Olivia Anderson had four boys in five years. But there’s one person she almost left behind.

Olivia Anderson
Cenovis
Thanks to our brand partner, Cenovis

I try to live my life by the mantra “wherever you are, be all there”.

Juggling everything you can be as a woman in 2018 is hard. Opportunities are everywhere but you can’t spread yourself too thin.

It was my choice to have a large family and I am obsessed with my children. I think they’re hilarious and talented and a joy to be around. I also find it relentless, thankless and stifling a lot of the time.

Part of me still yearns for the spontaneous, opportunistic life I led before I became a mum. Most of me wants nothing more than to just be with my boys. It’s a constant tug of war.

I had four boys in five years, so for a long time I was just surviving. I have the utmost respect for full-time mothers who devote themselves to their children, leaving little time and energy for their own interests.

I was on that treadmill for years. The daily grind of raising children can quickly have you caring for everyone else before yourself and each day slips through your fingers faster than the day before.

In the longer term this is not a healthy way to live. Physically or emotionally. You can’t push your own interests or ambitions to the side for too long without feeling bitter or resentful. Most importantly, I believe that by honouring yourself you’re also being an even better role model to your children.

They are watching our every move, absorbing our actions like a sponge. By doing something just for you, you’re actually doing it for your children too.

They will remember that you tried to learn French before your holiday (and laugh hysterically as you try to execute it). They will remember that you had a market stall selling something you’d lovingly created. They will remember that you got up extra early to go to the gym or travelled with your job.

You are their hero and you’re slowly moulding them into the type of adults they will be one day too.

Show them how they should love themselves as you demonstrate how you care for yourself. Grab an apple and crunch it in front of them, instead of reaching for another coffee and chocolate biscuit. Your body will thank you for it and they’ll notice the habit too.

Add a couple of running races into your trip to the park and they will squeal with delight as they beat you over the line. Your heart will be pumping and they’ll have a fun story to tell.

Stretch and do some awkward yoga poses with them in front of the TV and over time it will become less uncomfortable for you and natural to them. Try including a little something physically each day to improve your health and it will all add up.

And show them that you treasure and honour your friendships outside of the home. Show them that even though your small business doesn’t make you a millionaire, it makes you happy. Let them watch you cross the line of that fun run and fall into their arms in a heap of exhaustion and pride.

I remember vividly the first time I really did something for myself after our twins were born. Picture this: I had a five year old who’d just (reluctantly) started Prep, an energetic (and now, attention-seeking) three-year-old-plus baby twins.

My twin pregnancy had physically drained me and mentally taken every ounce of my strength. Only love and gratitude was getting me through those early months and everyone else could clearly see how absolutely depleted I was.

So, when the twins were four months old and Mother’s Day rolled around I was booked into a flash hotel for the night. Mum and [my partner] Shane basically had to push me out the door with a girlfriend to enjoy 24 hours of pampering, relaxing, eating and sleeping alone. Looking back now I realise how crazy I was to feel guilty and undeserving of the treat.

I thought it was too soon and that even 24 hours without me and the whole household would collapse. Was I mad?

But that’s what happens to you when you become a mother – that switch flicks in your brain and you get the “guilts” and the constant “what ifs?”. I got over it, and now I see the value of a mini break so highly I created a business out of it, taking other mums on energy-boosting retreats.

It’s much needed because in the vast majority of families, the mother is the hub of the wheel. When she goes down everything goes pear shaped. It took me (almost) kicking and screaming to understand the true value of this all those years ago.

When you’re doing something for yourself, you get a spring in your step. A daily boost of energy you need to get on with things. The mundane chores don’t annoy you as much and you can see the bigger picture.

Raising a family is hard. The early years are so physically demanding and as your babies grow, so do their problems. The teenage years are complex and beyond that is scary to imagine.

To survive all of this, you need things in your own personal space that bring you joy. Goals that can be achieved outside of your role as a mother. Then, you may look back on crazy times and also see the fun you had, not just remember how laborious it was getting through it all for others.

Finding your own piece of happiness has a flow-on effect to the whole family.

Yes, you might have extra loads of washing to do late at night, or you may miss something special that happens to them that week, but as their hero you owe it to yourself to be the best YOU. Not the most exhausted or the busiest you, but someone who is striving to bring out the best in themselves.

Because after all, as a mum that’s all we really want for our children too.

Olivia Anderson is the creator of Flat Out Mum Retreats and the blog Flat Out Mum. Her partner is former Australian rules footballer Shane Crawford, and together they have four children. You can follow more from her on the Flat Out Mum Instagram.

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