I think the majority of parents will agree that getting time alone is the hardest thing to achieve when you are surrounded by little ones who depend on you for every little thing. Children don’t understand that Mummy needs a break, or that you are so tired from another night of broken sleep, or work, or just the constant go go go that is the norm when you are a Mum. Even husbands don’t understand how much we are constantly alert and working to help the rest of the family be happy, and keep the household running smoothly. It really is a 24/7 job.
There is so much written about how it’s so important to get time to yourself, how you should have a pedicure and a coffee with a friend once a week without your child, enjoy a quiet walk along the beach on your own, or read a book in peace at home. It’s a lovely idea in theory, but really for most mums if we don’t have the kids with us it’s because we are at work, and that’s not relaxing either (unless you are really lucky!).
So what do we do when it all just becomes too much, when your patience and your temper are at breaking point, and you just don’t feel like you are doing well at parenting anymore?
For some lucky mums there is the option of leaving the kids at home with their Dad on a Saturday morning, or dropping them at Grandma’s for a sleepover. This is great, and should definitely be taken advantage of!
For others, these options aren’t available, and getting a break for alone time is too expensive and just not practical. The FIFO lifestyle is becoming increasingly common on the Sunshine Coast in particular, and a lot of mothers find themselves isolated with too little support and no time to rest and recover.
Whenever I meet someone who has a new baby, after I have cuddled the little one and had a clucky moment, I ask the new mum if they have been set up with a mother’s group. Child health nurses often organise and run groups for new mothers, and I think it is the best thing possible for an exhausted, unsure new mum who doesn’t have a clue what she is doing! It is daunting to start with, and you probably won’t get along with everyone there, but you are likely to make friends for life. It also sets up a support network of people you can check with when your child does something unexpected, and call upon if you need help or an emergency babysitter.
It’s also a good idea to set up a small support network with other trusted mums and friends, and when the kids are old enough drop them off for short playdates. This is great for children to get used to the idea of being somewhere without you for a short time, and also for their social skills. There may be a slightly different set of rules at their friend’s house compared to the ones you have at home, and it’s good for them to learn that every household is different.
If you are not comfortable leaving your child in the care of a friend, organise park playdates and mornings out with other mums. Pack a bag of snacks for all of you and spend the morning at a fenced, safe park where the children can play while you catch up and have some much needed adult conversation.
If no friends are available when you need them, pack the kids into the pram or take their scooters and go for a short walk. Just getting out of the house, getting some fresh air and some light exercise can improve everyone’s mood.