health

"How I learnt to put myself first as a mum."

Terry White Chemists
Thanks to our brand partner, Terry White Chemists

This Mother’s Day, I’m not going to feel guilty about taking care of my own needs. Since becoming a mum just over three years ago, I’ve realised that looking after my own wellbeing is key to keeping the whole family happy and healthy.

After the birth of my first child Maxwell I dedicated every second of my day (and night) to his needs and wellbeing. If friends or relatives offered to babysit so I could have a break, I politely turned them down and date nights became a thing of the past along with social catch-ups, fitness classes and any other form of “me” time.

I approached new motherhood the way my type-A personality approaches everything – I wanted to nail it. Unfortunately my ill-conceived idea of nailing it meant never asking for help and never taking time out for myself.

Jacqui with her two boys. Image: Wendy Stiles Photography

When Max was around five months old I remember dragging myself out of bed for the sixth time during the night to feed him. As my beautiful bubba cuddled in for a feed, I started crying hysterically. I was bone-achingly mind-numbingly exhausted.

I was getting sick all the time, I was wracked with self-doubt and I felt completely overwhelmed despite having a very supportive and hands-on husband.

A quick glance at my Facebook page and I looked like the adoring new mother who had it all together but in reality I was struggling with a reflux baby who woke every 45 minutes and my own stubborn nature that wouldn’t let me reach out for help. I was drowning in self-created motherhood martyrdom. I loved my little bub more than I thought possible but I’d forgotten to reserve a bit of love for myself.

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After Max turned one and had weaned himself off the boob, my husband organised a surprise night away to celebrate our wedding anniversary. My in-laws were on babysitting duties and I was told not to argue. We went out for dinner and spent the night in a five-star hotel. For the first time in 12 months, I lay in a bath until my fingers pruned without listening out for a cry. After 24 hours of baby-free bliss (and eight phone calls to the in-laws), the world didn’t cave in and I returned home to a smiling baby feeling relaxed and refreshed.

how to put yourself first

"For the first time in 12 months, I lay in a bath until my fingers pruned without listening out for a cry." Image: iStock. 

So when my second child, Hugo was born 18 months after Max I decided to do things differently. When he woke for the third time during the night and wouldn’t resettle, my husband took over and I relocated to the spare room to get a few hours sleep before the next feed.

If I got sick or felt particularly exhausted, I asked my mother-in-law to come over and help out with the kids and I headed to the chemist for some professional advice about how I could de-stress and take better care of myself. I also prioritised my health and wellbeing by eating heaps of fruit and vegetables and popping a daily multivitamin to fend off any lurgies. As I emerged from the fog of those early months, I started exercising again which lifted my energy levels and helped me sleep better.

These days I regularly organise to catch up with friends and focus on allocating time to do things that I love outside of parenting. Whether it’s finding time to read a book, go to yoga or attend a dance class, doing something for the pure joy of it has helped me be a better, more well-adjusted and fun parent. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to tell friends and family if I’m having a rough week and I talk about it without fear of being viewed as a failure.

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putting yourself first

"My family deserve the best version of me." Image: Wendy Stiles Photography. 

Max is three and Hugo is 21 months old now, and girl’s weekends away, mornings at the gym, kid-free brunches and the occasional non-animated movie are all part of my life. I even took a holiday to London for a week while the kids stayed home with their Dad so I could visit my Mum and sister and spend time with my nieces. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty because I’ve learned that a healthy, happy mum is an asset to the whole family.

That’s not to say that motherhood is all rainbow-farting unicorns and floating on cloud puffs, it’s still super hard and finding balance is a continuing challenge while juggling work, study and parenting two under four. But amidst the chaos, carnage and cuddles, looking after myself has become a big priority.

Because I deserve it. So does my husband. So do my kids.

Feature Image: Wendy Stiles Photography. 

How will you be spending your Mother's Day this year?

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