Pacing yourself as a mum

One of the difficult things about being a full-time mum is wondering when your work starts and the work finishes.  It is soooo easy to get really tired, grumpy, angry and super resentful (because realistically it is basically a 24/7 job).  One of the things that makes me quietly laugh at work is when people ask me what I do with all the rest of my week when I'm not at work (since I only work two days a week).  My experience has been that even on the days I go to my paid work I'm still clocking up a significant number of hours of my 'mum work' before and after my paid work.

Having been a full-time mum for 12 years I learnt that the only way I would cope was by pacing myself during the day.  Sometimes you can be up from 5.30 am and going until 10.30 pm.  If I worked that many hours in my paid job without a break I'd actually get into trouble. It's not a sprint this mothering thing.  It's a long, tiring marathon and you need to take on supplies to keep yourself going.  If you go hard all day, every day and aren't a person who can sustain that, you'll get sick or overwhelmed or just plain exhausted.  This makes you pretty useless when it comes to doing the job you're supposed to be doing.

I pace myself by aiming to go hard in the morning - try and get as much done on the housework, dinner, washing, tidying, shopping as I can.  I tend to start to get weary about 3pm so find the more physical jobs quite draining in the afternoons.  When the kids were little I'd always aim to be home by 1pm so that I could put to bed the child/ren that needed a sleep and then get the others to have a rest time (with the bribe of a DVD at the end of the rest time).  I'd have lunch, a cup of tea and read the paper, phone a friend, watch a TV show, have a nap - just do something that I found refreshing.

After that I'd keep going until bedtime.  But I'd try and do as much washing up, folding the washing, tidying as I could before the kids went to bed (I still do this).  I really aim for there to be an end to my day so that I'm not doing housework after the kids are in bed.  It also means that Rowan and I get to spend time together rather than spending the evening cleaning the kitchen or folding washing.  If washing is not folded or the house isn't tidy, I do tend to leave it.  It will still be there the next day - and the sky won't fall in if it's left for another time.  My children will live and I won't be a bad mother if I take a break.

And when I talk about taking a break, I've deliberately NOT called it 'me-time'.  It's not simply a self-indulgent break when you do nothing for others and only stuff for yourself.  Having a break from your 'regular job' enables you to do things for others - it gives you time to go on a committee, meet a friend, have someone for a meal, prepare a Bible study, hang out with your husband, text a struggling friend and most importantly helps you to keep caring for your family.  Of course, there are lots of times when you might just watch TV or read a book (or SLEEP if you have a new baby) but gaining refreshment can come from thinking about others as much as it does from doing your own thing.


Kath said…
"gaining refreshment can come from thinking about others as much as it does from doing your own thing."
This is great wisdom Jenny. Thanks.
Soph Russell said…
Hi Jenny,

I stumbled across this post while on another blog and just wanted to say thanks for sharing. Often I feel pressure to keep 'busy' all day at home (partly because I find it hard to cope with mess...but am learning to relax even if the housework isn't completely done!), so I appreciated your point that the whole mothering thing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Ruth said…
Great post Jenny - thanks so much. Like Soph - I really appreciate the marathon point. So true. You are a great example. Thanks.

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