “well” and what makes life truly worth living. But what makes something meaningful? Well that’s completely up to you. Broadly speaking a “meaningful occupation” is something you do which is important to you, or that you enjoy and which benefits your life in some way. So what is meaningful to you? Maybe it’s dancing, maybe it’s reading crime thrillers, maybe it’s bushwalking, or surfing, or painting, or running marathons, or yarn bombing, or restoring vintage cars, or playing the piano, or growing prize winning orchids, or poetry slam nights, or roller derby, or tap dancing, or surfing? It could be anything. Can’t think what that is for you? Here’s a tip. Think back to what you loved to do as a child, or a teenager? What is something you used to do and love that 21year old you would be devastated to think you no longer do? THAT’S your meaningful occupation.

Have you figured yours out yet? Do you know what it is? Then go out and do it. As much as you can, whether that’s once a day, or once a month. Find a way to fit it into your schedule. Make it a priority. Because until you do you won’t find time for it.

Motherhood is all-encompassing. If we let it, it can swallow us whole. We need to have something that reminds us of who we are – without reference to our children. Something that isn’t a motherhood co-occupation.

You matter, and what you love matters. And I’m sure there’s something in this world you love doing more than the groceries.

So go do it.

Until next time, Sarah xx

 

References:

* http://www.cmnzl.co.nz/assets/sm/8278/61/Co-OccupationWed2pm.pdf

 

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Are we wholly responsible for our own wellbeing?

Are we wholly responsible for our own wellbeing?

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to spend a lot of time talking to women.

Talking one to one to clients, chatting to Facebook followers, communicating over email to women I’ll probably never meet, and also making presentations to small groups on a regular basis. I’m a talker, I love to talk. I get it from my Mum. Who got it from her Mum, but that’s beside the point.

The point is I love talking, especially to other mothers, because it’s how I can best support the clients I work with, how I can get the message I want to share out into the world, but most importantly, it’s how I learn so much about this wonderful client group I work with.

Yesterday I was excited to be the guest speaker at a meeting of the Australian Breastfeeding Association here in Adelaide, where I was asked to talk on the topic of ‘self care for Mums’.

Now it’s true that phrases such as ‘self care’, ‘put yourself first’ and ‘find time for me time’ can often feel like massively cliched buzzwords in today’s motherhood environment. They’re a dime a dozen and I bet they’re sprawled all over the sponsored ads clogging up your news feed on a daily basis. It seems everywhere we turn Mums are being told to take better care of themselves, meditate more and eat more kale. Hey, I’m one of those people saying those things!

And while most people would agree that taking care of your own wellbeing is an exceptionally important task, both for your own sake, and that of your family, there is also another consideration to this ‘make me-time a priority’ message, as one of the women in my presentation yesterday pointed out.

Her comment was that this drive for mothers to prioritise self care can often feel like another big unachievable task on that never-ending ‘to-do’ list. Something that women already know they should be doing, and desperately want to do, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t happen.

What she was questioning was this: why is it just the responsibility of the mother to look after her own wellbeing? Where’s her support squad? Shouldn’t we expect our husbands, partners, parents, friends, aunties, grandmothers, or whoever else we have in our lives, to also step up to the plate. To be there to help us look after ourselves, just as we support everyone around us to look after themselves.

It’s a valid point.

 

Certainly we shouldn’t expect other people to look after us and cater to all of our needs. It’s not the 1950s after all.

But surely we deserve a little bit of consideration? Especially in those early months (or even years) of motherhood. It’s okay to want our village to step up. But here’s the thing. What we might actually need to do first is invite that village in.  To reach out and seek support, to let our tribe know that we’re really focused on supporting our own wellbeing and that we’d love any help they could offer up. They’re not mind readers after all.

I know asking for support is not always on our list of top five favourite things to do. It can leave us feeling open, vulnerable and perhaps even weak. But it can also open us up to truly receiving love and compassion from those around us, and to feel sincere gratitude for those people in our own little village when they step up.

Which brings us back to the question of “are we wholly responsible for our own wellbeing”? Well I guess the answer is yes – because our own wellbeing is too important for us not take the reins. It is ultimately up to us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sub-contract the task out to those we know and trust as well. We just need to have faith that those we ask will respond. But it starts with asking. And that’s on us.

What about you? Do you have people around you who support your wellbeing? How do they do it? How would you like them to help?

Let me know in the comments, pop a note below this post on facebook, or even email me at sarah@bloomwellbeing.com.au

Until next time.

Sarah xx

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Great expectations!

So 2014 is nearly here. How are you feeling about the New Year? Hopeful? Excited? Uncertain?

Me? I’m feeling expectant. As in, I’m expecting a lot of 2014. I’m expecting great health, wonderful relationships, fabulous career progression and successful achievement of my goals.

I’ve been working hard in 2013. I’ve done LOTS of research into health. I’ve done LOTS of experimenting around my (and my family’s) health and nutrition. I’ve put LOTS of new healthy habits into practice and I’ve rid myself of LOTS of old not-so healthy habits.

So 2013 was a big year. I did a lot of learning. And you know what – I feel good. I feel healthier. I feel like I understand and respect my body more. I feel like I’m finally on the right track with my health and wellbeing. I feel like I’m seriously moving towards the person I want to be. The role model I want to be for my two amazing daughters. And I can’t wait to get there.

So, yes, I’m expecting great things from 2014.  I’m not wishing or hoping – I’m EXPECTING them to happen. I’m not saying this to sound cocky, and I’m not suggesting that great things should happen to me just because I want them. What I’m saying is – I’ve put in the hard yards.  I’ve laid all the groundwork in 2013. And in 2014, it’s time to reap what I’ve sown.

How about you? What groundwork did you do in 2013 – what amazing things are you expecting in 2014?