“Bye, woman.” On wellness and self-care

I told the kids “bye, guys” one morning as they headed off to class. Vera promptly turned and said “bye, woman.”

She thought she was cheeky, and I must admit I laughed. (I only hope I remember this incident years down the road if and when the kids use this reference not so innocently.)

As I spent the last week or so reflecting on my journey and reviewing my goals and plans, I realise that I often forget about my own needs as a woman.

A woman needs love and affection. She is cheered on by words of encouragement and affirmation from the people close to her heart. She loves to be pampered, desires to dream and to realise those dreams, seeks time to rejuvenate herself, time to rest and feed her soul.

She needs to know that she is worth fighting for and protecting, that her thoughts, feelings and ideas are worthy of a listening ear. She dreams big, gives of herself to worthy causes, fights for the things and people she believes in and loves. She nurtures her clan ferociously.

As “mum”, I often neglect the other aspects of womanhood. I don’t dedicate time to care for myself. Exercise and grooming gets relegated to “when I have a minute.”

Many needs vy for my attention, and it can get pretty overwhelming on some days. (Now and then, I feel like locking myself in a quiet room and sitting alone in the stillness for five minutes. And occasionally, I actually do.)

This is where I collect myself; the million pieces of me that have been spread thin like butter on toast.

There, when the sky feels like it’s falling and when my heart is so noisy and worry-filled, I’m able to focus on the promises of God. He often reminds me that He is the one holding it up for us.

I feel lately I’ve been buzzing around without a clear purpose. It’s time to re-focus on the things that matter to me, not just as Mum, but as Woman.

When I became a mum in 2009, I launched into motherhood – mad, glorious motherhood. Now, ironically, being a mum has taught me that I cannot simply mother all day long and neglect my own needs as a woman. This quote says it well:

The quality of a person’s inner being – the body, mind and spirit – affect the quality of his/her outward expressions – the ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, produce quality work, etc. One’s inner wellness is, hence, not an option, but a necessity. Every individual, especially women who tend to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones, must unwind and pamper his/herself to achieve that inner balance and well-being. – Esther Lee

As much as my children mean to me, being a better person for them means stepping away from them, to re-fuel my tank.

Ways to re-fuel

  • Keep fit and healthy (through good food and exercise).
  • Regular me-time (coffee dates work well for me, and the occasional coffee retreat).
  • Catch up with good friends.
  • Invest in personal development, give voice to your dreams.
  • Creative pursuits and fun relaxing activities, like picking up a new hobby or catching a play (not a kiddy one)
  • Nourish your soul by feeding on God’s word daily.
  • Date your spouse. Find new ways to show your love.
  • Create mental white space or thinking space (this should involve stealing away from the noisy world of technology and social media) to reflect on the past, learn lessons, and plan for the future. (This often helps me to gain new energy and perspective. When I take a step back, I often catch a glimpse of the bigger picture.)

In a way, this blog is my way of investing in myself; an expression of my desires to write and create, and to encourage other parents who are going through similar struggles.

It is also a small step towards achieving my dream to be a writer.

Yes, it’s hard to peel away. Yes, it’s hard to find the time. But if it’s something important and close to your heart, you will choose to do it, even if it means saying “no” to other things. This is for you, and for the family too.

Parenthood isn’t an excuse for you to shelf your dreams and needs for personal fulfilment away. Instead, allow parenthood to inspire and motivate you to go beyond what you ever imagined, and to invest in those needs in a different, perhaps more creative, way.

From now on, I’m committing myself to not run on empty, and to re-fuel on love, God’s word, and good company. For the month of July, I’ll be focusing on the theme of self-care. (If you have an idea to share with me, do drop me a note!)

“Hello, woman.”

self-care quote

Do you struggle to meet your own needs and desires too?

How do you find ways to recharge and refuel?

The best mother’s day gifts I could ever receive

This mother’s day, I am not expecting any presents. (Mainly because the hubby is away. Also because we managed to enjoy a movie and a nice brunch before he left.)

But I’d like to give myself some very important gifts.

Some of you may have read about my recent HFMD episode.

After recovering from that, I was ill again a few days later, falling prey to the flu bug.

Though the flu was a lot less painful, I was still feeling pretty down, almost wading in a pool of self-pity at times.

I found myself spending those silent pre-slumber moments telling God how much I really want to be well again. That I don’t want to be a grouchy and tired mama anymore. And that I really want to be able to enjoy my days with my family and friends.

Life is often unpredictable, and a big part of me wants to have it controlled, known, predictable. So that I know what’s going to happen next. Now I know that’s not fully possible, but I sure know now that the most important thing I can do for myself is to exercise, eat well and stay healthy.

So…I’ve taken some baby steps back to a healthy physical state. I’ve signed up for a pilates class running at a nearby community centre. And I’ve also been making sure I eat more fruits and drink more water (less caffeine too *ahem, still trying*) a day.

I’m also relooking my schedule of committed responsibilities and trying to see where I can “trim the fat” so to speak.

In place of things I’m choosing to remove or cut down on, I’m penciling in rest for mama, and favourite me-time activities like reading, swimming, and exploring new cafes with girlfriends.

I’m also looking forward to spending more time with God, and to reclaim those lost moments eaten up by distractions of every sort.

Something I’ve learnt during the recent “downtime” is that when we’re rushing about from activity to activity day by day, we tend to lose sight of the big picture, of the goals that we’ve set for ourselves.

But when life hits the pause button, I’m able to reflect on my life, the things that I’m doing well or not so well as a wife and mother. Somehow, my heart is free to explore and give voice to the dreams and purpose that God has deposited in me.

It’s all too easy to fill our lives with the humdrum of activity and busyness. But like how recent focus has been placed on returning pockets of empty time for children to play, create and allow their imagination to run wild, so it is with adults. We too need time to unwind, reflect, and create.

This mother’s day, I’m giving these gifts to myself:

The gift of less yelling, and more understanding.
The gift of a healthy and joyful life.
The gift of a restful life.

Of course, a hundred big hugs would be nice too… 😉

The gift of rest

Anger Management 101: Mums have meltdowns too but…

Have you ever had a meltdown?

After Vera popped into our lives, I found myself being angry more often than I should. Joyful, yes, but angry too. I lost it when there was incessant crying, night wakings, and basically when tiredness and stress overwhelmed me.

Things got better after I got the hang of motherhood, but then the toddler threw it out of whack when she decided to exert her independence and showcase her intolerance for anything other than what ‘I WANT’.

At times, I would lose control and spank her harder than I should, while yelling “why are you acting so naughty?!” or “why can’t you listen to mummy?!” I even spanked with my bare hands — something I’ve told myself not to do because we have decided to use a small wooden spatula for disciplining, and we wanted very much to reserve our hands for loving.

Well, we also told ourselves that we would not try to discipline her when we were angry, as it’s easy to get out of control when wild emotions are ravaging your body. So I guess we failed in the very things we told ourselves not to do.

Looking back, I probably went through some of my darkest moments then — the guilt was over-powering. I became aware of the fact that I came from a family where yelling was a usual occurrence, and I had started to reproduce that same pattern of behaviour in my own household.

Yet, by some grace larger than our own, the hubby and I committed to learning through our mistakes; we worked together and tried to find solutions to each ‘new’ issue. And we set new boundaries for ourselves and our daughter, after learning each time what went right and what went wrong.

We re-strategised our disciplinary plan through each developmental stage that she went through. (Vera kept throwing us new curve balls after we thought we had her ‘figured out’.) I guess through that, we also learnt about our own flaws, and how to work better as a couple. (You simply have to work together. There is no other way. Inconsistent messages will just make things more confusing for your child.)

Today, I found out that yelling (including blame, name-calling, or belittling) can be as emotionally damaging as physically hitting a child. This came through a workshop on anger management held by the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service. I also re-learnt the reasons why we should try not to let anger get the better of us:

  • Children who are spanked become more aggressive themselves
  • The more corporal punishment is used, the greater the risk of escalation into child abuse
  • If you are constantly angry, you minimize the opportunities to bond with your child
  • Children of angry parents are less empathic, and have poorer overall adjustment later in life
  • Punishment may not be as effective in helping children internalize the value of good behaviour as compared to positive reinforcement and explaining
  • The long-term impact on your child could include low self-esteem, higher chance of depression, eating disorders in females, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating no-spanking, period. But if spanking is a form of letting out your anger on your child, then I believe there can be a better way.

Here’s the good news: While we may be born with the potential to be aggressive, we CAN learn to channel our emotions into more constructive forms.

I came across this anger management article which provided some tips on how to control or manage anger. So the next time something pushes me to anger, I will give some of these a shot:

  • Do not react immediately (if you know that you are angry)
  • Step back, analyse the situation
  • Find out the cause for the action
  • Discuss and find solutions, rather than act on emotion
  • Develop a forgiving mindset (for yourself and for your loved ones)

Personally, I find that walking away from the ‘scene’ and just taking deep breaths as I walk does wonders.

Of course, humour works wonders too…

Anger management

How do you cope with your emotions when they run wild?

Next week, I will be doing a post on the importance of self-care and some strategies to help cope with anger. So stay tuned. And if you haven’t already, do LIKE our Facebook page for more timely updates! 🙂

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