When was the last time you did something that brought you joy?
Something you did just for you, to make you feel good.
As mothers, we go through different seasons. There are seasons when we feel on top of things and actually get out to do new things and connect with people (other than our little ones). And there are seasons when we have to do our best just to keep up. In these seasons, we aren’t doing anything different or special, we’re just getting by, feeling tired and trying to get even just the essentials done.
We all deserve joy in our lives. Even when our lives feel like they’re more about everyone else than ourselves. We just have to choose to see and create opportunities for joy in the season that we’re in.
What brings you joy?
Here are some of the things that bring me joy (in no particular order):
- Quality focused time with my husband
- An uninterrupted steaming hot cup of tea
- Shopping for fun without children (NOT grocery shopping)
- Deep tissue massage (even if it hurts!)
- Going out for a lovely meal with someone I love to chat to
- Reading a good book or magazine
- A day trip in the car
- A walk, hike or run with someone else
- Baking just because I want to
- Spending time with my family or my in-laws (I’m lucky I know)
- Sitting in the sun
- Having a picnic
- Being near the water
- Singing and dancing with my son
- Doing craft
- Travelling and exploring new places
- Spontaneous cuddles from my little boy.
Your list may be totally different to mine. Some of you will feel like running is torture and I personally find long baths supremely boring.
What if you can’t remember what brings you joy?
Is it difficult to think of all the things that bring you joy? Have you forgotten?
Maybe you feel like everything you do revolves around the kids and the house and you haven’t done anything joyful for yourself in a long time.
It can creep up on you. Before you have children, you’re all about doing the things you love.
Then your baby enters the world.
It’s not a conscious thing. You didn’t say to yourself ‘hey look lady, I was great at looking after you until now, but you just aren’t important now. You’re going to be my last priority’.
We’re great at thinking of ways to create joyful moments for our children. Let’s do that for ourselves as well. Even if it doesn’t look the same as it used to.
Here are some questions to help you think of the things that would bring you joy:
- Before you had children, what did you love doing? (try looking through photos or journals to prompt your memories of joyful moments)
- When was the last time you felt really joyful? What was it in that moment that made you joyful? (activity, place, people, conversation?)
- What did you love doing as a child?
- What did you spend your (discretionary) money on before having children?
- What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you? What about that made you so happy?
- What would you choose to do if money were no object and you had loads of time on your hands ?
- What’s so enjoyable that you find yourself living in the moment and forgetting about everything else?
- What are the things you look forward to?
- What are the things you do with your kids that you truly love and could do for ages?
Now, I know that your children bring you joy (at least when they aren’t feeding for the 6th time in an hour, or aren’t splayed out on the floor wailing because you peeled their banana). It’s worth reflecting on whether you sometimes miss out on joyful moments with your kids because you’re distracted by multitasking or something else that causes you to not be fully present with them.
(if you’re interested in how multitasking is not always all it’s cracked up to be check out my article here)
If something brings you and your children joy, it’s worth your time and attention.
How do you create the space for these things?
Let’s face it, you might be able to write down 30 things that bring you joy but some might be logistically challenging or even impossible with children around, and others not a priority financially right now.
I understand. I didn’t get to start running regularly until two years after my son was born and we didn’t go out for dinner for ages because he didn’t like anyone else putting him to bed (plus I was breastfeeding at bedtime). The pile of magazines from the subscriptions I purchased when I was pregnant ended up as a tower in my bedroom, reminding me of how my expectations of motherhood were so naïve. And we haven’t been on a day trip yet because my son really doesn’t enjoy being in the car for so long.
So, what’s the realistic approach to doing the things that bring you joy?
You can pick the smaller things, that take less time and preparation.
For example, an uninterrupted hot cup of tea could happen during nap time (instead of rushing to do chores or work first), first thing in the morning (before everyone else wakes up) or last thing at night.
You can also start small by thinking of the shorter, simpler version of the thing that you want to do.
I have a huge stack of books I want to read (I really should stop ordering them) and have found the only way to get any reading done at all is to readjust my expectations. Instead of waiting until I have 30 mins free to read (ah, never!) I try to read just two pages at a time. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to read more, and other times I only get through a paragraph, but at least I’m progressing.
If you’re longing for a date night with your husband but can’t make that happen right now, then just plan to sit down for 30 mins together with a glass of wine, dessert or a cup of tea, once the kids are in bed.
If you really love to travel but the thought of the cost or long haul flights with little children makes you wince, then perhaps look at a long weekend away within a couple of hours’ drive. We got brave and took our son overseas to Singapore when he was just over a year old. We made the trip more manageable by choosing a destination we were very familiar with and traveling with my parents, who could give us a hand when needed.
There’s usually a small step you can take towards a bigger vision of something you want to make part of your life. Look for the first small step and once you’ve worked out how to incorporate that, the next step will not seem so far away or difficult.
Whatever you choose to do, schedule it and organise any support you need ahead of time. This will drastically increase the likelihood that it will actually happen!
What if you feel guilty?
Mums are well acquainted with guilt (more on that in another post later). Guilt is the feeling that you’ve done something wrong or not done something you should’ve done.
You might feel guilty if you’re creating space to do things just for you. We’re often no longer accustomed to choosing ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s not like riding a bike, we seem to become less effective at it, the longer we go without doing it.
Choosing yourself isn’t wrong, you just need more practice at it.
‘Your joy is worthy of attention and you are worthy of joy’ Molly Mahar
Ok, lovely mum, it’s time for your action plan.
- Make your own list of what brings you joy.
- Choose one thing you can do this week and one for next week.
- Write each of them down, including when you will do them, and what preparation or support you need to make them happen (e.g. someone to look after the children, dinner cooked ahead of time, husband to put the kids to bed, set your alarm to wake you 30 mins before everyone else wakes up, make a booking).
What did you choose to do this week? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org