Parenting

“And how are you in yourself?”

“And how are you in yourself?”. I have come to loathe this loaded question. I don’t think anyone asked me this until I became a mum. I don’t dislike it because I am afraid that it will make me break down in floods of tears. I loathe it because whenever it is asked, at the time I am usually just fine! You know; alright, things are all normal just now. My children might be a bit tired, but they’re fine too. We’re all bumbling along as happy as we can be at this moment!

In hindsight I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t be in the firing line!

Then … It happens. “And how are you in yourself?”. This question is usually posed by a health professional. In this instance it was a Health Visitor – one whom I hadn’t met before – and it was actually Harriet’s 12month progress check so I wasn’t really prepared to be questioned about myself. In hindsight I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t be in the firing line! … My right arm was wrapped in a tubular wrist-support bandage (to support a healing fracture) and to really glamour it all up, on the same hand was a very gross blister that had appeared out of nowhere after a tiny patch of eczema had flared up! … Oh, and I suppose we all looked a bit clammy after me cycling us there straight from the nursery pickup. Despite all that though, no one was crying (not even me) and we were all there on time. Go us!

But there it was. The seed was planted. Harriet’s progress check was all fine. She’s a bum-shuffler, who’s also quite happy cruising around – great – and she’s following her little weight chart perfectly – fab. And as a delightful added bonus I even managed to persuade Sidney to let the health visitor weigh him too, so we can move everyone up a carseat size. All is going well.

Did the lines around my eyes look more terrible than all the other mums she’s seen today?

However, someone has now asked me, ‘how I am in myself’, which automatically means that for the next 24 hours I am questioning whether or not I am ok. Do I not look ok? Did I seem like I might cry? Did the lines around my eyes look more terrible than all the other mums she’s seen today?

There is something in that particular phrasing that gets under my skin every time. Someone could just as easily ask, “How are things?”, or, “How are you, mum?” and I would understand that they are asking me if I’m ok. But by using the words you in yourself suggests something deeper. Like I might not be myself, or I might be feeling so overcome with my lot in life that I have something that needs looking into, deeply.

Let’s be honest. There are moments when any parent feels a bit overcome with being so on demand all of the time, but mostly its cool. Once you get used to being so important to miniature versions of yourselves, it can be pretty special at times! But that’s just part of the rollercoaster of having children I think.

This summer our family’s general look is, ‘a bit clammy’

Nevertheless, that turn of phrase is something I genuinely wish people wouldn’t use. It makes people feel like there is something wrong with them, when there isn’t. We’re just navigating the overcrowded-supermarket of everyday like everybody else. Sometimes we don’t have disgusting blisters and clammy children, and sometimes we do. This summer our family’s general look is, ‘a bit clammy’ – but at least that means we’re drinking enough, right?

Finally, I guess a caveat here could be that I am one of those ‘hypersensitive’ people you read personality descriptions about, which is why I react so badly to questions that are unnecessarily probing. However, even if I am a bit on the hypersensitive side, if me and my two children managed to get ourselves somewhere on time – and none of us is crying – we are all in ourselves, just fine.

 

Mindset

Remembering to breathe

What a thing to say! Who needs reminding that they need to breathe?
Well, I do. Yes, I know you’re inwardly thinking, ‘Weirdo!’ – but just bear with for a moment.

A really lovely nurse once told me that you need anxious people – they’re the people that usually get things done.

Remembering that I have to tell myself to breathe sometimes, well at the moment, that’s quite often actually, comes from observing a little mindfulness. I have always been an anxious person. A really lovely nurse once told me that you need anxious people – they’re the people that usually get things done. I think she’s right. However, an anxious person stops getting things done when the anxiousness gets too much.

Before I became a mum, cycling and yoga, and before that, wine, vodka and dancing, used to keep my anxieties as bay. But when that first 24/7 bundle of sleep-depriving snuggliness arrived, things changed, lets say, rather a lot. As any mum knows – or parent for that matter – once baby arrives your time is no-longer your own. Your needs suddenly sit at the bottom of the washing basket along with all the ironing and the bits of tissue that snuck into the washing machine and got all over the dark wash (never the white wash).

I found myself in mummy-land really struggling with anxiety, worrying all the time that something bad was going to happen, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope when it did.

Anyway. I found myself in mummy-land really struggling with anxiety, worrying all the time that something bad was going to happen, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope when it did. So much was my worrying, that after a couple of months of constant crying, citalopram helpfully sorted me out. This was ok, but I knew that it was only treating the condition, not actually helping me sort out the problem I have with anxiety. When we had bundle of sleep-deprivation no2, I had taken myself off the citalopram and been cycling and active as much as I could.

What then ensued was me always waiting for the next calamity/wee/breast-feed/etc/etc to happen – and so I was always holding my breath!

However, two small children meant double the craziness and double the constantly being needed! Eek!! We even potty-trained Sidney when Harriet was a few weeks old – just to add to the fun – he was totally ready and had it nailed in 5 days. On the flip side, what then ensued was me always waiting for the next calamity/wee/breast-feed/etc/etc to happen – and so I was always holding my breath!

I finally noticed that I was doing this and realised that this was probably making me feel anxious all the time. So, I had no choice, but to tell myself to breathe… Just breathe Sarah. Take a few long breaths. Breathe out slowly. And it worked. The anxious tummy cramps I give myself when I hold my breath all the time slowly stopped, and I felt in so much more control. And if the Harriet had to wait for her feed, or Sidney needed a wee while I was washing up – it’s fine. Its ok.

I feel proud of myself when I feel myself taking long, deep breaths

Recently the tummy cramps have been back, and I have caught myself holding my breath again, a lot. Even when I’m pouring a cup of tea. So I am literally telling myself to breathe. Anxiety is a thing that I manage. I have to manage it otherwise I will go bananas, and I don’t want that. I feel proud of myself when I feel myself taking long, deep breaths, telling myself that its ok if I’m writing this, and not working on a deadline that is due. This is important too. I can take a deep breath and its ok if both my children are wanting things but I am going to finish the washing-up anyway. Them waiting for me helps them learn that they can’t have what they want as soon as they want it.

Breathing. Thats the most important thing I can do right now.