Is self care easier if you’re single?

A few weeks ago, I attended a friends hen party. The hen party was fun. But something was troubling me.

I was staying in a hotel that night with another friend. While we were busy getting ready for the hen party, she started pouring her heart out to me. It appeared that her marriage was on the rocks. Whilst I was shocked to hear this, I was not entirely surprised.

As my friend continued to tell me her problems, it occurred to me that all she might actually need was a little bit of time out for herself. From where I was standing, the issues they faced as a couple were largely down to the fact that my friend did not take much time out for herself. Not only did she seem trapped by being mum to her two children, her vibrations also constantly seem to be low.

So I decided to try and talk her into creating some time for herself.

The trouble is, she wasn’t ready to hear what I had to say. She wanted to blame her husband for everything that was going wrong. She couldn’t see that by taking a little time out for herself, it might actually help her to look at things more rationally, and generally make her feel a lot happier.

This really got me thinking about self care. Does being single make it easier for me to ensure I spend time on my self care? Perhaps it is selfish of me to think that self care is possible for everyone to maintain. Perhaps it is harder for couples with children, and even more so for single parents.

I decided to explore these thoughts further. So after finding some willing friends, who are parents of children ranging from a few days old to 4 years old, I asked them some questions to get an understanding of how they feel about self care, and how they fit self care into their routines, if in fact they do.

What does self-care mean to you?

I thought it would be really good to understand my friends views on self care first of all.

Answers ranged from:

  • To stop overthinking about other people and carving out something just for you
  • Remembering you’re still a person with valid thoughts, desires, emotions and feelings, despite having children
  • Looking after yourself (d)
  • Taking time out to do things for me, to look after my physical and mental wellbeing (d)
  • Time to focus on myself to make sure I am ok (d)

What is reassuring in their responses is that whether they are male or female, they understand what self care is and the importance of it.

The interesting part for me is the different responses from the mums v the dads. The dad answers marked with a (d) come across as a lot more matter of fact, whereas the mum answers had much more of an emotional connection.

As a parent, how do you create time for self-care?

From experience, even as a singleton, self care doesn’t just happen. You have to create time for it. However, on the other hand, it also shouldn’t become a burden. It’s too easy sometimes, even for someone in my situation, not to bother. But it’ salvo really important not to beat ourselves up about it if life does get in the way. What’s important is when you do find time for self care, to store up those self care points to help get you through the days, weeks or even months when self care time just cannot be squeezed into busy lives.

Even for me, with working long, unsociable hours at times, keeping the flat clean, and trying to maintain some sort of social life outside of working hours, I sometimes have to force myself to check in to see how I am.

So how do my friends who juggle parenting on top of work, manage to create time for self-care?

  • With difficulty…snatched time
  • By sharing duties
  • By staying up later than my partner and watching tv
  • By scheduling it in
  • By being organised. Self-care can only really begin once our evening routine is complete. There’s usually a window once our son is in bed, where I can check in with myself to make sure I am ok.

The key point for me is having a healthy relationship with your partner. By understanding that you are not just parents, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to have time out from this role, hopefully goes some way to stop parents from feeling that guilt they so often endure for leaving their child in someone else’s care, so they can spend some time looking after themselves. Being a parent is one of the most important roles you will ever play. It’s really important therefore that you do create time for you and to recharge your batteries, so that you can give your children the time and energy that they too deserve.

Two of the friends I spoke to, who are both married (not to each other!), have recognised that by sharing child duties as well as social time, helps matters. For Elaine, being in a 50/50 relationship , her and her husband spend an equal amount of time with their daughter, but also recognises when each of them needs a break from playing mum or dad. For Elaine, self-care can take as long or as little as it needs, in order to help remind her that she is still Elaine regardless of her role as Mum. Depending on her needs and the time she has, Elaine’s self-care can be as fun as a few drinks in the pub with friends, or as simple as relaxing in the bath bath and having an early night.

Lewis on the other hand, who is now a father of two, and shares childcare duties with his wife Jen, recognises the importance of scheduling self-care into busy days. Lewis told me that most of the time his self-care takes place at home after his boys are in bed. However, recognising that it is important for both him and his wife to still continue with their hobbies as well as time away from parenting duties, they also schedule in a weekday evening and a weekend morning each, that is allocated free time to themselves.

In the case of both Elaine and Lewis, it’s not just about finding self-care time for themselves, they also understand the importance of freeing up their partners time to look after their own self care too.

Do you have any self-care rituals you would care to share for other parents out there?

Whilst there were few self-care rituals people wanted to share, those that did, ranged from simply sitting down and having a cup of tea once the kids had been put down for a nap, to completing outstanding tasks for the day whilst carrying out some mindful thinking, and ending the day with toys being put away to allow for a fresh start in the morning.

However, Lewis may just’ve stumbled across the most fun self-care ritual I have certainly seen for parents to try. Incorporating self-care and time with the little people, Lewis has introduced his boys to the world of Cosmic Kids Yoga Videos. This great concept allows parents to carry out a quick yoga session whilst keeping the little folks entertained!

If you don’t have any self-care rituals, would it be something you would like to know more about?

As much as some of my friends find it hard to fit self care into their routines, they seemed to have a good understanding of what they can do, and where to find more information on self care, should spare time be created.

Do you think self-care is easier for women than men?

This was my final question to the group. Having reflected on whether self care is easier for singletons compared to parents, I then started to wonder whether men and women viewed self care differently.

The answers were varied, and again, there was quite a difference between the views of men and women, with the men’s answers appearing once again with a (d) next to them:

  • I don’t think it’s about gender. I think it’s about mindset (but being in a same sex relationship might give me a different perspective). I think it’s easy to put it down to gender but I see huge differences in our approaches to it in my relationship
  • I think self care is just as easy for women as it is for men, if you let it be. Too many women are martyrs who feel that it is their duty to care for their children and not themselves. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the load. There’s nothing wrong it’s looking after yourself.
  • It’s easier fo men because it’s often harder for women to admit they need time away from their child (d)
  • I think it’s down to the individual and their circumstances (d)
  • Honestly – I don’t know. Everyone had busy lives and finding time to make time for yourself is probably hard regardless of sex (d).

Conclusion

The purpose of asking these questions, hasn’t really been about finding the definitive answer to whether self care is easier if you are single.

It was an idea that got me thinking about self care and the difference of approach between a single 30 something (me) and my friends, who are all doing tremendous jobs as parents.

The process for me has been fascinating. Peoples opinions vary so much.

I think if anything, the men I spoke to have surprised me more. The support they give to their partners to allow them to create time to be themselves away from being mum or dad, as well as their matter of fact approach to self care, has been surprising, and lovely to hear.

I also want to give my friend Elaine a special mention too. The relationship she has with her husband is refreshing. Being able to recognise when your partner is struggling is not only difficult for many people to recognise, but when they do recognise it, they don’t know how to react to it. Elaine and her husband not only recognise when each other needs time out to be themselves, away from mum and dad duty, but also manage to maintain a 50/50 approach to bringing up their beautiful daughter. On top of that, Elaine gets that it’s ok to not be ok. That if she needs to ask for help, that that’s ok. That looking after yourself is key, not only to a happy marriage, but to happy parenting.

Self care may not be the glue my friend needs in order to keep her marriage together. However, I stand by the fact that with a little bit of time out for herself, she may start to feel better about herself and the situation she is in. With a little bit of self care, a sprinkling of self love and some time to think, I hope that she finds the answers she needs, whether that’s keeping her marriage alive, or simply, by learning to love herself a little bit more.

Reprioritisation

Do you ever find yourself caught up in life and realise that you’ve not quite got your priorities right?

Life has been busy lately. In fact, since the new year, life has been pretty mental. Finding time to relax in the evenings and at weekends has been near on impossible, especially since my trip to Portugal back in February.

I’m certainly not complaining. There’s nothing worse than falling into January with an empty diary.

There have been weekends with friends or family visiting. There have been hen parties. There have been weekends where I’ve volunteered to help out with work events.

I also lost an entire Saturday when I was meant to be meeting my family for the day, but instead I ashamedly spent the day recovering from the worst hangover I’ve ever had in my entire life. Far from my proudest moment.

I felt awful not going to see my family. My brother was due to have an operation the following week and I had desperately wanted to see him before he went into hospital. But I wasn’t in a fit state to go anywhere, let alone jump on the train to go and meet them.

As frustrating and embarrassing as it was (I’m 35! Surely I should know better!?!), it was the kick up the backside I needed to refocus and get my priorities straightened out.

So after much deliberation, I decided to cancel my plans at the weekend (even though it meant letting someone else down), and head north to visit my family for the weekend.

And I’m so pleased I did. It was great to see for myself that my brother is recovering well from his operation, as well as getting to spend some time with my other brother, Sam, and getting the chance to look after mum and dad a bit. I know they all really appreciated my visit too. Making me even more grateful that I refocused my energy.

I hadn’t meant to leave it so long before I visited home. After my last visit in January, life just kinda happened, and time has a really bad habit of speeding by.

But it was good to take some time to refocus and reprioritise. It’s so easy to get caught up in life. But family come first, always. No matter how busy we get, it’s so important to remember to prioritise. And not to worry if you need time to refocus your energy and to reprioritise.

I’m heading back home again this coming weekend. However, with a hen party and a wedding reception to go to, it’s going to be another busy one. But I have kept Sunday free, so I can at least catch up with mum and dad again before I head back to London. And hopefully I’ll have a clear enough head to make the most of it!

Knife crime, dirty laundry, and self care

The last couple of weeks have made me realise just how important it is to have a self care bank.

If I hadn’t been able to cash in on some of my self care reserves, I definitely wouldn’t have got through it as well as I have.

Most of the drama that has unfolded, has been out of my hands.

Sadly we’re living in a city where knife crime is a reality. It’s almost becoming the norm. Yet twice, in the space of just a few days, knife crime got closer to home.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s my country bumpkin background that makes me more shockable when these things happen.

The guys I know who have lived in and around London for most of their lives, tend to just shrug it off and tell me ‘that’s life’. I guess this isn’t the first time they have dealt with knife and gang crime. It’s not like it’s a new problem, but with the news and social media platforms we use these days, perhaps it just seems worse because it’s talked about more.

Whatever’s going on, when it impacts people you know, as well as the work you do, it starts to feel like it’s getting a bit too close for comfort.

I’ve also still been having problems with my ex. I’m not going to air my dirty laundry on here, but it’s something I could do without.

I’m also trying to spend some time forging new, exciting friendships/relationships with people. It was one of the things I wanted to accomplish this year. It’s early days, but it’s kinda fun wondering whether these people are here for a reason, here for a season, or here for a lifetime.

I haven’t even had time to head home lately. Weekends have been filled with hen parties, friends and family visiting, and work. And there’s still more busy weekends to come.

I’m certainly not complaining, but my body and mind are starting to tell me I need some R&R.

Today, I listened to my body and did bugger all. After working all day on Saturday, I needed some time to just vegetate today. I only left the house to grab some food for dinner, and barely left the sofa. I used to hate days doing nothing. But I’ve learnt that when my body says rest, I need to listen to it, otherwise I run the risk of burning out.

Heading into a new week, I need to make sure I focus on getting back outside for some exercise, as well as creating some time to bank some more self care points, in order to replace those I have used over the last couple of weeks.

Fingers crossed for a more peaceful week ahead…

Solo Traveller

When I first went on holiday on my own 3 years ago, I received a mixed reaction from friends and family. Some said good on you. Others thought I was crazy. Won’t you be lonely? Aren’t you scared going alone? Why don’t you find someone to go with?

The answers to those questions at the time were:

  • I don’t know, as I’ve never done it before
  • Yes
  • There aren’t many of us singletons left in my friendship circle, and why should no one wanting to leave their husbands, wives or their children, stop me from going to sunnier climes?

This time around, fewer people asked those questions. In fact, the comments I received were a lot more positive:

  • I wish I was brave enough to go away on my own
  • Have a great time

Perhaps people’s mindsets are changing. More and more people seem to be going off and doing their own thing, whether that’s because they are single, or simply because they want to visit places their partners don’t really fancy going to.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the easiest thing to do. It pushes me way out of my comfort zone. But I like to see how far I can push myself. Where are my limits?

When I arrived in Portugal this week, I asked myself the questions my friends had asked me 3 years ago. My answers this time were:

  • No, I now love my own company. Plus the beauty of the modern world, means I can stay in touch with friends and family back home, if I want to.
  • I am always a little apprehensive about travelling alone, but I try to avoid putting myself in the face of unnecessary risk. Plus, I have now been living in London for 3 years.
  • I didn’t even try to convince anyone to come with me this time. Well, ok, just the one, but I was truly looking forward to escaping, having some quiet time away from the madness of work and London, and spending some time working on where I want to be in the future, and the steps I can start taking to get me there

So here I am, in sunny Portugal, sitting on my balcony, alone, but not lonely, enjoying some time away from the rat race, relaxing and exploring, watching the sunset and wondering just how many trips I might be able to squeeze into this coming year ✈️☀️🏖

Albufeira – photo taken today by me

Readjusting

After a wobbly start to the year, a weekend readjusting was much needed.

I took a brief trip to the lovely St. Albans on Saturday to meet up with my family. We’ve often suggested meeting half way between Northampton and London, but never actually done it. St. Albans is pretty much bang in the middle (time wise), taking each of us just over an hour to get there. We met at Verulamium Park for a lovey brunch in the cafe, and then walked up through the park to the Cathedral, and onwards to the shops.

None of us had ever been to St. Albans before, so except for the photo’s we had seen online before we met, we didn’t know what to expect. It certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to look around the cathedral, but we will definitely go back in the near future to have a proper mooch around to see what else St. Albans has to offer.

From there, I headed back to my London flat to start having a new year clear out and to settle into life as a singleton. Cupboards have been emptied, christmas presents taken out of their boxes, and christmas decorations put away for another year.

I still have no idea how I am going to get my Christmas tree out of my first floor flat without dropping its needles everywhere. I’ve attempted to wrap it in bin liners to make it easier, but it’s so big and heavy I have an awful feeling the only way to get it out is to slide it down the stairs…needless to say, the neighbours are going to love me when I try to get it out the front door this week!

The sort out has commenced, but I still have piles of things lying around the flat waiting to find their new homes, but I’m in no rush to finish sorting things out. It gives me a focus when I get home from work this week.

It’s been quite therapeutic changing things around though. It really is starting to feel like the fresh start I needed.

In addition to the big clear out, I have also managed to get out for a jog today. My second one this week. For those of you who read my blog New Year, New Goals, you will already be aware that one of my goals this year is to exercise more. For those who know me, you will know that I’m not a long distance runner. In school, I was a sprinter. In fact, I was the fastest girl in my school at one point in the 100m sprint. I have always been rubbish at running longer distances. But being surrounded by parks, and needing to save some money, jogging is my best option for now. Although it’s only the second time I’ve been out this week, I am already finding it really enjoyable. It’s very much walk, jog, walk, jog at the moment, but it’s already giving me more energy, despite the fact it has also made me realise just how unfit I am.

Another goal I have managed to stick to so far, is spending less time on social media. As the clock struck midnight on NYE, I deactivated my Facebook and Linkedin accounts, as well as one of my Instagram accounts. My social media time is already down by 9% this week. I haven’t missed Facebook and Linkedin at all yet. In fact, my mind feels more relaxed for not having them on my phone. Particularly with Linkedin. It’s so easy to get into the habit of working all day, and then reading work related material in the evening, which wasn’t giving my mind the break from work that in needs at the end of a long day.

I still need to work on my other goals, but there is no rush to achieve everything straight away.

To end the weekend, feeling energised after my jog, I managed to make a roast dinner for one, and have enjoyed some time chilling out in front of the tv with a glass of wine.

I wonder what the next 7 days will have in store…

(Photo’s from my trip to St. Albans. I can’t waiy to go back on a sunny day to take some more snaps)

As one chapter comes to an end, another begins

I feel kinda weird writing this post, but wanted to explain my absence over the last few weeks.

It’s been hard to find the right words so as not to cause any further hurt, but at the same time, since I started my blog, I have found it a really useful platform in dealing with my thoughts and find it better to get things out in the open, rather than internalising things.

I had known from the start of the year that 2018 was going to be a challenging time. It was going to test me and my relationship on every level.

They say that big events in life either make or break a couple. They bring you closer together, or you drift further apart.

This time, it sadly resulted in us drifting apart.

I hated having to have the conversation so close to Christmas. It’s one of my favourite times of year. I love the magic of Christmas. But this year, I was losing my spark. My festive spirit had gone, and it resulted me resenting my relationship even more because of it.

Christmas or not, I don’t think there is ever an easy time to finish something you know is not working. It was making me more and more miserable, and I knew that if I prolonged the inevitable even further, it was going to be harder to find happy me again.

It was hard leaving him in London as I travelled back to Northampton for Christmas. We had planned to spend time at my parents together. Instead he would now be spending Christmas alone in our flat whilst I travelled home to spend time with friends and family.

We have continued to live together the past few weeks which has made things hard at times. I’d be lying if I said that heading to Northampton for the holidays hadn’t been needed. It seemed to take so long to get there, but I was so grateful to finally hit the motorway on Saturday. It’s been nice to get some space to reflect, remember the good times, but to also start rebuilding me, so that in the new year, I can start the next leg of my journey.

I’m not sure where things are going to take me yet. I am still taking one day at a time. My heart hasn’t been where it perhaps should’ve been for the last year, so now it’s time to start thinking about where my heart wants to be. But not just my heart. My head too. I know I still have a lot to learn about myself.

The last few months I have become more aware of the need to look after my mind. Self-care is becoming increasingly important to me, and certainly something I want to explore more in the year ahead.

I have no hard feelings towards him. Our relationship has simply run its course. I will continue to hope that he achieves all that he dreams of.

But for now, it’s time for me to strap in, and start preparing for the next chapter of my life.

2019 – I’m coming for you!

After months of waiting, we’re entering into the week of the dreaded Visa Appeal. I feel like the last year has been focused on this moment. And now it’s here, I’m not sure how I feel.

Going through the application process was hard enough. Finding out the application had been rejected was tough. But the thought of having to go through court proceedings in the hope that the rejection will be overturned, has been an experience that has quite frankly drained me on every level.

It’s not even my appeal.

I can’t begin to comprehend how Ali must feel.

I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t impacted our relationship too.

Neither of us have been to court before. We have no idea what to expect on the day. I have never felt so underprepared for something in my life.

I have tried really hard to keep my emotions together over the last few months. I’m terrified that on the day I will become far from supportive and turn to a blubbering mess, when what I really need to do is to stay strong for Ali.

My family have been ridiculously supportive over it all, even offering to come down to support us on the day. But I know if they are there, all my emotions will come out and I will be no use to anyone.

Whatever happens this week I know I need to make some changes moving forwards.

Somewhere a long the way, a part of me has got lost. I need to go find that piece of me and get it back.

I also need to find my Christmas spirit! Normally I’m well on my way to feeling Christmassy by now. This year however, it doesn’t seem to matter how many festive markets I go to, I’m just not feeling it right now.

I need a holiday too. As soon as this week is out of the way I’m going to book myself a few days away at the start of the New Year. And a Spa Day.

I need to spend more time in my happy place too. I know where it is. Thankfully, it’s never gone away. It’s the one true place I can just be me.

 I’m going to make a commitment right here and now…

In 2019 – I’m going to focus on me. Not in a selfish way, but in a positive, much needed way. I need to spend some time focusing on what makes me happy. I need to get my energy for life back. I need to say yes to more exciting opportunities. And if I don’t?

Well, quite simply, there is no alternative. I am going to get me back. Whatever it takes. 2019, you better watch out…I’m coming for you!