Fitness instructor BEVAN JAMES EYLES looks at the importance for women to take a little time for themselves during the all-consuming role of being a mum.
I’m going to admit something that will put me in a bad light; when I was young I thought that mums were lazy. In my mind, mums sat around watching Oprah all day, having coffee with friends, and living the easy life. Before all you mums get mad at me, I need to tell you that as soon as I became a dad, at just 19 years old, I realised how wrong I had been. Mums have the hardest job in the world!
I’m sure just about anyone who has children or who has spent time around a mother with children will totally agree with my last statement. Children, especially young children, take up a massive amount of energy. They are 100 per cent dependent. They need someone to be there 24/7, to change nappies, wake up in the middle of the night to feed them, keep them safe, and give them that loving, caring attention that every child needs. When we think about the practical work that most mothers have to do it is easy to see that it is far more than a full-time job, it’s a life consuming role. And there’s one aspect of being a mother that is a really difficult thing to face – the loss of ‘self’.
During the first period of a child’s life, the mother’s life will often take a back seat to the child’s. She will sacrifice everything that is important to her because she has to. Although a mother will get a lot of rewards from the time and energy she puts into her child, she can struggle with the feeling that she are losing herself. Most people have hobbies, a job, a social life and an exercise routine prior to having children. These activities help mold our identities. Often, as soon as a child is born, most of these activities have to stop for the mother as the child will now be taking up every waking moment of her life. Suddenly overnight there is a change in identity – no wonder a lot of mothers feel that loss of self. Can you imagine having to stop all of the activities that create your sense of identity and step into a role that is extremely hard work?
If we can start to understand that mums need some time to keep their sense of identity alive, we can look for ways to support them through this. During the early stages of a child’s life a mother is never going to have a huge amount of time to commit to ‘stuff for herself’ but there is real benefit in having just a little bit of that ‘me time’. I often see it with our runners who are mums – being able to get away for a few hours a week and go into an environment where they can do something for themselves, where they can talk about things that don’t involve kids, seems to do them a world of good. It gives them something for themselves.
The message I would like to get out there for those of us who aren’t mothers is: What are the ways you can support those mothers around you to allow them a little bit of time for themselves? Your support need not take up much of your time but will likely be valued beyond measure by the mum you offer it to. For the dads out there, the question I have is: Are you helping your partner have time for herself? This is a tough time for both parents but if you can work together, you can create a routine that allows both of you to have a bit of your own time and this will go a long way to keeping your relationship healthy.
Being a mum is a special thing, a role that is so important in this world. The more loved children we can create for this world the better and good mums are a crucial part of this. When a mother has a little bit of time for herself, I imagine she is able to do a better job with her children. So, for those of us who are around mums, let’s try to help them have this balance.
Bevan James Eyles has been a world leading fitness professional since 1999. Among his many achievements are winning New Zealand fitness instructor of the year three times and authoring his book The Fitness Attitude.