Be kind to yourself, Mama

I’ve found myself ending up at my toddler’s new favourite soft play at some point during the past nine days out of ten.

Partly because he discovered last week when we went for the first time in ages that he thinks it is absolutely the most awesome place in the universe and never wants to leave.

Up until now he has struggled with the overwhelming noises and sheer numbers of children in those (bloody awful, quite frankly…) types of places. He used to cry when we were there with friends and the other toddlers would be off playing while he just wanted to leave. He’d hang onto me, seemingly terrified. And I’d wonder what it must be like to have a child who loved to play there.

Suddenly, he’s loving soft play. And the look on his perfect little face when we’re there is something I can’t get enough of.

I won’t lie. Getting to this point with him has felt like one huge slog at times. Not because I haven’t loved every moment of being his mum – which I have – but because we’re only now finding out more about his needs that explain why it’s felt so tough.

I’m so grateful for the tough parts of motherhood. They have given me this gorgeous contrast which means when he’s playing happily, I have this completely overwhelming emotional reaction; I quite literally spill over with feelings of joy.

The first few years of parenting are literally curveball, after curveball, after curveball.

Some are brilliant and joyful. Others make you proud. Some make you cry, and others fill you with fear or despair.

You deal with them in the very best way you can.

Mostly while berating yourself for not coping better, managing more and achieving more.

What is that about?

This past week I’ve noticed that when I’ve found myself at soft play – yet again – watching my boy as he jumps around like a maniac or I’m wedging myself down a slide designed for babies, there’s a voice criticising me for not being more creative with the activities we’re doing/not spending enough time outside that day/not getting jobs at home done/not getting enough work done…etc, etc.

But instead of allowing that voice to dominate, I’m trying to be a bit kinder to myself. I’m trying to bottle those moments with him and just enjoy them rather than beating myself up for not having replied to emails, got that project finished, cleaned the bathrooms or thought about dinner.

People say this to mums all the time. Be kinder to yourself. It’s a simple concept, but one which we all seem to find so hard to grasp.

The more I think about it, the more I seem to be attracted to situations where people I know are doing this very thing: trying simply to be a little bit kinder to themselves. So I’m going to take the lead from them.

I’ve not been very kind to myself for years. And slowly I’m recognising the harm that’s caused and the potential it has to ruin beautiful, precious times. And I can’t allow that to happen.

I don’t want that for you either.

So please, please, please Mama. Be kind to yourself. Try like hell to see yourself through the eyes of your children and everyone who knows you.

Because they see your compassion. They see your love, your sacrifices and your triumphs.

They see how incredible you are.

And that’s something every single one of us needs to learn.

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