In a world, where you can be anything, be kind. Isn’t that what the message below reads?
Simple. So simple, so effective that it is a powerful social media hashtag. The phrase ‘Be Kind’ is so ubiquitous that sometimes it cancels itself out. Often, the words are reserved for other people. Us, being kind, to others. And while that is vital and necessary, I believe that we have to begin by being kind to ourselves. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Yes. I really am going for the fridge magnet quotations in this piece but bear with me please. Hear me out.
I was a much better mother before I had children. Goodness, you’ve heard this one too right? But have you ever thought that as far as cliches are concerned, there might be something in them after all? If so many people are saying the same thing that it almost becomes background noise, doesn’t that also mean that so many people are feeling it too? We are all just a little too scared of judgement to actually own up to our true feelings publicly.
For some people, talking about their feelings publicly is just not something they are comfortable with and that’s fine. You don’t owe anyone your pain, or, indeed, your labour. But, if you are a chronic over-sharer like me, then it helps to read and hear that other people have struggled too and that they have made it, that they have triumphed.
So, where was I?
I was a much better parent before I had children. Before I had children, I was going to be the perfect mother. My children would have homemade cakes in the shapes of Hogwarts Castle and Elsa, Ice Queen Extraordinaire. Their birthday parties would leave Pinterest feeling like it has failed. They would have mastered their ABCs and 1-100s by 18 months. They wouldn’t quite be Matilda but they wouldn’t be far off either. My home was going to be spotless at all times, there would be a scent of jasmine permanently tangled through the air. I would be earning a salary that would not only make my immigrant parents proud but would also keep my children in Petit Bateau and FabIndia, Joules and The White Company. I’d be ethereal, hovering in the background in Phase Eight and Cos and of course, Ritu Kumar if not the occasional Sabyasachi – according to the demands of the occasion, you understand…
Fast forward ten years and none of those things are true. I don’t even seem to have acquired the staples of a modern nursery – the basics of the kids’ room as far as Instagram and Pinterest is concerned. A balance board? None to be seen here! An iPad? Nuh-uh. Bunting – homemade or otherwise? Nope. A mother who bakes cookies every Tuesday? A big no! Magnatiles? No!
Most of the times, I’m quite good at seeing and recognising that children don’t need all the things to be happy. They need you, they need our time. But feelings of inadequacy have been known to creep in often – especially when I know that I am not giving them my much-promised time because I have too many other things going on. As everyone knows, the children of the teacher are given the least attention…If I am not giving them my time – my brain tells me – surely I should give them ALL. THE. THINGs and ALL. THE. EXPERIENCES!
I recognised my limitations early but even I surprised myself last year when I managed to ruin my son’s birthday cake which was modeled on the one that Hagrid made him and then sat on. Yes, my cake looked worse than a cake that has been squashed by a giant, hairy biker. My immediate reaction was to be bitterly disappointed with myself. It was at the height of the Swiss lockdown. All over social media, parents were falling over themselves to make locked down birthdays perfect for their child and here I had messed up the cake, the cornerstone of it all. It was hard to fall asleep that night not feeling like a failure. It’s difficult to feel kind to yourself when you feel embarrassed.
The cake’s just one thing. There have too many snafus to count and while reading about them would be plenty entertaining, we would be here forever and I know that you have things to be doing so I’ll get on with it. While the snafus might be hilarious in hindsight – they are hurtful in real time. I had to give myself some time before I was ready to talk to anyone about it. At the same time, I was embarrassed that I was fixating on this incredibly minor issue whilst so much else was happening around the world.
But how do we give ourselves grace? How do we give ourself permission to forgive ourselves our snafus and move forward?
1. Self -Care
Everyone’s self-care looks different. For some people it looks like candles at bath time, face masks and pedicures. For others, it is a run or a bike ride. For sedentary individuals like me, self-care consists of wandering around the fourth floor of Orell Fussli, gobbling custard creams and Netflix marathons (I promise I’m fun at parties!). If self-care can only consist of washing your face and brushing your hair, then make those five minutes the most you-centered five minutes of your day. Show yourself the same compassion that you would show your friend. Allow yourself to do that.
Yes, I know, I am repeating the headline. Why? Because I really want you to take the idea of self-compassion on board. Research indicates that self-care lowers stress. It also helps us to be more compassionate as parents. But how do we build it in to the day?
If you are looking after two under two, or managing working from home while corralling toddlers and tweenagers, if your teenager has suddenly decided to chart their own course against your advice – doing mindful colouring for grown-ups might just get knocked down your list of priorities*.
Here are some simple ways in which you can show yourself you love yourself even when your inner voice and the world – yes, even your children – are telling you otherwise:
A. Get Unbusy
Unbusiness – we live in a world where we are encouraged to hustle all the time. Protect your time, space, energy and boundaries. Are the people who are demanding those of you actually worth it? As we emerge from lockdown in some parts of the world, the demands on our time have changed.
Don’t feel you have to answer to messages and emails straightaway. Yes, the pandemic has proved that you can work from home but there are no prizes to be had for blurring the work-life balance irrevocably.
Reward yourself in manners which are the most meaningful to you.
I find that the more plates I have to spin, the more they crash, the more I feel cross or disappointed with myself. I am terrible at saying ‘no’ but I’m getting better, slowly. I have begun to realise that some of my mistakes happen because I take too much on. As a people pleaser who just wants to be liked, it’s often hard to like myself especially within the scope of parenting and all the challenges that come with it.
Nowadays I have also begun to say ‘no’ to my children. Perhaps their request is simple but maybe it puts too much strain on me financially or emotionally…I say ‘no’. It is important for children to hear ‘no’ as well.
Stand wherever you are and breathe. Breath is valuable. At the time of writing – oxygen is everything. It always has been but it is just something we are much more aware of now. Allow the breath to flow into your body, allow it to leave. Breath is precious.
C. Everyday Phenomenal
When Sonam Kapoor married Anand Ahuja, they came up with this hashtag, #everydayphenomenal. I smirked. A few years later, and now – while I am still smirking, I also think of it when I think of the the magic that is tangled up with mundanity.
Did the sunset make the edge of that office building glow? Yes, it did. Take it in.
Did the blossoms make your day? Take it in.
Did the wisteria hanging over that fence take your breath away? Breathe it in.
Did you get lost in thought while washing the dishes? Did an idea pop into your mind? Write it down.
I didn’t need therapy for my cake-baking fiasco. That does not mean to say that I am not a big advocate for therapy and getting professional help for mental health. Parenting – especially parenting in a pandemic – is full of its joys but also full of unexpected pitfalls and challenges. It can be lonely. It can be exhausting. It can leave you feeling depleted.
It is all very well fending for yourself and with your friends while you can. But, for some things, for many things, you will need extra resources and support from someone whose job it is to equip you with the tools that will empower you to show yourself compassion.
Finally, would you call your best friend some of the things you call yourself? You wouldn’t right? You’d be kind. You’d be compassionate. Try to be kind and compassionate to yourself too. And, if you still need an altruistic motivation, remember that research shows that parents who cut themselves some slack are better parents. Promise that’s EXACTLY how they worded it.
Hold yourself with love.
Are you enjoying our content? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments sections. Stay tuned for our April posts, cuz spring is finally here. We will continue to talk about body positivity, health, home and lifestyle, happiness, ex-pat, and travel tips.
To read posts from March, click here