By Tanu Shree Singh
When the boys were younger, they would sometimes come whining to me just before bedtime since a conflict needed to be resolved. I would hear them out and with a very straight face tell them, “Sorry. My duty hours are over. So unless it is a dire emergency, you will have to put in your application tomorrow.” They would be utterly confused and mumble their way out of the room. And I would have my five minutes of peace. It started out as a joke, but it worked. I needed some quiet time desperately.
As mums, our day starts with the kids and ends with worrying about them. We lose ourselves. The frown forms creases on our forehead and we are constantly judging ourselves. And before we know it, decades have passed. We, the mothers rarely put ourselves first. We are systematically taught to put everyone before ourselves. We are conditioned to take care of everyone but ourselves. And soon enough cracks begin to show. In current times, when the pressures everywhere are high, we need to take control of our lives and sometimes put ourselves first. Between playdates, exams, projects and general mothering, what does one do?
A few years back, a masseuse pointed out that my neck muscles were very tight. No matter how hard I tried to relax, it didn’t work. That was my first introduction to stress that I failed to recognise. We end up like that neck muscle, too used to being wound up. The first step towards doing away with stress is to recognise it, understand the situations that wind us up, and observe our own reactions.
Most of the times we keep dealing with things one day at a time. If the kids throw a tantrum, we fire-fight. We rarely plan. My problems started with the younger one dilly-dallying in the mornings. We would invariably end up being at loggerheads and he would end up missing the bus. A bad start to the day dampens everything. So rather than falling for a repeat cycle every day, I tried different things. Some days waking up early helped and at others incentive charts made things easier. The idea is to identify triggers and address them.
Go out with friends
Most people give me puzzled looks when I suggest that time out with friends is therapeutic and should be treated as sacred. Now even research says that women who go out with friends are healthier, happier. It doesn’t have to be a well-planned pub outing. A cup of coffee, a shopping trip, an all girls holiday — whatever works. Everything counts. Make it a point to steal a few moments for your friends.
Pick a hobby
This sounds cliched but it is one of the most effective stress-busters. If reading is your thing, pick a book, even if you take two years to finish it. Whatever it is, take time out. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular. I enjoy setting up libraries, reading to kids, making odd crafty things, baking, and of course reading and writing. At any given time, something from that list figures in my day. Make your list. And get going.
Learn sometime new
I have this friend who keeps organising workshops. I recently joined her for a three-hour soap-making session. She is basically always on the lookout for experts. Then she just calls them in along with her bunch of friends, and all of them learn something new. For the record, the soaps at my home and homestay in the mountains are all handmade. And I also figured out stress-bursting essential oils. Viola!
Keep a gratitude journal
I am a huge fan of gratitude journals! It is not just me; research too points out that it is one of the most self-healing exercises one can indulge in. Every night, before bed, just jot down three good things that happened to you. It could be as simple a solitary cup of peaceful tea. Just make that list. The idea is to focus on and seek out the positive.
Sublet parenting for some time!
It is okay to ask for help. We, as mums, look at help as a personal failure when it is not. It does take a village to raise a child! Enlist help from a friend or grandparent and spend some time with yourself. Even if it is a pointless day that you want to spend cuddled up in bed, do it! And no, do not panic. Your child is in good hands.
Recently, a couple of friends and I packed off the men and kids on a day trip to wherever since we, the women, wanted some pointless time to ourselves. We polished off a pitcher of sangria, gazed at nothing and generally chatted. Those two hours were blissful and they reenergised us. It is good to know that you are not alone, that there are fellow moms who are equally stressed. It is even better to find stolen moments together and unwind. We, the mums, need to go easy on ourselves. We need to recognise the need to have fun and take care of ourselves. You and I need to remember that we are wonderful moms and we need a break too.
(The writer has a PhD in Positive Psychology and is a lecturer in psychology. She is also the author of the book Keep Calm and Mommy On. Listen to Season 1 and 2 of Tanu Shree Singh’s podcast Difficult Conversations With Your Kids.)
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