On Shame and Being Vulnerable

Wow, what a morning we’ve had. It’s not even 10am and I’m feeling all sorts of rubbish. Not physically, but emotionally and mentally.

You see, my sweet new baby girl likes to wake up at about 3am every morning and not go back to sleep for a while. It’s been happening for a couple of weeks now and it usually takes about half an hour or so for her to get sleepy again and go back to sleep. Well last night she was restless and pretty cranky til 6. Yippee.

My other two big girls came in to see me and baby just after 6 and I decided to admit defeat and get up to start the day. Big mistake. I should have stayed in bed. Til at least 9 or so maybe…

Obviously being Friday a sleep in isn’t possible because my two eldest need to go to school, and today I really NEEDED them to go so I could take control of the house again.

Oh, did I mention that my husband is away this week?

So up I got, trying to hold it together. Breakfast was interesting…

Little Miss 2 vomited. She’s totally fine now, but in the middle of Miss 7 and Mr 4 making their own breakfast and somehow forgetting how to use the toaster, needing me to open the peanut butter, the expensive glass honey jar smashed on the floor and baby girl screaming in my ear for goodness knows what, I snapped.

And now, I feel like rubbish. I don’t really care that I’m tired. I care that my kids probably think I’m a monster. And it makes me cringe to think they are going to remember crazy, cranky mummy for the rest of their lives.

Mummy-guilt is the worst. It can eat you up. It can cause all sorts of shame. And shame makes us feel like we are not worthy of love. Brené Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection defines shame as something that “keeps worthiness away by convincing us that owning our stories will lead to people thinking less of us. Shame is all about fear.” 

I’ve been thinking on this for a week or so now. We tend to cover up our shame. Sweep it under the carpet for no-one else to see. But it’s there. And it grows. It makes you feel worse and definitely completely unworthy of anything good. I am useless. I am a horrible mum. I can’t handle motherhood. What will people think of me?

But what if, as Brené suggests, we OWN our stories? To embrace your vulnerabilities and let it be. Talk it out with someone. Say, “I feel shame about my behaviour this morning but it doesn’t define me.” “I am still a good mum, and exactly the mum that these kids need”.

Owning our stories means being okay with the fact that we are not perfect. Who on earth wants to be perfect anyway? That’s a massive undertaking and is exhausting to maintain.

Why not be vulnerable? Why not be real?

With social media being basically a lifestyle, and for some people an addiction even, I have for years abhorred the fact that it is a medium for people to show the best of everything, but not so much the real stuff. I mean, why post a horrible picture when you can post a filtered one right? I’m guilty of that too. But lets be more real with what we post on social media.

Being real is exactly why I started this blog. I got sick of the pressure to be perfect all of the time. I’m not going to pretend that it wasn’t my own fault for feeling that way, but the ‘perfection’ that people like to portray doesn’t help.

So I want to encourage you all to be real. Be vulnerable. Ask for help if you need it (I’m still working on that one). Talk about your failures.

And remember, you’re flipping awesome. Just as you are.

The picture I’ve chosen for this post is a shocker in my opinion, but that’s why I posted it. I was super tired. My hair is a mess. I’m VERY conscious and yes, ashamed, of the amount of weight I’ve put on! The photo is blurry. But I have to laugh when I see it because literally a second after I took the photo, my sweet baby girl vomited up a storm all over me, and herself.

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When It All Gets Too Much

We are super blessed to have four gorgeous, healthy kids. It was our choice to have four…three was good, but my husband and I have a slight aversion to odd numbers, so now our hearts are happy because we’ve evened things up again. (Weird, I know, but just go with it).

Anyway, having four small children is hard. Sometimes it’s REALLY hard.

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Of course its rewarding and buckets of fun, but some days just turn to rubbish before my first cup of tea gets cold.

Countless people have said to me, “Wow, you have your hands full!”. And yes. Yes I do. I wouldn’t change it for the world of course but it’s important to admit that despite me trying to look completely put together and calm all of the time (which is a bad habit of mine), sometimes I just want to give up and leave the country for a week. Or a month. Or a year.

Without a doubt I’d miss them all after an hour but that’s beside the point!

So I’ve developed a little list of strategies that help my get through the tough days. These tips help me get through the day when I feel like crawling into bed and completely giving up.

A shower

This has a double effect. Firstly, its calming. Especially during the cooler months, a hot shower can wash away my feelings of stress and the tension stored in my body. The hotter the better for me. The steam also helps me breathe. The second effect is possibly the most important: I can’t hear anything outside the bathroom when I’m in the shower. This means I can’t hear the chaos. As long as the bathroom door is locked, I’m in my own little bathroom-world. No complaining. No crying. No fighting. Just me and my shower.

Exercise

Getting my heart rate up for a while doing some form of exercise is like a reset button for me. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which actually trigger feeling of positivity and happiness. This, combined with the fact that I’m doing something of benefit to myself means I’m much more likely to not completely flip out when things don’t go to plan.

Breathing

I find that when I’m feeling stressed or tense, my breathing gets shallow and my chest can start to hurt. The best way to combat this is to do some deep breathing. Just google ‘health benefits of deep breathing’ and you’ll find a plethora of benefits, including improving your posture, boosting circulation and releasing endorphins. The best way to practise deep breathing is to either sit or stand up straight or laying down, and slowly counting to five as you inhale and counting to ten as you exhale. It’s best to do this without distractions but it still helps, even in the midst of the chaos, even if I can only manage a few breaths in that moment.

Power naps

I’m definitely guilty of putting on a movie for the kids when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It means everyone calms down and I get some peace for a while. I often use the opportunity to sit with the kids and doze off for a little while. Well, until someone notices that my eyes are shut and they call out ‘Mummy!’. Having a newborn means plenty of night-time feeds and broken sleep, which creates a higher sensitivity to the craziness of life with four little ones. Dozing through a movie with the kids can often give me the boost that I need to get through the day.

Journalling

Getting your thoughts and/or frustrations onto paper can be incredibly therapeutic. This is actually why I blog. It’s my online journal. It’s like having a therapist. Offloading your thoughts in this way means they’re not rattling around in your head anymore and you can let them go. If I manage to finally get a minute to myself (hiding in the toilet or bathroom can help) or even better, manage to finally get the kids to bed, writing in a journal about the difficulties of the day or the specific worries I may have makes me feel a little more sane and able to let go of the dramas of the day.

Even though some days can be tough and incredibly draining with small children, having a few ways to help you feel calmer and better able to handle all of the dramas that might come your way will help. Not all days are like this, but when all of the stars align and everything falls to pieces, having some go-to stress-busting strategies will get you through to bedtime.

Do you have some tips of your own for those tough days? I’d love to hear about them.

Tina. x

Hey new Mama, things are going to be ok

Bringing home a newborn.

The feelings that are conjured up just saying those words are many and varied.

The unknown. Scary. Worrying. Helplessness. But also, joy. Wonder. Excitement. Elation. LOVE.

There truly is nothing like it. Nothing can compare to bringing home a little piece of yourself, that you grew, nurtured and carried for so long. Nothing can compare to the love that is felt for this tiny human being that is so reliant, so dependent on you. This sweet little bundle you have dreamed about for months, whose eyes you can now finally stare into, whose little hands you can now finally hold.

But the feelings of having absolutely no clue what to do are overwhelming.

When I brought our first baby home, over 7 years ago, I was so determined to be amazing. I was determined that my housework would still get done, that I would still cook and bake as much as I always did. I was determined to lose all of that baby weight asap. I was determined to always look put together and never answer the door in my pyjamas.

Guess what? I set myself up for failure. But as a first time mum what would I know?

We just bought our fourth baby home. I wish I could bottle how I feel and give it to every new mum on the planet. It’s a feeling of confidence. I’m confident that eventually my house will be clean again. I’m confident that as long as my baby’s needs are met, everything will be fine. I’m confident that if I’m still in my pyjamas when someone knocks on the door, it won’t matter. I’m confident that if I stop expecting so much from myself and setting my standards too high in these early days that I won’t burn myself out. And ultimately, I’m confident that God gives me the strength that I need for every day.

So, if you’re a new mum, or are about to become one…be flexible, go with the flow of the day. The housework will get done eventually, it’s not going anywhere. You will, eventually, be able to read all of your baby’s cues and give them exactly what they’re crying for, but it’ll take a little while. If your baby wants to be held, hold him/her. One day, he/she will be too big to hold like this. Hold your head up high if you need to answer the door in your pjs and say with a smile, “Baby and I are hanging in our pjs today!”. Accept help. And most importantly, enjoy that precious little one in your arms.

Don’t forget: the days are long but the years are short.

C Francis LoveChaosLoveAnja

Slow down!

As of 12 days ago, I am now a mum of four.

We brought home another sweet little girl last week and she’s pretty wonderful. Of course, there are the normal challenges of cluster feeding and just yesterday morning she didn’t want to be put down for hours. But, she’s still wonderful.

Our other three darlings absolutely love her. Miss 7 is besotted with her and can’t keep her hands off her (not always so great when she’s sleeping), Mr 4 is fascinated by her, but his angry behaviour is suggesting he’s not so sure. Finally, Miss 2 was not pleased when we first introduced them. She wouldn’t look at or talk to me and she had no interest in her new baby sister. But since that first meeting she’s totally in love with her.

She has completed our family. And now, I just want everything to slow down. I won’t have another newborn after her. She’s so tiny and I love how she loves to curl up on my chest. They all did that.

I realise that little Miss 2 won’t be 2 forever. Mr 4 will be 5 soon. Miss 7 is about to turn 8!

Slow down!!!

It has made me wonder why on earth it has taken me a fourth baby to decide I really need to slow down and appreciate what I have in front of me: four beautiful children and a husband who love me unconditionally. I don’t think I’ve ever actually given myself permission to slow down and live in the little moments that make up my day to day, stay-at-home-mum life. It has taken us bringing baby number four home to realise that.

I think that’s pretty sad. With my three other babies, I just desperately wanted normal. I wanted to get back into everything I was involved in and be productive as soon as they were born. I can’t say that I ever really felt burnt out because of my determination to get back into ‘normal’ life after giving birth because I love my independence and really would do anything for it.

But I do miss out on something more important than anything. Appreciating my kids. Enjoying every moment with them. I’ve always been so focused on my to-do list and getting my kids through their current stage that I’m not very good at just being present with them.

This isn’t easy to admit. I mean I do spend time with the kids – I’m a stay-at-home-mum. That’s what I do, look after and spend time with my kids. But I could be more present. To actually sit on the floor with them to play and belly-laugh. I haven’t belly-laughed in ages.  To push them on the swings without thinking about what else I need to do, like hanging out the washing.

It’s a shame that it has taken me this long to realise this. I’m grateful for Miss 12 days for coming along and reminding me to slow down.

Do you need to be reminded to slow down and be more present? Give yourself permission to slow down today.

C Francis LoveChaosLove

 

My ANZAC day thoughts

I find today a little difficult. Not for the usual reasons why an Australian would find it difficult. Yes, it’s sad that so many Australians had to die to protect this country and the Australians who were involved should never ever be forgotten.

But when it actually comes to the two world wars and the day we are actually commemorating, my family were fighting on the other side. My family is German. My parents came to Australia in the 80’s. My grandfathers fought in the war and my maternal grandmother was a member of the Hitler Youth.

Obviously, I love my grandparents. And I love my heritage. I don’t love being associated with Hitler (unfortunately some high-school peers could be pretty cruel). I mean, isn’t every soldier brave? A picture of my grandfather in his uniform hanging in my parents’ house makes me feel proud. Because he was brave. He fought for his country. Unfortunately most German soldiers had no idea what Hitler’s darker motives were. My family just had to do their duty. They actually had no choice.

It still doesn’t make me feel great though. When speaking to my friends about ANZAC day, I know that my family fought against their family. I feel uneasy about it, but that is just how it is.

I’m still proudly Australian. I very much appreciate what was sacrificed for this country to make the life that we have here. I can still pay my respects at an ANZAC memorial because I am thankful to be Australian. I very much respect current Australian soldiers who fight for us.

I suspect that there are plenty of Australians in this exact position. Australians with parents or grandparents who fought against Australian forces.  But that needs to be okay. This is where we call home now. It wouldn’t be as wonderful as it is now without the ANZAC’s.

So although I feel a little differently about ANZAC day to most, I still respect what the ANZAC servicemen and servicewomen did for this country. And I respect what my grandparents did for theirs.

Tina.

Moving!

Massive news.

My husband just found out that the job he applied for in Esperance (on the WA South Coast) is his.

I’m not even sure how to feel.

I mean, we thought this would happen. The job was apparently his as long as his police check came back clear. And we knew it would.

We have been notifying important people around us for the last 2 weeks that we are most likely moving to this gorgeous town around 800 kilometres away, and I had a ‘grieving’ day when we first found out that it was a probability. Because it means being away from my parents and an amazing tribe of friends that are everything to me.

We lived in Esperance for around 3 years between 2007 and 2009 and our first daughter was born there. My husband was actually born and raised there. We holiday there around twice per year. We absolutely love the sea, the bush and the smaller-town lifestyle, that is iconic Esperance.

So I’m unsure as to why I’m feeling so sideswiped and flat about it. Oh, and overwhelmed.

I guess there are a thousand things to do. I need to notify my kids’ school that they’ll be finishing in a few weeks and call the new school. We need to organize cleaners for our house, because my husband isn’t letting me clean while I’m this pregnant. Boxes. Removalists. Real Estate Agent. Notifying family. Finding a new house. Finding a new obstetrician.

I’ve managed to call a couple of friends with the news, close to tears. I seriously actually thought I was already prepared for this.

I ate a fair bit of chocolate. This isn’t great, because I’m fairly sure (I’m scared to check) that I’ve gained WAY more weight than I wanted to in this pregnancy and I still have 12 weeks to go. Just a bit of guilt thrown in there.

The only thing I thought would help is writing about what I’m feeling. So here it is. Raw. Well, to be honest I’d like to swear, but that doesn’t really help and I’d regret it later.

I actually promised myself that I’d write more if we moved to Esperance. Moving meant that I’d be involved in less; I’d have less commitments and writing is something that I love to do that has been sacrificed to fit everything else in. And I think it is the best therapy.

So you may be hearing a little more from me now. Although I sure hope my future posts won’t be as depressing as this one.

So, here comes the adventure of moving to Esperance. Watch this space.

What I’m Made Of

Today is the end of the hardest period of my life. My husband has been working away for the last 7 months, coming home for a measly 36 hours every 2 weeks.

I’ve been waiting for this day for so long. To be able to tell the kids that daddy is coming home tonight has been so good. They are so excited.

And so I wanted to write about how I’ve managed this past 7 months. I just deleted most of what I’ve written because I was being a total sad sack. I’ve never done anything so hard, but I don’t want to dwell on it. I do want to reflect a little on how I have personally behaved over this period: I was pretty much holding a big fat pity-party for myself this whole time. There. Reflected. Now lets move on.

I’m not much of a ‘reflector’, I tend to just have a quick look at the facts and then want to get things rolling forward. Anyway, what I’ve come up with is that I was crap at this. I cried a lot and I was angry and I screamed at the kids a bit. Most of that is okay I know, but I just want to move on now. My realisation that I didn’t do so well with my husband being away means that I know what I’m made of. Turns out I’m made of mush. I totally let the pressure and stress get to me.

Here’s the good news: I can improve. I want to improve. For me to know that I can, want to and need to improve is because I’ve realised that I was a bit rubbish. And when I say I want to improve I mean that I want to handle pressure a little better. And for me that actually means to rely on God more. I thought I trusted Him with my life and everything in it. Nope. I didn’t trust Him all that much and I didn’t cast my cares on Him much either.

But I can change that. And He will be there through this journey of trusting Him more with His hand stretched towards me and a smile on His face.

So although I have felt bitter about this past 7 months I know I don’t have to. Because I know now that I have more to give to my God and I wouldn’t have known that before. I’m excited for what God has next for us.

What are you learning about yourself right now?

Happy Easter to all of you amazing people.

Tina. xx

 

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