How are you? Here's your monthly reminder to stop and think about YOU. So find somewhere quiet and comfortable and sit down with us to spend a few moments noticing how you're feeling and what you need...
Is it 'holiday' time where you are, or is life continuing as 'normal' (whatever that is...)?
Here in Cornwall, the schools are closed, we have family visiting from far far away, the house is in utter chaos, the weather's unpredictable, and I have decided to face facts: I'm not going to get anything 'useful' done.
I am officially now on holiday.
Having finally accepted that concept a few days ago, all I had to do was shift my focus to enjoying this rare and precious time with the people I love. Which was fine...
Until I realised that meant I also had to stop worrying about being unproductive.
All this week, I've been revelling in the pleasure of watching my children playing with a brand new baby cousin and another lovely cousin who they haven't seen in a long long time.
I'm seeing family connections being made that will continue long beyond my lifetime, and that feels very special.
The rest of the time, I've been just about staying on top of wiping down surfaces, feeding and cleaning the kids, washing clothes and redirecting arguing siblings...
Best of all, I'm still fitting in my burlesque and zumba classes to make sure I have some time for myself. And I've even been allowing myself to rest in the hour or so I have once the kids are FINALLY IN BED in the evening (apart from when I started writing this newsletter...). Bedtime seems to be about three hours later than normal in the 'holidays'.
Yet despite making all these sensible 'well-balanced' decisions, I still have that voice in my head - the one that says:
Who are you to stop and rest? Who are you to take time out for you? Why aren't you doing something more productive? Why aren't you working on your next Story of Mum project, putting everything in the house back into order, sorting through toys to give away when the kids aren't looking...? Why aren't you making everything more perfect?
There's always something more that we can put on the To Do List, and as mums, we've certainly learnt how to get a lot of stuff done.
That's one of the reasons we are so AWESOME at doing so much, and looking after everyone else.
And often so much less awesome at looking after ourselves.
However much we know it's good for us to look after our own needs, that critical inner voice returns... to ask us why we're being so selfish, why we're allowing ourselves to rest, why we're daring to enjoy the moment we're in instead of getting on and worrying about the next.
Yes. Even when when our whole social enterprise mission is built around helping other mums to do that, that voice doesn't completely go away. Or at least it hasn't yet for me.
But the gaps between the voice returning get longer. And the most significant change of all is how I've learnt to respond to that voice when it comes.
Sometimes I listen to it (big mistake).
That's when I find myself craving buckets of chocolate or cake or something else to distract me from the discomfort of those mean questions (or I just go straight ahead and stuff my face, which doesn't work for very long...)
Sometimes I stay awake enough to notice that 'the voice' is back. And when I notice that, I can remind myself that 'the voice' isn't speaking the truth. That it's actually fine for me to pause, and look after myself. And I can go back to enjoying that moment of cousins laughing together.
Sometimes that voice just keeps chattering on with more and more things I should be doing. In those cases, I have to physically make a list - of all those things I'm feeling like I need to be doing - just so that I can put it aside for later.
When all else fails, and I'm feeling overwhelmed with everything that hasn't yet been done, taking a few moments out to be grateful for what I have - and to be reminded that it's already much more than enough - always helps me.
So if you are struggling to 'get stuff done', and forgetting to stop and find the pleasure in the simple moments, try sitting down amongst the chaos. And remind yourself of three things that you are grateful for in your life right now.
Because you are enough, just as you are, without having done all those things on your list. And you have much to be grateful for.
You don't need to do or be anything more to prove that to anyone.
This month's activity...
And that leads us nicely into our activity this week... Grateful Plates!
Grab a plate and decorate it with all the things that you're grateful for today.
Use a paper party plate or a doodle yourself a plate.
If you can find a white plate and a sharpie, you can even draw it, cook it, and serve yourself a meal from it (just decorate and bake like this, apparently, I'll be having a go when I can find a spare china plate...)
And food is always a good place to start when you're looking for something to be grateful for!
Whatever kind of plate you create, take a few moments to notice all those everyday things, special people, places, experiences, memories, that you are grateful for. There's a lot on your plate. And lots of it is very precious indeed.
What did we do last month?
And we had a lovely #somum Mamas' Retreat on twitter reminding each other of how awesome we are - which is always a good way to spend 90 minutes...
You can read the storify over here, catch up on our conversation, and be reminded of all the things that are awesome about you too.
In other random charity hilarity news, we did some epic and superbly ridiculous Dance-Walk-Fitness along Penzance promenade to raise funds for Sport Relief with the ever inspirational Team Honk.
If you're in need of a smile, I can recommend some amusing video evidence.
I especially enjoy the last clip of me steaming ahead in slow motion like a 1950s pied piper surrounded by bemused children.
And the moment when some local skater boys joined in with the dancing, and started singing along to Let it Go.
I also appeared in the newspaper, looking like this, and apparently SASHAYING along the prom, no less.
As I said, epic!
It was a very good day. Especially because it had also started with one of our lovely Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreats where we made ourselves fabulous sashes to wear while hoovering or in need of a general mama boost.
My "Front Room Disco Queen' sash has been working a treat ever since, and you can see some more in the awards gallery!
What else is happening this week?
For Business Crowd's Mums Mean Business Week, I've written about the importance of taking time for yourself as a working mum. Read the post here.
Looking after YOU is vital for every mum, whether your 'work' is in the home, or at a job, or both.
And yes, that is actually me on the right - I've got make up on and my hair's brushed and photoshopped and everything, so make the most of it, you won't see me looking like this again for a while...
Mums Mean Business week runs from 4 to 8 April. If you're a working mum, take a peek at the schedule, and you can sign up to join in for free. I'll be a panelist at their free webinar: "What does success look like?" from 2 to 3pm BST on Tuesday 5 April. Follow the #mumsmeanbusiness hashtag or visit their website for more info.
So... what does 'success' look like for you today, mama?
For me, a successful life is no longer one where I am constantly working or doing or achieving just to stop myself from failing. It includes lots of hard work and effort and inspiration of course, and plenty of failing - but now it also includes many more joyful well-rested moments with the people that I love.
Success for me is letting myself rest, and accepting good enough in place of perfection.
So today, success looks like a morning with family leaving messages made of stones on the prom, and catching some time for myself while the kids watch TV to write this newsletter this afternoon (a few days' late).
Success today has been about getting outside and spending time in nature, listening to my kids when they need me, letting go of that critical voice in my head, and sorting a ginormous pile of washing.
I might even award myself another sash for that.
And, erm, did we forget to mention... It's our birthday!
Somehow, being in holiday mode, I completely failed to notice until this afternoon that it's our birthday this month - in fact it's exactly five years since we launched TODAY!
What a journey it has been! It started with a simple desire to make some more precious Mama Me-Time for ourselves and other mums, and a way to make sense of this huge change in our lives...
(thanks to Ian Kingsnorth for this photo from our launch - just look at my baby girl!!)
And now, we're a growing social enterprise.
We have learnt so much over the past five years. And we are so proud and grateful to you for coming on this amazing adventure with us. THANK YOU!
Since I've only realised this amazing birthday fact today, (which is still of course completely 'good enough'), we haven't planned anything special to celebrate... yet!
What's coming up next?
We'd love you to join us for our next #somum Mamas' Retreat on twitter from 8.30 - 10pm on Wednesday 13 April (find times in different timezones here).
Could you even come and join us in Cornwall? We promise not to make you do Dance-Walk-Fitness. Unless you want to of course!
An especially lovely group of women are now booked in for our residential Mamas' Retreat at Prussia Cove on 11/12 May - there are just two spaces left - is one for you?
The two spaces are currently in a shared room (which makes them a bit more of a bargain), so would be perfect if you'd like to come with a friend - but if you're after a single space, we might be able to arrange it, just reply to this email...
And if you can't stay overnight, you can still have a little taste of our residential this time around - as there are also just two final spaces left for the Day Retreat on 11 May too - we'd love you to join us!
In the meantime, what else could you do right now that's just for you? Make yourself a Grateful Plate, or make yourself a cuppa?
Everything else can wait for 5 more minutes. It really really can.
With gratitude, love and only-just-remembered birthday celebrations
Pippa and Penny
PS Go on, come and retreat with us in Cornwall, it's more possible than you think.