It's Monday evening 9:30pm and I've just come back from the gym and had a shower. My day has felt full, very full, satisfying full but also exhaustingly so. I've fed my children, dressed them, kissed them goodbye, tackled a full day of data analysis, gone home to cook dinner, fed the... Oh, you all know what happens in a house with small children during our daily "peak hour". After my four-year-old finally went to bed after insisting she needed another snack, another story, another snuggle, I dragged myself to the gym for a half-hour on the spin bike.
On my way out, I started to feel that familiar sense of pity. "It's so hard fitting everything in when you're a working mother," I said to myself, sounding very trite. "I just can't do everything in one day. I can't have it all". And so on and so on until I suddenly stopped in my tracks. I was doing it again. I was blaming my children. For things. Things that may or may not be due to me being a mother. Some are and some aren't. Some shouldn't be blamed on parenthood at all, and some are definitely due to being a parent.
You see, as a GP I get the opportunity to talk to people from all stages of their life. Something that strikes me is the same conversation I keep having over and over again. It goes something like this
"Do you do any exercise?"
"No," (sheepish look from patient). "I just can't seem to fit it in."
And you guessed it -- it doesn't matter if the patient has children or not. In fact, sometimes parents seem to take more action in terms of their physical health. People, not parents, struggle to find the time and energy to do the things they know they should. Anyhow, it struck me that there are some things I can (and will!) blame my children for, cheerfully, and some things that I resolve I will not blame them for. I want them to know I can prioritise what's important for my own wellbeing, so that they can learn from me. Because my daughter said a very important thing to me today -- "I'll do what you do, Mummy", meaning when she is an adult and has her own babies. And that only makes me want to manage my own health and happiness well so that she'll have the tools to do the same when her own children come along, or better still, get into a good routine of self-care before she becomes a mother.
So here are the things I will and will not blame my children for. At least, on a good day. When I've had enough sleep. And chocolate. And coffee.
Things I can blame my children for
Forgetting things (aka "Mummy Brain")
An obsession with sleep
My "scary mummy" voice
Inability to stop doing laundry
Recurrent nightmares of being stuck on a ten-hour plane flight with a toddler
Raucous behaviour when on a "night out" without the kids (okay, maybe I can't blame them for this...)
Having the theme song to "Octonauts" play over and over again in my head, or suddenly bursting out a ditty that goes "Book-aboo!! A story a day or I just can't play!!"
Sand all over my floor. (What is with that?!)
Things I will not blame my children for
Being physically inactive
Poor food choices
Neglecting my relationship with my partner
Drinking too much alcohol
Staying up too late after the children have gone to bed and missing out on sleep
Being too hard on myself
Not following my dreams
Not having fun
What are some of the things you won't be blaming your children for? What's important to you that you will fight to preserve, in amongst the chaos and the time pressures?
This post originally appeared on the Healthy Doctor blog.
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