It's more than half way through March and I'm only just writing this month's newsletter to you: that wasn't my original plan! But this month I've been getting curious about that elusive idea of 'balance' that we're often taught to aspire to as mums...
Unfortunately, when I think of balance, I picture trying to hold a difficult yoga pose until my arms feel like they are going to fall off.
Balance implies a kind of perfect stillness that has never been part of my existence as a loving living working mama woman wife person.
While there are moments of stillness in my life (mostly at the end of a yoga class in that brilliant lying-down bit), they're few and far between. Even when I'm standing 'still' these days, my healing foot makes me really aware of my movement - conscious of the sensations as my weight shifts...
So if not balance... what else?
Instead of 'balance', I find it easier to engage with the idea of a constantly shifting 'flow'...
Sometimes that flow feels like a lovely amble down the river, and at other times, it feels like crazy wild rapids.
I feel like I've been doing a fair bit of white water rafting this month! Which can be wonderful - as long as there is enough time spent in the slower safer water too.
Right now, I'm really appreciating having some quiet moments as I write this letter to you.
There haven't been quite enough of those so far this month, and I'm trying to make up for that now.
The magic flow formula
So what's the magical formula for flow instead of balance? Well, unfortunately, there isn't one. Although it does sound like it would make a good title for a self help book. I'd better trade mark it quick ;)
Just like that impossible idea of perfect 'balance', there's no magical moment when we're perfectly in the 'flow' and everything is exactly right.
Well, maybe for a millisecond or two.
But with 'flow', (as opposed to 'balance') somehow I don't expect that moment - I know that everything's always changing.
And while I don't have a Magic Flow Formula TM, I do know four of the main elements that help me to stay in my flow, and relatively calm amongst the chaos, so I'll share them with you today in the hope that they might help you too...
1. Know what I want
Sounds simple? But so often we don't make time to think about what we really want.
What really matters to you?
I decide which things are meaningful or necessary in my life.
I consciously choose which of those comes to the fore in each moment. It doesn't always feel like a choice, but mostly, it is.
The things that matter most to me right now are a loving happy family, good friends, looking after my needs (including my health), work (for joy, for others, and for income to support my family), and having a welcoming home.
And so my energy generally flows between these areas.
How much energy I have is dependant on all sorts of other things...
....my needs, other people's needs, opportunities that turn up, whether my husband is working away, my time of the month, if it's a full moon, whether I spend too much time on facebook, and if there's enough good chocolate in the house...
Sometimes I feel all over-excited about clearing out a space at home and that takes my focus. And sometimes (much more frequently!) I say 'sod it' and head outside to have some precious family time instead. Sometimes I have to focus on my health, as I did in the weeks after my foot operation earlier in the year. Sometimes, as has been the case for a chunk of this month, I have to focus more than usual on delivering a big old piece of paid work.
In the past, I used to flow all my energy towards work. I can't do that any more. So while this month, I've chosen to allow the weighting towards work to shift dramatically, I've done that consciously. Because I know that the income it generates will free up space and time later in the year to do more voluntary Story of Mum stuff.
But I also know that if I stay on my computer too long instead of listening to the kids (or my husband) when they want my full attention - everything falls apart - so somehow I need to keep making time for family too. And that means something else has to go...
2. When one flow increases, let another flow decrease
When one area of my life needs some extra attention, I know that I have to find a way to adjust the flow for everything else...
MAGIC FLOW FORMULA TM (C) HEALTH WARNING:
That might be uncomfortable. It might mean saying no to things, delaying things I've already said yes to, or asking for help.
But it's not as uncomfortable as becoming completely overwhelmed by trying to do absolutely everything.
So this month, you'll see that I've only just turned this newsletter tap back on (sorry!), and that we decided to delay the Sofa Retreat by a couple of weeks so I would enough time to prepare and get excited about that.
Because I chose to delay both those things, I did have moments of feeling like I was 'failing' at Story of Mum this month. That I was letting people down by not being able to fully support them in their needs.
But I also noticed that I did really well at parenting, and script editing, and at continuing to take care of myself when the pressure was on.
And I guess that's one of the big lessons I've been learning in motherhood: that it's OK not to do everything.
It's OK to step back for a bit. To let things go. It isn't permanent. It isn't fixed and still. It's just how it needs to be right now. And I can forgive myself for not being able to do it all.
What can you forgive yourself for letting go of right now?
3. Keep checking the river
Another good thing about thinking about flow instead of balance is that I'm anticipating movement all the time. I'm expecting change.
What feels manageable one day may feel overwhelming the next, and vice versa.
But as long as I keep gently peering over my steering wheel, and checking in with how I'm feeling, I can keep correcting my course, and hopefully stay pretty much upright.
A fortnight ago, I was feeling capable and keen. I had the energy to work late into the night to finish a piece of writing. The next day I felt OK, kept on working, did some adequate (not brilliant!) parenting, and went to bed early.
A few days ago, I was feeling tired, weepy and overwhelmed. I was losing it with the kids. I had my period ('heavy flow'!), and I thought about working late again in order to finish the next big piece of work on my list. Luckily for my kids, I realised that flowing all of my available energy into working late at that point would leave me with no energy for anything else.
I thought about the different things I wanted, and instead of working late, I went to bed early. And I was able to be patient and focused with the kids in the morning. I still needed more than sleep, so I went to yoga and had a good cry. After that, having allowed myself to rest and nurture myself, I came back home and worked much more efficiently.
How's your river looking? Are there any potential hurdles ahead that you could avoid?
4. Always make time for my needs
Taking time to fill myself up becomes even more vital when the river is rough - it increases the energy I have for those wild rapids.
Yet it can be SO EASY to convince myself that I can't possibly take an hour off.
If I forget to make time for yoga, or for chats with friends, I soon find that I don't have the energy I need for all the other things that are important to me. That boat needs regular maintenance ;)
How are you caring for yourself at the moment?
If you're feeling overwhelmed or over-extended right now, focus on making some time for you. Because truly, that's when you most need it.
And if mama me-time is what you need right now, might we suggest our lovingly prepared Sofa Retreat...?
Mamas' Mini Sofa Retreat
We are offering our annual Sofa Retreat from 27 - 31 March. It will help everything else flow better, and make those rough patches feel more navigable!
While it's a lovely follow-on experience from Five A Day, you certainly don't need to have done Five A Day to join in...
Mamas’ Mini Sofa Retreat is a virtual mamas’ retreat that captures all the mama-nurturing goodness of our live events...
...we'll encourage you to make time for yourself, let go of mama guilt and celebrate the things you do well. And we'll create space for laughter, insight and connection with other mums.
Sign up and we'll send you inspiration for 10-15 minute creative activities every day for 4 days. There will be Bad Mummy Bingo, awards for mamas, meditation and more. And best of all, we end with an awesome celebratory mamas' retreat party live online on the Friday night! A party that you can join from your sofa, wherever you are.
Because that's just how we flow ;)
Our Sofa Retreat starts the day after Mothers' Day... so it's a perfect gift to give yourself to celebrate ;)
What else is coming up?
Our March #somum get together will take place next Wednesday 22 March from 8.30 to 9.30pm in our facebook group: Mamas' Everyday Retreat.
Hope to see you there!
Our next Sunday Morning Mamas' Retreat will take place on Sunday 21 May. We'll open ticket sales soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
We had a really lovely retreat last weekend, and at some point, I'll share some photos of all the beautiful boxes of 'intention cards' the mamas made. (That photo at the top of this newsletter is actually taken from between my legs at the back of the yoga session last Sunday!)
In the meantime, we're flowing lots of love your way, and wishing you safe passage through both the rapids and the quiet patches,
Pippa and Penny
PS Give yourself a Sofa Retreat from 27 to 31 March: a Mothers' Day gift that will last longer than flowers and chocolates. A lot longer than chocolates ;)