Mental space in motherhood is an art form, I am finding. The act of taking some breathing room in what is a joy filled, yet full and busy life isn't a formula that you can tick through. Taking care of yourself and others, balancing all the things, and feeling content requires creativity, patience and practice.
Just as motherhood is an art, not a science, there there is an art form to finding the time and space needed to be able to thrive as a mother. Rules and routines only go so far when you are taking care of something so important- and knowing yourself and the ways you flourish is also key.
I have discovered through walking through early motherhood and growing from one child to three - looking after your mental space as a mother is essential in ways that are not tangible. Seasons where I did not recognise my need for some of these pauses were difficult in ways I was unable to recognise at the time. I was struggling to savour the everyday, and wondering what the right way, my way to mother was. If I could go back and give my young mama self some advice about finding breathing room in the overwhelming beauty of motherhood - I would tell her this.
1. Learn as you go
Just as in art you have to push boundaries and try different things to find your style and know yourself better, in motherhood paying attention to what works and what doesn't work for you and your family is important. Are you filling all 'free' time with the voices of the internet, the tv, or other people? Get to know yourself and what works for you better by paying attention to what you're doing. When you take time for recharging or stopping, which activities or places or ways work? Our children are constantly growing and learning, and so are we along with them.
2. Be patient
With yourself and with your little ones. Motherhood has some difficult expectations and narratives surrounding it- be that in society, our own heads, or in the media. Don't put so much pressure on yourself, and allow yourself some rest time- proper rest time. Be patient with your little ones (if they're tiny especially), they need you and love you, and one day you'll miss them and the associated lack of physical and mental space! It has taken years for some of the greatest masterpieces to be made- don't expect yourself to be perfect overnight (or ever!). Give yourself grace.
3. Be creative
I have found that setting aside small chunks of time for quiet and time out without the needs of small people fills me up and helps me to pour out more willingly in the beautiful task of motherhood- but you have to be creative about it. Expecting your foolproof routine to give you an hour of solitude will only get you so far- it may be many hours before you get the long break you crave. Snatch a few minutes here and there when you can, and instead of turning to social media or other easy fixes- protect that quiet and that peace in your mind. Whether you journal, read, go for a walk, or just stare at the ceiling for a few moments- be creative about what a little breathing room looks like for you.
4. Practise it
Like so many things, it takes making a new habit for something to start making a deep and lasting impact on you and your wellbeing. Daily art habits build up skills and make a difference just as practising self care does, Five minutes of time reflecting or doing something that fills you up everyday is much better than an hour once a week. Taking a few minutes before sleeping just to note down positives of the day and reflect on any challenges and growth gives my mind peace and the next day purpose. Some weeks are different- as the ebb and flow of mothering demands- and I will sit for longer looking back on the week and forward to the next season that we are entering into as a family, but having those small daily practises in place are so helpful.
5. Have fun!
The value of play and doing things that we truly enjoy can be forgotten in motherhood a little as we seek to love our children and help them with their interests. Find ways to have fun, refresh yourself and recharge for mothering. Do something out of the ordinary - trying something new is great for your mind just as a new technique or material can help combat creative block. You might find you have a whole new attitude to something unexpected.
The art of mental space in motherhood is something you can grow into, nurture and cultivate in your life, with freedom of expression. It is more important than you may ever realise to prioritise something so intangible. Art and beauty are not basic human needs for survival but they impact our quality of life so much - a purely functional life would only bring you so much contentment without any beauty or form in it. And likewise a seemingly intangible thing like mental space can be easy to forget the importance of - but it's key to our flourishing as mothers and helping those around us to flourish too.
If you want a simple way to find some breathing room then have a peek at The Mama Book- a journal I created out of that desire for somewhere tangible to reflect and exhale during motherhood. It's a year long journal that walks with you through the seasons of motherhood and gives you space to reflect, plan and breathe so that you can enjoy the everyday.