Motherhood: How To Create Space
Tonight I taught a Pre-natal Yoga class where the theme was ‘Creating Space’. The focus creating space physically in the body, especially opening through the chest, the top of the shoulders and sides where things tend to get all bunched up and busy as pregnancy progresses.
When we’re pregnant, the bigger baby grows, the less space there is for us. Our heart, lungs, organs, get a bit more cosy, our shoulders and hamstrings tighter as our posture changes and makes room for baby to inhabit the space within us. It is magical and miraculous.
But something has got to give, in fact, a lot has to move up, shift and shimmy on over to allow something else to exist too. That something is us.
When we are pregnant, we have to work harder to create space in our bodies and feel open and free though the tight spots. Baby takes up space in our actual bodies, then on arrival our homes…. But perhaps more significantly than these physical shifts - in our minds, our hearts and deep within our very essence of being.
Which is beautiful but also incredibly intense, sometimes uncomfortably so.
Our children are part of us, quite literally. How strangely wonderful and weird it can feel to go from being just a person looking after our own lives and needs, to doing that all of a sudden for 2 or more people continuously with no break. This change, a huge dynamic within firstly our bodies, space we live in and then our minds is beyond any others that many of us encounter when becoming a mother and one that is seldom explained in the books. It just is, and everyone feels it a little differently.
Yet one thing is for sure… if you enjoy having space and time to yourself before being a parent (ie. most of us), this can be an immense struggle to find yourself without much of it at all! Motherhood, particularly in the early years replaces that space we enjoy with constant physical activity centred around baby, mental chatter, rollercoaster feelings of fear, love and other various contrasting emotions, exhaustion, self-doubt and more.
When we re-charge our battery on our phone we usually pop the charger in and leave it for a while to re-juice, yet having the time to re-charge isn’t always possible for parents…. but wow it can get crowded and feel claustrophobic without it. Self-care is the buzz word on the lips of many, but I am sure I haven’t been alone in secretly rolling my eyes when hearing, ‘Don’t forget to take care of you’. Whilst a lovely idea, it can seem virtually impossible, laughable concept!
When there’s simply no room left and all is spent, everything is a struggle.
But, there is hope. It is possible! And, arguably even more essential for those who, perhaps like me with 3 little ones and a busy family diary, have seldom opportunity to step off the treadmill and away from these lovable but incredibly needy little people. Finding that sweet spot even if super brief, gives us the strength and energy to be if not our best selves, then a bit better, happier and healthier on all planes.
So, what to do? We are not talking about booking a flight to somewhere warm and distant for a week or two alone (this of course, has never crossed my mind) but we need to create a little space, in order to be expansive in both mind and body, to feel free and open so we can continue to give of ourselves with joy, not obligation.
For the kid free time poor – and we are in good company, here are a few things that have helped me personally create that pocket of space, allowing me to feel a little freer (especially post twins when for rather a long time 2 minutes alone felt like a spa day).
Breathe. Simple/silly perhaps but this one is backed by science! Breathing deeply from the belly and with purpose is one of the most powerful things we can do for our mind. As well as stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, we calm everything down a few notches, bringing fresh oxygen into the body and making us feel more in control – so we can return to any situation, even a monumental 2yo tantrum feeling like ‘We got this’. For more info on techniques click here:https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/importance-breath-yoga
Walk/Move. The last thing I wanted do on 3 hours sleep and with a mountain of tasks was something resembling exercise, but moving your body even just for a few minutes a day can change the whole psyche. A long walk, fresh air (as well as pushing that heavy old pram, bonus points for the biceps) is easy, free and effective exercise and a great mood booster/anxiety reducer. A few simple stretches or a short workout for 5 to 10 minutes is sometimes all you need to feel stronger and more energized for the day. On Sunday I did a Vinyasa Flow class that was 8 minutes 32 seconds long! (www.movementformodernlife.com) It sounds ridiculous but it genuinely made me feel great and really boosted my mood ahead of the day, I felt like I had achieved something.
Write. Many people recommend spending just a few minutes a day writing down anything that comes to mind and by doing so creating space by transferring those thoughts/worries/hopes/fears to paper. Once they are written down, the thinking is there is no further need to keep playing them over in your head and you are able to focus more on the present. Worth a try! Check out the ‘Checkin’ Journal from Malpaper which helps gives you a focused way to be self-aware and connect with yourself daily. https://malpaper.com/products/the-checkin-journal
Call. I used to and still sometimes do get overwhelmed by the number of Whatsapp that can be received in a day! It isn’t because I am not grateful to be able to easily communicate with people I care about, but I used to always feel pressure to respond straightaway which was sometimes difficult, or to be a chatty group participant. Setting a time in the day to respond to messages, or explaining that you are not always able to reply straightaway takes off the pressure and expectations we can put on ourselves to keep up and be a good friend/family member. Or set up a time to speak instead during your daily walk, and have a proper meaningful chat - 2 birds with one stone and you get a much more rounded connection.
Say NO. As a parent, it is impossible to do everything as we make a huge amount of space for this tiny but significant human. There is still one pie to share out and 24hours in a day (although at times it may feel closer to 104). If you are a lovely person and want to make everyone happy that’s well intentioned but in trying to please everyone, the only one who will suffer is you. I learnt this the hard way but now I realise that people understand if you can’t attend everything, meet weekly, go to the wedding Down Under on that sacred annual girls holiday – and the true friends will still be very much there when you are begging to resume monthly cocktail night. There will be more time in the future to give more but it’s essential to have your name on your priority list in those early days especially and beyond.
These suggestions are purely through my own personal experience as a mother and yoga teachings but I hope, something resonates with someone and helps a little to give just a little more ‘give’. We would love to hear more suggestions from other parents of how you create Space in your lives (hints and tips hugely welcome please!).
Do comment and share!