I first came across this term in Sarah Buckley's most excellent book, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering when I was pregnant with my darling daughter over a year ago. Basically, the idea is that if we are to care for our children well, we need to care for ourselves well. This means that we need to regularly do things for ourselves that will replenish our energy stores, otherwise we are at risk of fatigue, resentment, frustration, etc..
These last couple of weeks have been a big lesson for me in paying attention to my mummy tank, especially when the red light is on and I need to refuel NOW or I'm going to break down somewhere! And I've certainly felt like breaking down at times. At these low points, I've thought to myself, What have I actually done for myself lately that makes me happy? In the mental lists I keep in my head – do the dishes, wash nappies, cook dinner, make sure daughter/husband/family/friends/random strangers on the street (you get my point) are happy – I haven't had a single thing that was for me alone. How familiar does that sound, mummies? Remembering Sarah Buckley's words, as well as countless discussions had with my fellow mummy friends on the very important topic of caring for ourselves, I decided to take action – and write myself a Mummy Tank Manifesto. Here is a copy of it, now stuck up on the wall in our kitchen:
KATE'S MUMMY TANK
In order for Kate to be her loveliest, happiest, calmest mummy self, she needs to regularly replenish her energy stores. One, or more, of the following can help:
- taking darling daughter for some period of time so Kate can have time to herself
- a foot massage (or any sort of massage, really)
- a cup of tea made for Kate
- words of validation and encouragement so Kate feels she's doing a good job and is recognised for it
- a really good book to escape into
- a change of scenery – a walk to the park, a drive somewhere
- some housework done – the dishes, a load of washing, general tidying, dinner cooked – so that Kate has a little less to do
- lending Kate an open and understanding ear so that she may talk, vent, cry, whatever, to get it off her chest.
I'm sure it seems a little silly writing such a formal document about taking time for myself, but in all the months I've thought about it, it's taken me penning to paper to really do something about it. And now, as of this morning, I have Kate's Sunday Morning Ritual of Gloriousness in place! I'm not religious by any stretch of the imagination but I now look forward to Sunday mornings as if I were having a divine connection with God herself. Every Sunday at around 10am, I bid farewell to my daughter, my husband, the messy house and the floors that desperately need vaccuuming and instead go the movies. Simple, hey! I get myself a takeaway coffee, maybe even splurge on over-priced movie popcorn at the candy bar and enjoy a cinema experience all on my own.
Before I had children, I would NEVER have gone to the movies alone. In fact, I would have thought anyone seeing a movie alone is a serious Nigel-No-Friends.
But not anymore! As I get myself seated comfortably in the cinema, food at the ready, mobile switched to silent, I look around to see if there is anyone else there, like me, escaping the domestic life for a couple of hours of bliss, peace and solitude. And there is! I mean, I don't approach them and say, Hey Fellow Loner! Are you escaping a grumpy teething baby too?! High five!! That would be weird. But I allow myself the fantasy that there are many of us, out on a Sunday morning, refuelling our mummy tanks with some glorious alone time.
So, what are YOU doing to fill your mummy tank? I challenge all of you, mummies, to do one nice thing for yourself today that will push up the meter on your energy tank.
Oh, and what movie did I see today? The King's Speech. And it was brilliant!