Today I want to talk to you about the finding time to fill your own cup.
My husband always tells me nobody understands what I mean when I say that… Well, it comes from the saying: ‘you can’t fill from an empty cup’ – and so what I mean by ‘filling your own cup’ is that it is really important for every one of us to make sure we find some time for ourselves, to recharge and re-energize and just to ‘feel’ yourself again.
I think for some people that is hard enough to do when it is just them – but when you become a parent I think it is so much harder, because suddenly you have these little people that need you. Children's needs are urgent, unpredictable and seemingly constant. But I wanted to spend my time feeling happy and fulfilled rather than be exhausted and frustrated all the time. The thing that was hard for me was that even if I managed to plan in some time for myself, invariably there were always things that would get in the way of that time actually materialising.
I remember sitting on my sofa when my first born was only a few weeks old and realising that more than ever before I would have to find a way to balance his needs with my own. It seems obvious, doesn't it? And relatively straightforward.
But somehow it isn't. At least not always. Especially when your children are small, when you are sleep deprived, and feel like your children's needs are all-encompassing and never ending. Those days when you feel like you can't even have 5 minutes to take a shower in peace and having a hot cup of tea or coffee is a distant memory!
I wanted to be able to know that I can meet my children’s AND my needs in a way that fosters healthy attachment, but also allows me to set boundaries and still be 'me'. I wanted to be a 'present' mum, a grounded, happy person who has found that ominous, perfect 'balance'.
Life always seemed extraordinary busy and the ability to just take 5 minutes out seemed impossible and meant that often, I was at breaking point. That 'perfect' balance always just out of reach, with the latest work deadline looming, one of the children needing attention, or one of many chores to sort out... and somehow there never seemed any time to meet my own needs, as an individual.
Since that day on my sofa, all those years ago, I have been on my own journey of figuring out how to find a good balance for me and my family.
I started a successful corporate career, but eventually left that world, when I realised being successful here was a mis-match with my desire to work flexibly around my children.
I then had a stint at being a full-time stay-at-home mum - and although that was by far the most satisfying (but also the hardest) job I have ever had the honour of doing, I realised I was somehow still missing a part of 'me'.
The struggle as a parent, whether stay-at-home or working, was always the same - it was how to figure out a way of balancing the needs of my children with my needs on a day to day basis. With simple, sustainable ways that leave everyone happy and re-charged.
As any parent will testify, children's needs often can't be 'scheduled' around your own, especially when they are little. And that means even though you are trying to squeeze in some much needed 'me time' it often doesn't happen, and that can be really, really hard.
The more I talked to other mums and dads, the more I realised that this was something that most of us were struggling with. The one thing that kept coming up over and over again was the importance of connection and play.
I wanted a tangible, sustainable and fun solution that would add value to families just like ours.
Something that would help parents find their own happy place, so that they could then focus on raising happy, resilient little people that are secure in themselves.
Something that you can set up and clear away quickly and with minimal fuss
Something that engages the child's sense of creative play and
that allows the parent to sit and have 5 minutes peace to themselves when they need to re-charge the most.
This is when the idea for the PlayTableCloth slowly started to take shape and I have spent the last couple of years building my business around this and similar products – that inspire creative play in children while allowing parents to have 5 minutes peace to themselves. Working with designers, producers and finally distribution. It is my way of getting 5 minutes peace when you really need it - and encourage creative play at the same time.
But obviously there are lots of ways to try and find that balance for yourself and build in little ways that you can fill your cup.
I now have a range of things that I know fill my cup and I wanted to share some with you here. You will notice that these are nothing out of the ordinary – in fact, they are really quite straightforward and simple ideas. But I have found as a parent, that the simple things often work best and that being reminded of these things is what actually helps me to do them for myself! ;-)
The Snoozing Giant
When my kids were really little, I used to get on the floor with them and play trains or dolls and then I would turn into a ‘snoozing giant’ – and have a quick 5 or 10 minute power nap with them playing around me. I would only doze rather than sleep – and I could still hear them around me. And when I didn’t I’d be wide awake and find out what they are up to…! Have any of you ever done that before??
A relaxing bath (but when the kids are in bed…)
I do my best to have a relaxing bath every now and again and I go all out with delicious smelling bath salts or oils, candles and a book. I often have to wait for everyone to be asleep before I do this, though, as otherwise I have children either knocking on the door, or wanting to join me – a bit like that wonderful children’s book ‘5 minutes peace’ ;-)
A walk around the block
The other day, when my husband was at home, I went for an early evening walk around the block and it was wonderful! It was a warm summer’s night and I took my book and sat on the local green, just reading, feeling the summer breeze on my face and people watching – it was awesome
I also made these wonderful lavender pillows – and dolls for the kids – so that they all sleep a little bit better, despite the light, warm evenings. We all went to a lavender farm together to see the lavender growing and then bought our own lavender to fill these lovely little pouches with. It was a great activity and it feels like a real luxury to have lavender pillows to have at bedtime.
Cook something nice
Once a week my husband and I try to have a nice meal together. Sometimes one of us cooks something fancy, other times it might be a takeout, and other times again, it’s just some comfort food, a glass of wine and a movie.
Do some exercise first thing
I love swimming and doing sport, and I know exercise does my body and mind a huge amount of favours, so I try to go for a swim or gym session a couple of times a week. Often (when my husband is working from home) this is before everyone wakes up – I love the feeling of having done something just for me, and walking back into the house with a coffee in hand when everyone is only just getting up.
How do you ‘fill your cup’? How do you make sure you juggle that with your children’s and partner’s needs? How do you figure out the right balance for you and your family and where are you in your parenting/ figuring-out-life journey? Have you just had a baby, or are your children older?
I’d love to hear from you!
Give me a tiny taste of where you are on your parenting journey - where you started and where you are now. The good, the bad and the ugly. :-)
That’s all from me this week. Next week we’ll talk a bit more about things to do over the summer holidays.
I hope you have a great rest of your week.
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