For this busy mum, 'something's gotta give'

Q As a parent of three children I feel I have lost who I am.  I have put so much effort into what I perceived as being a great parent. I have always put my kids first and now they rule our house.  I have done this out of love but now feel stuck and don’t know how to change this.  My relationship with my husband is strained because I have given everything, including all my time and attention, to my children, believing I had to do this to meet their needs. But I have done this at the expense of my relationship and now have nothing left in my tank to give him.  How do I reclaim ‘me’?  I feel like I am just ‘surviving’ − trying to cope as a mother of three, work and run a household.   I am in a rut and don’t know how to get out.

A First of all, what you are describing is very normal. It is so easy to get lost in parenthood and once the kids are older, we look back and wonder where the time has gone. Perhaps another way to look at your situation is this: you haven’t lost ‘you’, you just evolved and adapted to the challenges you felt needed your attention at the time. Now you are ready to move forward and adapt to new challenges.

You clearly recognise something has to change – this means you already know who you don’t want to be. Now ask yourself, who do you want to be instead? What would you be doing differently if you felt more like the “me” you want to be? Get a piece of paper, buy a notebook or use a computer to put your thoughts down in writing. In order to come up with an action plan, first write down headings of the different life areas you want to work on – including parenting, as you have indicated that you might consider doing things differently. Other headings might include:

  • My marriage/relationship with my husband
  • Leisure time
  • My physical and mental health
  • Work

Under each heading, write down just a few words that describe how you would like to be. For example, under “My physical and mental health” you could write words like: “make more time for me”, “start exercising”, “improve my mood and how I cope with stress”. Make sure the words are meaningful to you. Once you have listed a few words in each category, pick just one category that you can start working on. For that particular category, write down 3 “actions”, (even if they are small) that you can do to get you moving in the right direction; these are actions that would indicate you are starting to live by the values you have identified in each category – those meaningful words that describe how you want to be. My suggestion is that you start with a category that is all about you and only you because if you start feeling better about yourself, it will be much easier to give more thought and energy in the relationship areas.

You absolutely have to make time for yourself – you cannot afford not to do this. This is also a good time to redefine happiness and success in life. And make sure you include a little ‘healthy selfishness’ in your thinking somewhere. To get some more ideas about happiness, download the Happiness Action Pack.

If you feel you need extra support in getting your mood back on track, or you and your husband would like to learn more strategies for a healthy relationship, counselling support is available for this. Contact us anytime on 02 4979 1172 for further information.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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