Lucy V Hay (aka @bang2write) shares some simple and invaluable self-care tips for single mums, teen mums - in fact any mums struggling to take care of ourselves as we meet the needs of our children. This fabulous guest post is part of our Mama Self-Care Blogging Carnival...
Lucy has just published Lizzie's Story: The Decision, a YA novel about a young mother (you can follow Lizzie's progress on social media too).
Lucy is hosting a twitter chat with @edforchoice about pregnancy, abortion, and young parenthood this Thursday 20 March from 4.30pm.
As any mum knows: it’s hard to take care of yourself when you’ve got kids. You spend so long thinking about others’ needs, you can end up forgetting not only your own needs, but who you are altogether. But what if you never knew who you were in the first place?
Many young people experiment with “trial and error” when they’re young to discover who they are, what they want, what they need. They may do this in a relationship, or single; with friends or alone; travelling, or in education, or in work (or all of the above). Responsibility-free, this may be an empowering time in their lives, or they may have problems of their own; again, for most people it is usually a combination.
So self care is especially hard as a Teen Mum, because there is no “trial and error” period before “real life” with responsibilities (like children) begins. Also, with society’s condemnation on you, it’s very easy to channel that yourself, even if you ARE trying as hard as you can.
Negative thoughts multiply: “It’s because I’m a Teen Mum = I am a bad Mum = my child is missing out. It’s scary how quickly this happens, too and one of the reasons I wanted to explore the realities of being a young, aspirational single mother in my novel, THE DECISION: LIZZIE’S STORY.
So here are my suggestions that don’t cost a penny, to help Teen Mums promote self care in their own lives:
1) Banish the bad thoughts.
Children only need two things: stability and love. S/he only wants your TIME. My son, now 15, does not remember his clothes were second hand from the charity shop or that he never had the latest gadgets and games like his friends.
Instead he remembers how we went to the local park’s splash pool even when it was raining; or that we made collages together with old magazines that got chucked out of the local GP’s surgery; or he recalls inventing a game called Galactic Football which was a mad mix of tennis, football and dodgeball with an abandoned football we found in a bush.
So say to yourself: “My child is not missing out, because s/he HAS ME AND MY TIME.” Say it to yourself until you believe it – and keep saying it, so you don’t forget it.
2) Get out of the house
With no money, your home can quickly feel like a prison, especially at weekends and during school holidays. But don’t be tempted to stay home, even if you don’t feel like going out. I made a point of taking my son to the park every single day; I even went alone if he was with his father.
At first, it felt pointless. But as I forced myself out of my pokey little flat, I started to notice my environment more: familiar faces & places, shops, sounds, smells. I even started to enjoy it. I had been hiding away, averting my eyes, trying to avoid those people who would stare at us … Not realising not ALL people like that! I started to see there was more good in the world and a weight of disappointment and hurt lifted from my shoulders.
3) Be still
Lots of young single mums go to university and/or train for careers, but this means time-keeping, finances, planning AND childcare is one massive juggling act. Just watching your favourite programme on telly for half an hour can make you feel guilty (like all Mums, but especially if you’re a young, ‘cos you’re “supposed” to be working at digging yourself out of the “poverty trap” 24/7).
Protect these times of “stillness”; rushing constantly not only makes you weary, it is bad for your mental health. My son was a terrible sleeper and exceptionally loud in general (he still is!), so I would get up at 6am before he awoke, simply to sit in my kitchen with a coffee and look at the park behind my flat, while I gathered my thoughts for the day ahead. Being still is the best antidote to stress, ever – try it!
Life can be very isolating as a Teen Mum, but I never had the time or inclination for toddler groups or similar. Before smart phones or social media, I used to put up handmade posters at university and on community noticeboards with my mobile number on: “Wanted: other young mums to talk to/meet.”
I got more than my fair share of weirdoes ringing and texting me, but I also made several good friends I still know to this day. Reaching out is easier than ever now, thanks to Facebook and Twitter. Communicate: you won’t regret it!
5) Have fun!
Remember point 1? Put this at the heart of your interactions with your kids, then life won’t seem such a struggle, even if you have no money. Always endeavour to eliminate struggle, so even if you’re still skimping, it won’t be as stressful. A happy child has a happy mother, whatever your age. It really is as simple as that.
Lots of people believe Teen Mums “can’t” be good mums. Once upon a time, I was one of them. I was absolutely CERTAIN I must be doing this whole parenting thing “wrong” and that my son would have been better off if I had been even just five years older than I was when I gave birth to him.
But guess what: having had babies at 26 and 31 years of age too, I can tell you it’s ALWAYS hard, just for different reasons. But it’s also not rocket science. Be there for your kids: that’s all you can do – but do it well and you won’t go far wrong. But in order to do THAT … you have to look after yourself. Because without you, what is there?
Find more inspiring posts from mamas worldwide about Mama Self-Care in our blogging carnival this month, where we're celebrating the launch of our DIY Mamas' Retreat Kits - everything you need to host a Mamas' Retreat of your very own. As Lucy says, you have to look after yourself.