A few years ago I had to pull over into the slow lane. An autoimmune disorder that had been in remission for years reared its ugly head. At first this was an enormous shock – what the…? I don’t get sick (just as well, because mothers don’t get sick leave. Do they?); I am a person with boundless energy (like most mothers, I had learnt that sleep is for the weak – and without a baby to disturb my Zzzs, sleeping little usually means doing more) ; I was taking care of myself (if that’s what you call rushing to yoga class between deadlines, meetings, school runs and shopping for organic veges).
At first, I rested, telling myself that work could wait a few days or perhaps a week or two. Then, in frustration, I tried to ‘push through’ but my body wouldn’t oblige. So I ‘gave in’ and rested. That is, until my rested body felt a little better, then I felt so excited to be ‘normal’ that I raced about for a day or two joyously catching up, only to crash again.
Slowly, I learned to pace myself and to really listen to my body. I began to take better care of myself: to see a regular massage as a necessity, not a special indulgence for ‘when I have time’ ; to say ‘no’ to the many people who request chunks of my time – from family members to complete strangers. It isn’t that anyone is making unrealistic demands on me, but without setting boundaries, each small request adds up to too many rocks to carry in one basket; and, most important of all, I learned to be at ease with ‘being’ without feeling I had to be busy.
This ‘wake up call’ gave me renewed insight and empathy as new mothers confide in me how difficult it is to slow to the pace of life with a tiny baby. Except for my first two children, I had spaces of several years between babies and each new baby presented a similar challenge for me. Like many women, I naturally feel restless when I veer from the fast lane. In our non- mother lives, we are encouraged to ‘be the best you can be,’ to ‘soldier on’ as we are promised we can ‘have it all.’ Is it any wonder then, that the gentle daily rhythm of life with babies and small children feels unproductive? Or that we find ourselves frustrated because we can’t complete the list of ‘to dos’ that rattle round in our heads because our days are ruled by unpredictable baby needs, a toddler who can’t be rushed or our own fluctuating energy levels?
Surrender can seem like a dirty word to mothers but really, it doesn’t mean giving in or giving up. Rather, surrender is about accepting ‘this is how things are right now.’ It is about living in the present and enjoying the little things (including the one in your arms most of the day!). It is ok to cling to the mummy mantra for when the going gets tough – ‘this too shall pass’ – but please don’t wish away precious moments. Surrender really can be sweet when you give yourself permission to smell the dandelions and bask in the sunshine or take an afternoon snooze. The world won’t stop because you have chosen to step out of the rat race and as you wonder, ‘what have I done with my day?’ remind yourself of the important work you are doing -. taking care of yourself, so you can take care of the most precious person in the world – your child.