I don’t need to tell anyone that lockdown was intense…in many, many ways; we all just got through the best way we could, didn’t we? Making it all up as we went along! I found it a real juxtaposition between loving the downtime, with no school runs, the slower lifestyle, the quality time with not only the girls but my husband Ryan, and let’s face it the weather was pretty glorious those first few weeks too.
But all of this placed against the relentlessness of the everyday tasks and my role in that; the home schooling, the keeping everyone safe, the cleaning, the tidying, there was definitely a monotonous undertone to some days; they all blended into one in many ways, fleeting and blurring by. But the hardest thing of all was finding any time for me, it was nearly impossible in fact when there were 6 people and a dog under one roof. I felt like I wasn’t Samantha at all, I was solely mum and wife and really I can’t blame my girls or Ryan for that as when I’m inside these four walls of our home that is who I am, and I love it. I am chief organiser, chief care giver, chief disciplinarian, chief house keeper, the list goes on! But not being able to step aside from this part of who I am for any length of time felt suffocating at times. As the weeks drifted by the days were feeling relentless and I was beginning to feel resentful, not knowing how much more I could give. Feelings I wasn’t used to as being at home with my family was always my safe haven.
I knew I needed to find something for me, something to get out to, something to set me apart from the home and most importantly something to give me a little fire in my belly but as to what that would be I had no idea! Up until now the only time I took for myself was a 45-minute online exercise class with the incredible Aimee of Bodyfit Mums 3 times a week but even that was done with the girls running around me. But I believe this was the catalyst to knowing that I needed an outlet to be the best person and mum I could be!
By taking that time for myself, focusing on myself was indeed beneficial for not only me but also for my children!
I had a better perspective, better focus, better patience after each workout and I began to see the benefit of looking after myself. I won’t lie, some days I had to fight so hard to get that 45-minute workout done in between fights, meltdowns, nappy explosions and snack demands but even on the days when it didn’t go smoothly I never felt worse after I had finished…quite the contrary actually! Bodyfit Mums enabled such a shift in my mindset where I had felt that as a mum and furthermore a stay at home mum that I shouldn’t be away from my children; that I shouldn’t WANT to be away and that I shouldn’t NEED to be away.
However the reality is that I felt like this because I was afraid of what others would think of me taking this time away and I’ve realised that me caring about me is more important than what anyone else thinks. I began to realise that a lot of the time I was making assumptions on what others thought and that it actually stemmed from the old mum guilt that rears its head when I try to take something for myself. Anyone else?
So, as the weeks rolled on and they blended into months and with the relaxing of lockdown restrictions, I realised that I needed some distance, time away from the girls and even the 4 walls of my house! Ryan had been back at work and life was largely back to normal “routine” for him, however, life was still far from normal for me! My girls are my best friends in this world and I adore spending time with them but I was starting to feel suffocated, having no space in mind or body. The constantly being hyper aware of where everyone was at any given time, what was going to happen in 10 minutes, an hour, tonight, tomorrow…was draining! I was feeling touched-out, with a baby who still breast fed on demand and throughout the night I was starting to feel like a rather frazzled hamster on its wheel!!
So scrolling social media one evening I saw Kelly advertising her hikes on Facebook and I just knew I had to go! I never was afraid to step out and do something on my own, I never have let that hold me back, it would have been the fear and guilt of leaving the girls that would normally have stopped me from doing something separate from my family unit. Never organising something for a weekend as I felt it should be solely family time but thankfully that mindset was starting to shift, perhaps a positive outcome of lockdown.
So despite the nerves in my belly that I knew I would have on the morning of the hike I was excited and raring to go…
For that first hike we met in Leitrim Lodge car park, it rained…full wet gear, hands soaking, my “waterproof” coat soaked through kind of rain but it didn’t cost me a thought! To be outdoors, in the mountains with no one to watch out for, no one to keep safe, with no one to keep happy, with no one to feed, with no time restraint, it was…amazing, truly satisfying and uplifting.
I remember so clearly thinking I would get to the top of the mountain and just cry, not because of unhappiness or that lockdown had been awful, (quite the opposite in fact, we kind of liked it many ways). I felt the mountains would give me that space to release feelings that had built-up over the months in lockdown, feelings that despite my husband and my children being my whole entire world, my whole purpose and why I get out of bed in the mornings, the reality was that I felt a huge sense of relief being away.
I also felt relief while I reflected on the past months; in my ability to accomplish what I felt was a mountain climb (no pun intended) in itself at the start of March….home schooling for so long, being able to keep the girls busy, entertained, fed, excited for their days, keeping house, a dog, but I gave it my all, every piece of me and this felt like the first time that I had stepped outside of that “lockdown” bubble and boy did I need it!! Those few hours to myself and to be me! On a side note, the tears never came but I do know that I breathed in deep and exhaled deep breaths that I hadn’t done in months and my jaw that I had been clenching was finally loosening.
I didn’t know anyone except Kelly on that first hike but honestly it felt like I was among friends. I chatted to women of all ages and backgrounds and arrived back to the car soaking but with such a calmness and gentle tiredness and feeling rather serene but also totally invigorated. I was so excited to get home and to tell Ryan and the girls about my adventure and I was already planning on getting them all up the same route!
Many people think I’m nuts using my “me” time to go climb a mountain. I am guilty like many others sometimes of being in my head too much, questioning my instincts and my decisions, wanting and trying to do what’s best but being quite indecisive on what that is! I often know I need rest but is that rest-rest, do nothing, lie on the sofa in my pjs rest or rest time out in the mountains clearing my head, and having only myself to worry to about while I’m up there? Yes of course rest-rest is important but in all honesty rest-rest rarely happens in a house with 4 kids under 8, there is always someone who wants or needs something and my bum on a sofa does not happen for too many minutes in a row! So despite the physical exertion I can come home more rested from a hike in my mind and body than if I had been at home on the sofa.
So a little note to finish to encourage anyone else feeling that they are a million other things before their own name – mum, wife, job title, etc. to go seek out something for yourself, I promise you won’t regret it! Like myself, you might just find it to be the something you were missing all along. Thankyou to Aimee of Bodyfit Mums and Kelly of Wild Women Events for helping me realise that a good foundation of self-care is vital in my own journey through motherhood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey there, I’m Samantha, 32-years of age, mum of 4 girls, wife to Ryan and a recent recruit to the permanent stay-at-home Mum task-force. But also, I am Samantha, lover of the outdoors, being active and since 2018 have been cultivating a great love of the Mourne Mountains.
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