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Take a moment for yourself this Imbolc, Mama. Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  And in this way Imbolc can remind us...
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December.  Ah, season of twinkly lights, mince pies, massive long lists and over-giving.

I approach it with both a glowy warmth in my chest and an anticipatory tightening somewhere in my gut.  And I know lots of you do too.

From mid-November I started seeing a ripple running through many of my client sessions.  Or perhaps a clench would be more accurate.  One by one the wonderful women I work with were looking at the horizon and anticipating what December and the festive season were going to mean for them.

For those working on their relationship with rest and advocating for their needs there was the very real worry of ‘how do I keep tending to myself when Christmas expectations threaten consume me?’.

We've all gathered plenty of experience around what this season can feel like as a Mama and if we’ve been in the pattern of giving more than we have year after year it makes complete sense that we feel the need to brace for what’s coming.

Christmases past

The conversations I’ve been having got me thinking about Christmases past when (more than once) I ran myself into the ground doing all the things, making all the things, ticking the endless ‘magic-making’ tasks off my list.

I look back on that version of me who was unstoppable in her dogged determination of creating the Perfect Christmas and I feel a lot of feelings.

I’m not sure which was more to blame… capitalist patriarchal ideas of what a ‘good mother’ does at Christmas (you can almost picture the manual, can’t you?)... curated images of perfect Christmases on Pinterest boards and insta accounts... or my old over-working / over-giving tendencies which behind the scenes were being fed by not-enoughness.

A heady combination of all of it, I imagine, meaning my magic-making expectations of myself were way too high.

I knew this at the time on some level because, though there was beauty and joy and I’ve got some great insta-worthy pictures of it all somewhere, I was so tired that I was almost watching from a distance whilst being right there.

Everyone else was for sure enjoying it more than I was.

(If there’s a part of you that read that sentence and thought ‘well everyone else should be enjoying it more’… know that I imagined that to be true once too and now know it isn’t)

At the time I was sure it was coming from pure love for my family.  So much of it was.  But I now see how easy it is to get in the habit of over-giving – giving more than you truly have whilst side-lining your need to resource – and confuse it for piling on all the love.

Christmas present

These days I’m here for a slower and simpler December.  I edit both the list and my expectations of myself down to fewer things and find fewer means more special.

I hit easy buttons, noticing it makes little to no difference to anyone else and a huge difference to me.

I go gently with myself knowing I’m more present - my love more available somehow - when I’m taking care of me too.

I find the more I say no to, the more energy and capacity I have for what I say yes to.

If I could, I’d go back and give myself this knowing sooner.  But knowing it now is all kinds of good.

Finding slow

If in your heart you want simple and slow - giving within your capacity - but your list for the next week or so is saying anything but, here’s a place you can begin:

On your mammoth list or within your internal expectations of yourself for Christmas, find the thing that makes you heavy sigh at the thought of having to do it.  Or the thing for which each year the tiny spark of resentment you have for it grows. 

Imagine what it would feel like to just not do it this year. 

To take back the time/energy/money you put into it and re-direct those precious resources of yours to something you’d really full-body-feels love.

You get to make that choice if you want to. And you get to make it for all the other things that make you feel similarly.

Alternative lists

And let's make a different kind of list.  One that has a balancing effect. One that’s supportive, kind and reminds you that how you feel is important.  One full of self acceptance and self compassion.

Some ideas:

~ A list of all the slow, nourishing moments you’re looking forward to.

~ The ways you’ll take care of yourself over Christmas.

~ 3 ways you can settle your nervous system when you need to.

~ Ways to honour your capacity and say no.

~ 5 promises you’ll keep to yourself.

What would that kind of list do for you?

Wishing you all that you crave in these last weeks of the year, lovely x

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Coach with me

I have openings in January for 1:1 coaching and I’m loving welcoming in women who want to… transform their relationship with rest, learn to advocate for their needs, invite in more of what they want in their life and see what lies on the other side of their self-doubt.

If you’re curious about how a coaching journey with me would support you, you’re so welcome to book in for a free call so we can have a cup of tea together and chat about it.  I’d so love to meet you.

This is particularly for the mums who’ve gained some space and time with the back-to-school of September.  Whether school has started for the first time for you this month or you’ve sunk back into the much-needed routine of it all.  Extra-specially relevant if this is the first time in a long time that you’ve actually had some consistent child free space in your week…

So term has begun.  The first couple of weeks are under your belt.  Hopefully your kids have settled in/back to the extent that you have more headspace.  And now finally it’s time for that epic list you’ve been compiling all Summer (or for 4 years) to have your full attention.

Time for you to finally FINALLY get done all the things you’ve been longing to get on top of.

But you’re exhausted and nothing is happening quickly enough.  Or the thing you imagined would take you a morning has taken you a week and a half and you’ve barely scratched the surface.  Or the thing that seemed like a small hill has revealed itself to be a mountain on closer inspection. 

You’re lacking motivation, certainty, clarity, creative flow or some other elusive magic that would see you flying.

In your head you were going to be aceing it by now and you’re starting to feel down on yourself that you’ve entirely wasted these first couple of weeks.

I feel pretty sure about saying… you haven’t.

It's understandable

If since school went back you haven’t managed to:

~ Choose / pick up / change / sky-rocket your career

~ Start an instantly thriving business

~ Deep clean & declutter your entire house

~ Become a top cross-fitter from a starting point of zero exercise for years

~ See all the people

~ Pick up all the projects

~ Sort out your entire life

~ Do all the other gazillion things you swore you’d do as soon as you had consistent child free time

It is ENTIRELY UNDERSTANDABLE

(And also entirely understandable that you might want some kind of life overhaul)

When space opens up

When long anticipated space opens up it’s so common for us Mums to have pre-loaded a shit ton of expectations on it.  We’ve had a lot of time to think about all the things we’ve not been able to get to!

These expectations are such that you’d have to be a super-human time-traversing being to meet them.  Which you, wonderful as you are, are not. Nor should you attempt to be.

Let's remember...

A week or two is barely enough time to catch your breath, re-discover the ability to string two sentences together and get used to drinking hot cups of tea again.

You have absolutely not failed, fallen short or missed any boats.

At the same time, your frustration and disappointment make complete sense as well.  If consistent child-free time has been a long time coming, if you’ve waited ages to get to all this stuff, of course it makes sense that you want to be cracking on. 

I would offer that it takes time to re-group and get back into the swing.  It takes time to make shifts and changes.  To get something big moving or overhaul some area of your life.  When you’ve anticipated some kind of movement for a while and space for it finally opens up, it’s understandable that you want it to happen immediately – yesterday, ideally.  

And yet, maybe it’s ok that it needs more room to unfold.

What you can do:

If you have disappointment or frustration around your once-the-kids-are-back-at-school plans, here’s what you can do next:

~ Start talking to yourself softly and encouragingly (gently catching yourself when you forget to)

~ Give yourself the grace to really catch your breath and feel how you feel – particularly if this is the first child-free time you’ve had in a long while there may be some exhaling and unravelling to do first

~ Allow this to take the time it takes – how often do we rush ourselves to get on when it might go better if we took that extra time to gather?  And if it is your first consistent space for a long time I’d really recommend a pause before you dive into what’s next.

~ Meet some of your needs that you’ve been putting off for too long – the things that will fill you up so you’re not trying to be productive from a place of empty.

~ Check in with whether you still want all those things you’ve been earmarking for when this space opens up for you – it’s normal to find it feels different once you’re here

~ Ask yourself what you have capacity / appetite / energy for just now – and be honest with yourself

Then (and only then)

~ Choose ONE focus that feels good to be with first 

~ Be realistic about timeframes & expectations of yourself

~ Notice that the self-doubt coming up is a mechanism designed to keep you safe and it's only part of the story

~ Ask yourself (and return again and again to) ‘what is the next most doable step?’

I'm rooting for you x

*
Coach with me

If September has felt overloaded with expectations you couldn’t possibly meet and you crave clarity, support, direction or a plan you feel good about, it might be a good time to have some coaching. 

Check out my one-off deep clarity session or my coaching journey ‘the Unfolding’ for longer support. 

You can book in a virtual cuppa with me here to talk about what you need and see if we’re a good fit.  I have space opening up in a couple of weeks time and I would love to meet with you. 

I wrote in my blog post at the start of Summer that this one was going to be a juggle with both working from home and tag-teaming childcare between us. I wanted to share an update about something that’s helping which I hadn’t anticipated.

It’s this:

I’m NOT trying to have the Perfect Summer

And it’s a revelation.

Why this feels good...

There’s this subtext that seems to run through Summers once you have children that says ‘this is the only Summer they’re going to be like this - this age - so enjoy every moment, make all the memories, capture all of them in instagrammable photos and make it the most perfect GOLDEN Summer there ever was’.

If it were a film I can hear a trailer announcing: brought to you by the makers of the ‘good mother’ and ‘supermum’ myths, Patriarchy Studios brings you this season’s blockbuster: The Perfect Summer… enjoy every second!

Wow. The pressure.

I’ve been guilty of doing a number on myself with this storyline more Summers than I want to admit. Equating my love for my kids and wanting to be present to the stage they’re at with it needing to be perfect. Holding up an unnecessary measuring stick to our golden-in-parts-but-also-very-messy-and-imperfect Summer holidays and feeling like I’d failed in some way, even though I tried to tick all the boxes.

When you notice yourself think ‘this must be perfect’ it’s worth asking ‘or what?’.

What would it be if it wasn’t perfect? Disappointing? Not enough?

And what do you make that mean? That you’re not enough?

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a form of self doubt that I work with a lot with 1:1 clients. It’s seductive in that it says ‘do this thing perfectly and you’ll be safe / acknowledged / enough’.

But it’s an exhaustingly false promise because I’m not sure anything ever is perfect and even if it was I don’t think we’d recognise it as such.

The thing about perfectionism is that it always wants more and better. You're rarely ever done with it. And so we exhaust ourselves trying and then still feel unseen / disappointed / not enough anyway.

Since a disappointment is likely the very thing we’re trying to avoid our Summer being, when we set our sights on the perfect golden one, it turns out it’s a double-bind.

This year is different

This year, having worked a lot on my own perfectionism-flavoured self-doubt this past couple of years, I’m loving that I seem to have been able to unconsciously ditch this impossible ideal when it comes to our family's Summer.

(It’s totally ok to consciously ditch it, too)

And there’s this sense of: ooh so if it doesn’t have to be perfect, what could it be?

Messily imperfect and human? Just normal but sunnier? A whirl of tag-teaming with some chilled out pockets and the odd golden moment?

This feels freeing to me

And likely our Summer will always be whatever it’s going to be whether I try to make it perfect or not. This way, I get to take the pressure off, ditch the mum guilt and just be in it. Enjoying it for what it is, instead of being disappointed for what it isn’t.

Maybe I get to enjoy me for who I am, not berate myself for who I’m not too. And that’s pretty cool.

If you’ve been holding up a measuring stick to your days and feeling a whole load of not-enoughness, let this be your permission slip to put it down.

How about we have a messily human Summer together and lean into the exhale that brings.

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If you'd like to read more like this, consider joining my (free) email community who I share my 'Gentle Words' love notes with once or twice a month. You'll also get access to The Self Care Journal - a 20+ page journaling workbook to work through at your own pace, based on my coaching process, to help you find clarity over what needs tending to for you.

I have 2 spaces opening up for my 3 or 6 month 1:1 coaching programme in September. This is the ideal container in which to tackle your perfectionism and other flavours of self doubt so you can be free to move forward those things that call to you. You're so welcome to book in a virtual cuppa with me to see if this would be a good fit for you. You can book that here.

Take care, lovely x

© 2022 Lisa Mabberley
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