Committing to at Least One Thing That is Just For You
Are New Year's resolutions looming large in your mind? When you're a mum, it's easy to get carried away with the idea of ring-fencing 'me time' but often hard to put this into practice. The problem is, if you don't find some time for yourself away from your children, no matter how young, you'll burn out. Where will the family be if this happens?
Over the five years I've been a mum, I've chosen one self-care activity each January. Below are the ones I've had success maintaining, whilst juggling a young child, home duties and a career. I hope this list of suggestions might inspire other mums, if you want to do something for you but don't know where to start. We are very lucky in Sydney that we have so many activities, outdoor spaces and services at our finger tips, so take advantage of them.
After you have a child, your body and/or mind might never be quite the same again. Treating this could be as simple as arranging a remedial massage for your tired back. There are plenty of discounted deals out there, such as Think Local (for Northern Beaches and North Shore residents). Or, you might check in with your GP to see if you would benefit from a visit to the chiro or a natural practitioner. Most private health funds have some allowance for reimbursement of specialist fees, if you have extras coverage but check your entitlements first and see a medical service provider who is aligned with your health fund.
If Mum is well and happy, everyone is happy
If stress of any kind has been overwhelming you, talk to your GP, as there are referral options for seeing a mental health professional, under a Medicare-subsidised mental health management plan. You take your under 4s for regular check-ups, so make time in the New Year to ensure your health is okay. You may need to call on family or a friend for support, so that you can make time for any ongoing treatment required. Don't be afraid to ask... It's too important to neglect.
Even if you're not a mum, this one is probably high on your resolutions' list and most people take out expensive gym memberships, only to drop out within months. The beauty of maternity leave (or returning to work part-time) is that you have more flexibility during the week, even if you can only spare an hour for yourself here and there. For the budget conscious and gym-phobic, walks or runs with bub in the pram, or cycling with a child seat, are probably THE best ways to get fit over time. It will also stop you from becoming isolated at home, which is important for your mental health.
Yoga and pilates are excellent for strength, flexibility and toning
For those who need the structure of a gym to hold them to a fitness regime and have the cash to spare, Sydney offers a gym on virtually every corner. You can be matched with a personal trainer (around $50 per 1/2hr), take a mums and bubs fitness/yoga/pilates class in school hours, or drop your child at the crèche and hop on the exercise bike for an hour of calorie burning... and peace. Some gym chains that cater specially to women include Curves and Fernwood Fitness, in case you'd rather work off the post-baby body without the male gaze. Try a free session before you commit to membership and be realistic that you might only make it once or twice a week, so make sure the sales manager doesn't rope you into a plan that is far too ambitious and over-priced. You can afford to shop around in this city and find the right gym culture for you.
Kids love playing at the gym while mum is working out
3. Social Fitness - Dance Aerobics
Gyms or solo exercising can be great for some, and isolating for others. You may be desperate to get fit after you've had a baby but wish there was some way you could combine this with having fun and meeting a network of women in your community. The good news is that Sydney women love their fitness dance crazes and taking a class a week, while hubby looks after the kids, might be the start of a healthy obsession. Zumba is a high energy, outrageously fun dance workout that is still going strong. Fernwood, Fitness First and most other gyms offer Zumba classes but if you're struggling to find a time to suit, Google 'Zumba' and your suburb name. You are likely to find an independent instructor who is hosting classes at a community hall. This is the sort of relaxed environment in which you can really start to connect with other local women.
Find your community at your local Jazzercise or Zumba class
I loved Zumba pre-baby but I've never recovered that level of fitness since and I'm getting older. I love dancing though and I found a great, super-committed community of women at my local branch of Jazzercise. Yes, that's still a thing and there are branches all over Sydney. It's low to medium impact and caters to groovy women of all ages, shapes and body sizes. The Narrabeen branch, which meets at Ted Blackwood Community Centre, even offers child-minding with some weekday morning classes, so mums with bubs have no excuse to miss out. I'd highly recommend contacting your local Jazzercise instructor and see what sort of timetable, crèche and membership services they offer. It can't hurt to sample a class before you commit but something tells me, you'll leave wanting more.
Do any of these suggestions appeal to you? I realise they are mostly exercise-related activities but you can't deny that our self-worth as mums is often connected to our energy levels, recovering control over our bodies, or going back to work. Maintaining good mental health is also imperative and health, fitness and finding like-minded women, is a huge part of achieving this.
Best of luck with all your New Year's resolutions and may at least one of them be ALL ABOUT YOU.