As mothers, we are constantly given advice about raising our offspring – especially when our children are young. There are two pieces of advice that resonated with me in those exhausting years of tiny children and I have carried them with me.
1. Some days are dogs; some days are diamonds. Run with the dog days to get to the diamonds
I vividly remember I had just dropped my then 4-year-old to preschool. My 2-year-old son, my 2-week-old baby and I stumbled to the café next door to preschool, affectionately known as the Buzz Light Year café. One of the other mums was there – she had children who were 11, 9 and 4 and I couldn’t even comprehend having children that big. She saw my black eyes and sheer exhaustion and could clearly tell I had been awake at least 6 times (2 breastfeeding) that night. She passed this message on – ‘Just remember, some days are dogs and some days are diamonds. Run with the dogs to get to the diamonds.’ While I have forgotten her name, I have never forgotten her wise words and they still resonate with my days today.
2. Fill up the mummy cup of love
When my children were 5, 3 and 1, we moved to America. To say it was a big deal is an understatement. It was an adventure, but with three tiny children exhaustion became my middle name.
Before we moved, I read somewhere about filling the mummy cup of love. I think it was written by Australia’s well-known early childhood educator and author, Maggie Dent, but I can’t be sure. Where ever it came from, this wise advice got me through those early days when sheer exhaustion and change had set in.
Here’s the explanation. A mum has a finite cup of love for her children. At some point, it needs to be refilled – just like a good cup of tea. To fill the cup, you need to have time out to regroup and fall in love again with motherhood. It is amazing how quickly that can happen – sometimes just a trip to the supermarket by myself will do the trick. All of a sudden the pile of washing or vegemite-smeared smiley faced child doesn’t look so bad.
I would know when the cup was running low and still do. I would start to loose patience easily and even the little things felt like a huge chore. The feeling of anger would bubble up, rather than simmer and the house started to feel cluttered and untidy. It felt like I was trying to climb a mountain to get the kids ready to go out or settled for an afternoon sleep. I talked to a friend once when I felt like this and she asked if I had hidden in the pantry yet, just to have that 5 minutes of peace. Not yet, but I had certainly locked the bathroom door to go to the toilet or stayed extra long in the laundry when the kids were busy. That’s when I knew it was time to get out.
I had a brilliant babysitter in America. She would come around, sweep the kids up and play, cook, fold the washing, unpack the dishwasher and love the children. So I was happy to sneak out. Sometimes, I would go to Starbucks with my laptop and study for my uni degree, or go for a bike ride by myself, or even though I don’t love shopping, the mall in America was appealing.
Another way I filled the cup of love was to join the local gym. Gyms in America really are their own city and community. There was a kids club attached and every morning, without fail I would be out of the house at 8.30am to get to the gym for the 9am class with my buddies. The kids had friends in the kids club. I would then have a shower or a dip in the spa by myself. Cup again refilled. I got so fit, that I did a 100 km bike race – pretty sure I couldn’t ride 10 km today!
To fill the cup, the possibilities are endless and they probably change as your children grow. Here are some ideas; Date night, pedicure, massage, coffee with a friend, shopping, bike ride, gym, any form of exercise, swim at the beach, read a book in the sun, go to the movies – what ever you do to have some time out.
How have you filled your mummy cup of love this week?