Category Archives: Motherhood

Self-care soul warnings

I woke up one morning 2 weeks ago, having had another of my recurring dreams.

The recurring dreams I have aren’t exactly the same, but they have a recurring theme.  Each time I have one of these dreams, I am observing lions, tigers, or big cats of some sort, in an enclosure, sometimes at a zoo and other times in some other random setting.  The thing that is unusual about this is that in every dream, I eventually discover that the enclosure is not secure – either a gate has been left unlocked, or the fence is broken, or sometimes it’s even just a matter of me suddenly realising that this ain’t no regular big cat enclosure – wire farm fencing or flywire is hardly going to protect me if they decide they want to come and play.

I’ve pondered on the meaning of these recurring dreams over the years.  Of course there are many different interpretation guidelines and methods I could follow, but I prefer to take the intuitive route.  I’ve always felt into my dreams, to contemplate what emotions they evoke, and how they make me feel, and what the themes and specifics symbolise for me personally.

My hunch has always been that these dreams are a warning signal for me.  A soul warning that whilst on the surface things may seem to be hunky-dory, I’m actually in dangerous territory.  It feels as though I’m not paying adequate attention to a situation that seems to be under control right now, but that won’t take much to turn into full blown and life-threatening catastrophe.

I’ve wondered what specifically these dreams are pointing to.  What is it that I’m not being careful enough with?  The past 3 years in particular have seen me dedicate to working on improving my life by practicing self-care from a spiritual and energetic perspective, and I feel incredibly grateful that I’ve found and followed this path.  If I hadn’t made the changes I’ve made, I believe I’d be in a state of worsening depression and overall mental health, and declining physical health.  So I felt that even though I couldn’t pinpoint the specifics of where I was in danger, I felt as though I was taking proactive action from a broad perspective.

So, when this dream cropped up again the other week, it caught me off guard.  Haven’t I come so far?  Aren’t I doing all the right things?

Pondering this again has prompted me to get a lot more real with myself this past week.  I’m doing a lot of stuff “right”.  I generally eat very well, I exercise, I meditate, I do yoga, I manage my energy, and more recently I’ve begun incorporating my new love – essential oils – into my life for their therapeutic benefits.  But the truth is, in so many ways, I’m ignoring a number of aspects of my self-care that are having a negative impact on my health.  I’ve made no secret over the years of the fact that I struggle with disciplining myself to get adequate sleep.  There are days when I eat an entire block of chocolate within the space of 15 minutes, kidding myself that because its 95% cocoa it’s “healthy” and therefore ok.  And since beginning my business, I’ve really succumbed to the compulsion to be “on” all the time – checking and responding to emails and messages into the night and first thing when I rise.  Then there’s also the “I don’t have time” excuse creeping in here and there: my daily morning walks have become “sometimes”, and there have been a few too many instances where I’ve let my meditation practice slide.

The truth is, whilst deep down I know these actions aren’t helpful, I do them mindlessly.  I slip into habits that are supported by cultural and societal norms.  I allow my conscientiousness and work ethic to dictate over and above my inner knowing.  I zone out and let my actions happen, rather than acting with intention.  I let my ego take the driver’s seat, bowing to her justifications for emotional eating and behaviours that set my nervous system on edge.

And when my inner truth, the voice of my soul, gently whispers to me that I know full well that these behaviours aren’t helpful or sustainable or aligned, I pretend that I can’t hear her, or that I don’t know how to do things differently, feigning helplessness.

This recent dream has prompted me to sit a little more still with these gentle whisperings.  When I do so, it’s quite laughable how hypocritical I have been, always singing the praises of self-care, energy work and alignment, and yet completely disregarding the truth of my actions.

I started this business for so many wonderful reasons, many of which centre around how it gives me the freedom and autonomy to work the way I want to work – in a way that is sustainable and flexible for me and my family.  I work this business educating others about the importance of improving our health and wellbeing using simple and natural self-care solutions, and yet here I am sabotaging all the efforts I do make.  The leaders within my team promote self-care and sustainable work habits as essential to our success.  And yet, my ego does its best to convince me that I can get away with these dirty little secrets by making up for them with the good stuff that I do actually do.

But that’s not how it works.

As I sit with these truths, I can acknowledge that when I’m not getting the sleep I need, my mind isn’t as sharp, it takes me longer to complete just about everything, and I don’t look my best.  Added to that the longer term health implications of inadequate sleep in general, coupled with the hormonal imbalances and disease I am challenged with.  When I wire my nervous system with screen time into the evening and night, my sleep is affected.  When I drown my sorrows in a block of (oh-so-delicious) chocolate, the pleasure only lasts as long as the mouthful takes to swallow, and I’m left with the sugar crash that inevitably follows.  When I skip a few too many morning walks, my body gradually becomes stiffer and I feel less and less grounded.  The cumulative effects of all of these actions include sluggish digestion, mental fogginess, skin breakouts, susceptibility to illness, long term health decline, inability to practice mindfulness, mood swings, difficulty articulating myself clearly …  this list is nowhere near exhaustive.

We all know, deep down, what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

So if we know this, why do we sabotage ourselves?  I think there are a few key reasons.

Firstly, we are seduced by the notion that ignorance is bliss, that if we just squish that little niggling, knowing voice down far enough, we can hide out in the luxury of shunning responsibility for our lives.  This happens so easily and comfortably that we’re virtually unconscious of it.

The ignorant path may seem the easier option in the moment, but when we live our lives day in and day out with the consequences of our actions, the “easy” option doesn’t seem so easy to live with.  We’re forced to live with the pain of our karma.

The truth is, we essentially know what we need to change about our behaviour.  Acknowledgement is the first step.  Then it’s a matter of taking responsibility to create the kind of life that we want to live, a life that makes us feel good.  So, why don’t we do this?

This brings me to the second key reason we sabotage ourselves.  As I’ve sat with this topic since having my most recent dream, the answer has become clearer with each passing day.  I believe it comes down to our egoic yearning for approval.  Let me explain.

So often, when chatting with friends and fellow mums in particular, I find that we’re all having an almost universal experience in our daily lives: the feelings of being perpetually busy, over-extended, drained, overwhelmed, stressed, unable to get ahead, and constantly tired or even exhausted.  And what is also almost universally similar is that so many of us feel powerless to change by implementing self-care habits that will turn this situation around.  We know we should exercise more, we know meditation could help, we know we need more down time, we know we need to review our diet, we know we should get more sleep … BUT, these things require effort and energy and time.  So, we repeat the mantra of our societal era: I DON’T HAVE TIME.

The very idea of practicing self-care feels like adding more to our already overloaded list.  So what do we do?  Nothing.  We lament the so-called fact that we just don’t have the time or space to implement these changes.

We don’t prioritise ourselves.

The truth is, we could swap out these changes for other stuff that we are doing, but we don’t make them a priority, so they fall to the bottom of the list where to-do’s that are never-gonna-happen live.

I believe there is an insidious little cultural norm that drives this pattern.  We do what appears “right” from an external perspective.  We are terrified that if we actually prioritised our health and wellbeing before anything else, that we would be judged and condemned as selfish, uncaring parents, heartless citizens, and just plain bad human beings.  We think that everyone believes that self-care is a luxury for the self-centred.

We know deep down that if we took prime care of ourselves, we would have more health, energy, and vigour to gift to our families and the world.  We would get more done in less time.  We would succumb to illness less often.  We would have the energy and motivation to give our everything to the causes that most touch our hearts.  But our ego slyly pipes up with that devastating question that shuts down our sensibility: What will everyone think of me?

What will my children think?
What will my spouse think?
What will my family think?
What will the school mums think?
What will the neighbours think?
What will my employer think?
What will my work colleagues think?
What will the world think?

And as quickly as that, we place everyone else’s opinion of us before our own knowing.

The point I’m trying to make here is not to make you feel bad about yourself.  Rather, I’m observing that we all slip into habits of thinking and behaviour that society deems normal or required in modern life, and we allow these habits to derail us.  The team I am a part of in my business fully promotes and supports sustainable self-care, lifestyle and work habits to support our wellbeing, and yet it has been SO EASY for me to disregard these and slip into habits that leave me depleted, all the while telling myself that I’m practicing adequate self-care.

Looking after ourselves isn’t rocket science.  But I’m discovering that it takes courage.

Are you triggered by this idea?  Do you feel helpless and trapped in your current circumstances?

I challenge you to sit with this notion that your wellbeing is completely within your control, and that you know what to do, right now, and that you actually can do it.  I’m not downplaying the challenges that so many of us face in our everyday lives, but I truly believe that you can create true wellbeing for yourself.  I truly believe that if you are privileged enough to be reading this right now, you have the power within you to shape your experience of life.

It’s time to take stock of our lives, and notice the areas where we are vulnerable: where are we ignorant of the fact that the lion enclosure isn’t protecting us?  I for one am spending this time in the lead up to Christmas and the new year getting real with myself about where I’m shirking my self-care responsibility and succumbing to the herd mentality that it’s all too hard to create a life of health, wellbeing, and success that incorporates caring for myself as well as others.  I’m building the courage, step by step, moment by moment, to take a stand for prioritising my self-care.  I invite you to join me in creating a 2018 where we dare to buck the trend, and place our self-care at the top of our lists.  Let’s not leave it to fate to determine whether we find ourselves suddenly face to face with a metaphorical lion, all because of our fear of judgement.  Let’s be brave together.

 


You may also find this post relevant to this topic.

Also see the previous post for ideas on how to get started with cultivating calm.


Relevant resources that I stumbled upon in the lead up to writing this post:

The Kate & Mike Show podcast: Karen Brody, Daring to Rest: https://katenorthrup.com/podcast/episode-64-karen-brody-daring-rest/

The Quote of the Day Show podcast: Work Doesn’t Work Without Play, with Shonda Rhimes: http://seancroxton.com/quote-of-the-day/289/


Main image credit: Lions by Christopher Michel via Flickr.  Used under licence.


Hmmm … seems I have a bit of a thing for lion images 😉

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Life Lessons from the Lobster

Today, the 10th of January, I finally feel as though the year has officially kicked off, with incredibly spectacular style and energy. I attribute this feeling to the events I attended over the past couple of days, and the first new moon of the year. That’s not to suggest that my new years eve or new years day weren’t great – they were actually quite wonderful. But today truly feels like a new beginning, like the shedding of an old skin has taken place, and a fresh and tender new phase awaits.


As Friday 8th January approached, my excitement was mounting. I had a ticket to attend the annual School of the Modern Mystic (SoMM) meet-up, which this year was being held in Melbourne – woo hoo! This gathering is an opportunity to meet with the school staff and many of our classmates, most of whom we only know through our online connection via the school’s Facebook page. It’s also a chance to meet our teacher Belinda Davidson, hear her speak, and receive an in-person White Light transmission. My education via the school has created a monumental transformation for me, so an opportunity to meet with my SoMM sisters absolutely thrilled me to the core.

When I woke on Friday morning, I was positively giddy with excitement! I literally danced through the morning, cranked up the music, and sung at the top of my lungs, much to the amusement of my children. When I arrived at the venue, I was still bursting with excitement, and the palpable vibe blasting from the room was intoxicating. As we met our friends there were lots of heartfelt hugs, and a sea of smiles on the faces of a beautiful group of women who were thrilled to be communing. I was so high on the wonderful energy that the smile on my face felt permanent, and all of my laughter burst out of me in loud eruptions. I felt pretty goofy, but I was so happy that I didn’t care a bit.

The event, as expected, was wonderful. Belinda shared herself so generously with us, answered our questions, and re-inspired our commitment to our daily spiritual practices. There was a strong focus on chakras 3 and 6, including a White Light transmission specifically directed at healing and strengthening these key energy centres for us as Modern Mystics.

I was overflowing with love, gratitude, and freaking awesome mojo on Friday evening. It truly felt like one of the best days of my life.

Saturday arrived, and there was more excitement in-store. I also had a ticket for an event being hosted by Belinda and her “fellow sister of the light”, Rebecca Campbell, author of Light is the New Black. The event, “Rise Sister Rise, Step Up & Shine Bright”, was designed to give attendees “the opportunity to step into a high-vibe, transformational space and create the shift towards your soul purpose you’ve been longing for”. Once again, the vibe was epic. It was a room filled with 200+ Lightworkers, heeding the callings of their soul, coming together in a spirit of sisterhood to create magic and light up the world. Absolute pure joy. Belinda and Rebecca each spoke separately, and the day included music, singing, chanting, and crazy-lady dancing! Belinda embodied the energy of presence, calm, and insight. Rebecca was positively regal, powerful, and all heart. Both women were funny, beaming with light, and the ultimate examples of women living their soul purpose.

Belinda’s lecture focused on the critical importance of self esteem, self worth, and putting yourself first to enable you to step up and shine bright – in other words, we must have a healthy chakra 3. In her experience, as Lightworkers and women, chakra 3 issues are our biggest hurdle to overcome. Lack of self esteem, self worth, and inability to prioritise yourself, creates a downward spiral that prevents us from committing to the spiritual practices that will allow us to overcome these very issues. We must find a way to overcome this self sabotage, and if we can commit to working on our chakras every day, these issues will become less and less of a problem as we grow in self worth. To illustrate the critical nature of this concept, Belinda told us, (and I’m paraphrasing):

“I wish I could tell you that my family is the most important thing in my life, but it’s not. The most important thing in my life is the White Light.”

This woman knows and lives the truth that in order to be of service to others, in order to love others, we must first take care of ourselves.

Rebecca’s lecture focussed on rising up and listening to the callings of our soul, following the intuitive whisperings and niggles, the nudges from the Universe, and trusting that they will bring your life into alignment with your soul. She spoke of allowing the feminine energy to attract into your life that which lights you up, as opposed to using the masculine energies of striving, controlling and forcing, to create what you “think” you want. She also spoke of true sisterhood, and how by working our light, we inspire others to do the same, and we light up the world. She also used a brilliant analogy of the lobster. Let me explain.

A lobster, as we know, possesses a hard, protective shell which covers its body. As the lobster grows, it becomes too large for the shell – it no longer fits. At this time, the lobster retreats under a rock, and sheds it’s shell, to reveal a fresh, new, larger shell to fit its larger body. Initially, this new shell is soft and tender, but with time it harders and strengthens, until such time as the lobster again outgrows it and the cycle repeats.

It’s the same for us. Life is a constant cycle of growth, outgrowing our old, safe ways, and needing to shed our protective layer and become vulnerable, allowing us to grow to the next level. This initial vulnerability transforms into our strength, if we allow it. If we resist the shedding of our shell, resist the vulnerability that comes with allowing new growth, we become cramped, stuck, and unable to grow. Our strength becomes our hindrance.


So my biggest take-aways from these two light-filled days are:

  • Coming together in the true spirit of sisterhood with fellow Lightworkers LIGHTS ME UP TO FULL WATTAGE!!! These two days were absolute bliss for me, I felt electrified, I felt alive, I felt at home. I WANT MORE.
  • Devotion to my spiritual practice is essential. My daily non-negotiable spiritual practice is the foundation of a wonderful, light-filled life.
  • The two most important chakras for me to work on at this point in time are chakras 3 (prioritising me) and chakra 6 (improving my intuition and psychic ability to guide me towards discovering my soul purpose).
  • I must be willing to let go of outgrown ways of being, and get vulnerable, in order to grow.
  • I’m doing a damn fine job of mothering my children.

So, that last point may seem a little random. Here’s what that’s about.

Towards the end of the second event, Belinda and Rebecca held a Q&A session. Initially I had no questions, but I did have a slight inkling that an important question was brewing inside me. As the session progressed, so did my inkling, and the question continued to very palpably bubble up within me until it sat in my throat and waited determinedly for me to raise my hand. Finally, I nervously took my opportunity. I’m generally pretty willing to speak in front of a crowd, but it doesn’t necessarily happen without nerves or fear – I usually do it anyway. My question felt difficult to ask, as it brought up feelings of guilt and shame, but I knew that I needed to ask it if I was to move forward. Time to get vulnerable.

My recollection of exactly what happened next is somewhat hazy thanks to my emotional state at the time, but I’ll do my best to retell the story.

I wanted advice on how I could move forward on my journey, given my ongoing struggles with motherhood. I did my best to explain that I am a devoted student of Belinda’s teachings, I am committed in my daily non-negotiable spiritual practice, and that the work I’ve done on my chakras is reaping rewards. My struggle is with the responsibilities of motherhood, the ways in which it feels as though motherhood is my biggest hindrance in following what lights me up. That despite my gratitude for the immense joy that my children bring to my life, I concurrently feel pain and resentment for the time and energy they demand of me. That despite my efforts to practice mindfulness in the day to day throes of motherhood, I find myself feeling guilty that I can only wish that motherhood lit me up, but the truth is that it doesn’t, and pretending won’t make it so. That I want to follow what lights me up, but so often it seems that it’s my mothering that gets in my way. I was shaking, and my eyes were filled with tears.

Belinda’s response was heartfelt, kind, supportive and uplifting. She reflected back to me the pain this situation creates in my heart. She reminded me that a crucial piece of this puzzle is continuing to strengthen my chakra 3. But most significantly, she demonstrated the true meaning of sisterhood, and prompted all the women surrounding me in that room to applaud my efforts and acknowledge the damn good job I’m doing as a mother. My tears flowed, and I felt so acknowledged, so heard, so loved. Belinda went on to say that in standing up and being acknowledged, a healing had taken place. Throughout what remained of the afternoon, so many women offered me hugs, words of support and encouragement, and gratitude for speaking the words that they too held in their hearts.

I’m not sure that I grasped the complete message in Belinda’s words, as my intuition tells me that this isn’t the end of my struggle (the ego is stubborn), but a shift has definitely occurred. Sharing my struggle was a relief, and forged a deeper connection with the women, especially the mothers, in that room.

As I gave Belinda a farewell hug before departing, she asked me if I felt better after what had transpired. I hesitated and admitted that I was still feeling a little emotional and shaky, but that yes, it had helped, and thank you. She told me that standing up and speaking my truth was an act of bravery, and that in doing so, I’d helped all the other mothers in the room who felt the same way.


So now, with the energy of the past 2 days still coursing through me, I feel that my 2016 has begun. Renewed focus, inspiration, and intention. As the first new moon of the year rises, I set my intention to shed my protective shell, and follow what lights me up. Hence, I’m here, writing for me, writing for you. In shedding my shell, I release that which no longer serves me – the feelings of pain, guilt, shame, and loneliness that I’ve felt around my struggles with motherhood. They don’t serve my children. They don’t serve me.

May your 2016 be light filled, and in the words of Belinda and Rebecca, may you rise sister rise, step up and shine bright.

xx


Image by Vic DeLeon, used under licence.

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Thank goodness for yoga

I had an epiphany during yoga practice on Tuesday night. I’ve been silently chastising myself for the fact that I’m struggling with my vinyasa practice lately. I’ve been telling myself that I’m not getting to enough classes, not consistent enough in my practice, I’m doing too many restorative classes (as if there is such a thing as too much!) instead of vinyasa classes, and my strength and stamina have deteriorated as a result, which is bad. I’ve been mentally beating myself up, for undoing all the good that I’d achieved with my practice in the first half of 2014. I had come so far, and I feel like I’m back at the beginning. I’m letting myself down, being slack, not being disciplined enough. My ego has been running rampant, telling me stories of how my teachers have no doubt noticed the deterioration in my practice, that they wouldn’t think very highly of me, and that it’s a visible sign to others that I haven’t got it all together. I even felt the pang of jealousy when I heard a teacher compliment another student on his beautiful practice. I was the one receiving those comments six months ago.

Then, on Tuesday, it suddenly dawned on me during the middle of practice – it doesn’t matter.

Yoga is not an ideal to be achieved. It is not a spectator sport. It’s not about progression.

Yoga is about the here and now. It is the union of mind and body. I have been missing this point for months.

My new mantra, which has brought me so much peace in the past few weeks, applies to my yoga journey:

Surrender.
I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and my journey gives me everything I need to learn and grow. I trust the entire process. The Universe delivers everything I ask for, and more.

So, it doesn’t matter. The deterioration of my strength and stamina is simply part of my journey, part of the process. I don’t need to berate myself for it. It isn’t bad, it just is what it is.

Of course, I’d like to improve my practice and regain my lost yoga fitness, even surpass it. But instead of striving for progression, adding love to this equation means that the outcome is irrelevant. Even if I never progress my practice from where it is today, it will continue to serve me well. I am nourished by my yoga, it teaches me stillness and presence. For that, I am grateful.


BRINGING MY YOGA PRACTICE INTO MY DAILY LIFE

I mentally beat myself up for all kinds of things on a daily basis. I’ve learnt that this habit is destructive and useless, but it is so ingrained that it has been a tough one to break.

For the purposes of shedding light on this struggle, I wrote a list of everything I could think of for which I berate myself. When I got to #37 without the end anywhere in sight, I decided I’d better not continue down that dark and depressing hole. It was obvious that, as countless people have told me over and over again for many years, I am very hard on myself. The vitriol that I brutally douse myself with repeatedly throughout every single day, is so toxic, cruel and ruthless that I would never even contemplate inflicting it on any other living creature. And yet, for me, it is the every day, every hour, every minute norm. I suspect that I am not the only one with this horrendous habit.

Why we think it is ok to treat ourselves in a manner that we would never treat another living creature is beyond me. Perhaps it’s a psychological issue that someone knowledgeable could explain, but I’m at a point where I don’t care about reasons any more. I just care about solutions.

In the wider scheme of the Universe, the things that I berate myself for are not inherently bad, just as they are not good. They are what they are. The “badness” is something I attribute to the thing in my mind. The goals I’ve failed to achieve, the ideals I fail to live up to, the skills I am deficient in, the struggles I face, the mistakes I make, the dreams I haven’t made manifest … they’re all essentially meaningless. None of it matters. And yet, I am so emotionally attached to every single one of them, it’s hard to believe that they don’t matter.

Let me stop talking figuratively, and give you a specific example to illustrate exactly what I mean. My biggest “bashing” item on the list at present, is how I feel about my experience of motherhood. Oftentimes, since I gave birth to my second baby, I’ve hated motherhood. I LOVE my precious babies, but I hate motherhood, because it is so damn hard, frustrating, monotonous, relentless, overwhelming, all consuming, and heart breaking. I feel as though I hadn’t fully established who I was pre-kids, let alone now that I feel so lost in motherhood. Of course, there are days scattered amongst the endless months where motherhood feels peachy. I also realise that “hate” is a very strong word to use about this period of my life, especially when I also associate this time with the miracle and beauty of my children and the intense love that I have for them. Let’s put it down to hormones (can I still blame them 3 years post-partum??), a tendency to dramatics, and laziness with accurately describing my feelings, but hate is just the word that slips out of my mouth.

So, I mentally flog myself for feeling these feelings. I know I am privileged to experience motherhood. I know I chose this path. I am so grateful to have been given the role of mothering these two precious souls. I know. I even know that my attitude about this, quite frankly, sucks. But, as so many before me have said, although I was told it was hard, I never anticipated the pain that motherhood would bring. I tell myself I am a bad person for feeling this way, for not loving and cherishing motherhood. I tell myself that these feelings must be damaging my children. I feel so much guilt, I feel shame, I feel unworthy as a mother for not yet having found a way to make motherhood feel great. I’ve made my feelings bad, and I’m convinced of their “badness”.

So, how can I bring my yoga practice to this part of my life?

Just as yoga is not an ideal to be achieved, neither is motherhood. There is no perfect way that motherhood is meant to be experienced that I should be striving to live up to. It simply is what it is. It’s a word used to describe an experience that I currently find myself engulfed in, that doesn’t need to be experienced in a prescribed way. It doesn’t matter if I like it or hate it. That doesn’t make me a good or bad mother. It doesn’t diminish the love I have for my children. Motherhood is not who I am. It’s a word to describe something I’m experiencing.

My yoga practice brings me to the present. It puts me in the here and now. If I do that in my motherhood experience, I can be present with my kids. I can put the frustrations and the overwhelm into perspective. I can keep calm amongst the storm.

If I bring yoga to my motherhood, it doesn’t matter if I’m hating it. It’s part of my journey, part of the process. If I continue to hate it, that’s meaningless. If I add self love and acceptance for my feelings of hating motherhood, instead of berating myself, I might actually just hate it a little less, and find the space to love some more, to accept the difficulties, and find more joy in being with my kids. But the outcome is irrelevant, and not what I need to focus on.

So now I’m beginning to understand what my teachers are talking about at the end of class, when they say to take your yoga practice into your life. I think that if there was less “mental bashing”, and more presence and love in my life, miracles really could happen. I can walk my path knowing that I’m simply here, and I love, and that is enough.

xx


*Image credit: Yoga class, by Augusto Mia Battaglia. Under licence.

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Prioritising You – How It’s Done in the Wild

I read a blogpost by Pinky McKay recently that described an analogy for the importance of prioritising self-care as a mother (or parent) that was even more powerful for me than the oxygen mask analogy that I read about so often. It described a wildlife documentary in which a lioness and her cub hadn’t eaten in two days, and the situation was becoming critical. When the lioness finally achieved a kill, she ate the whole lot herself, leaving none for her starving cub. The meal gave her the energy and strength to continue hunting, and she eventually made a larger kill, which she shared with her cub.

The lioness instinctually “knows” the vital importance and priority of self-care in her role as a mother. Her instincts instructed her to feed herself first for a crucial reason: if she had shared or given the food to her cub, she wouldn’t have had the energy or strength to make another kill, and consequently both she and her cub would have perished from starvation. She had to take care of her own needs first, to ensure the survival of her cub.

This story cuts deep. Since becoming a mum, it’s felt as though my every need comes second (or third, or fourth) to those of my kids. In the early weeks and months, they were so utterly dependent for everything, and the patterns were quickly formed: meet the incessant needs of my baby, and then if there is any “left over time” when they’re finally sleeping (even if attached to me whilst doing so!), I can quickly slot in meeting my own needs before they wake again and the cycle repeats. This worked for the first few days, when I was  high on a post-birth hormone cocktail mixed with the excitement of my newly birthed baby, but it wasn’t sustainable. Yet, being the stubborn soul that I am, I have persisted with this habit, to some degree, for close to five years. Any wonder I feel exhausted, burnt out, resentful, disengaged, often sick, and I fantasise about running away on a regular basis.

In considering the lioness analogy, despite understanding it on an intellectual level,  my automatic and immediate response is still that I would give that first “small kill” to my kids – it’s my responsibility to care for them first and foremost, after all. After a little more careful consideration, I might contemplate the idea of sharing it with them. It’s not until I stop to consider the longer term consequences, that I feel a slight guilt-inducing tug towards making the choice to “feed myself” first. Do I really want us all to eventually “starve”? Of course not! Getting real about it requires me to really think through what this means. Neglecting my needs is causing me exhaustion, burnout, resentfulness, disengagement, illness, and fantasising about abandonment, whilst the kids immediate needs are being met. Long term, this will lead to (and is already heading towards) more serious illness, disconnection and broken relationships, and an inability to parent my children well and guide them towards living happy and healthy lives. This is clearly NOT what I want for myself or my family. At this point in the analysis, the appropriate action is glaringly obvious – meeting my needs MUST be prioritised when caring for my family.

I see this pattern in so many mums I know. Why is it that this notion of unsustainable self-sacrifice is so ingrained in so many of us as mothers? I think that’s perhaps another rabbit hole to be explored elsewhere, but one thing is crystal clear: at the end of the day, it serves no one.

I’ll keep the lioness in my mind as I go about life this week, making my daily choices in caring for myself and my family. Following from my last post, I’m pleased to report that I’m on track with my daily  meditation and adequate sleep. I haven’t been perfect – life knows how to bring up great excuses to avoid your commitments – but I’ve been mindful, and making better choices more often than not. I’ll remember the lioness as I continue.

How about you – how do you feel about the lioness and her choices? Do you prioritise yourself, or are you in denial of the critical priority of self-care? Why do you think that is? What is one small action you can take towards prioritising self-care? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Image credit: Female lion on the prowl, by John Rawlinson.  Used under license.

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