It’s 6am, I’m already showered and dressed, for the fifth day in a row I’ve decided to forgo washing my hair, a quick blast of dry shampoo and I sling it into a bun. Our daughter isn’t yet awake, she’s just under a year old. So, I sneak downstairs to make a cup of tea.
The dogs bark, daughter is now awake, tea remains on the side.
I’ve got a two-hour journey to work today, I run my own business and one of my staff members called in sick last night, so after making a plan with my husband, that would rival the planning that went into D Day,
I’m off to work, leaving him to drop off our daughter at the childminder, before he heads to the airport to fly off for yet another trip away. At the other end of the day, I know I must leave work at exactly 4pm or my two-hour journey will take four hours.
We’ve got nothing but eggs in the fridge and my car is telling me I have five miles to do before I run out of diesel.
Hey! I’m Sarah, I’m 40, I’m a professional ‘virtual’ plate spinner and self-confessed ‘Wonder Woman’, or I would be if I wasn’t about two dress sizes larger than I was the last time I wore a Wonder Woman costume (aged 20, you don’t want to know!).
I’m the kind of total nutter who gave birth to my daughter and then thought it would be cool to have a conference call with my staff, from my hospital bed. Please don’t be impressed because I’m telling you now, it’s a very sorry state to find yourself in and it led to a very unhappy existence. My self-worth was based on how tired I was and how much I could cram into a week.
Two years on, yeah it took a while, I’m still spinning plates, but I’m dropping less and the plates I do spin are the plates I love. So how did I get here?
Let me caveat this by saying, please don’t be under the illusion that I’m floating through life in a zen like state of perfection. I’m just more normal, less hyper normal.
In my darker, crockery smashing days, I’d begun to investigate self-care, it was a term that I couldn’t really relate too, it sounded far too like something my Granny did when she went to the chiropodist (sorry people with feet phobias).
I didn’t have time for it, mediation bored me, I felt like a total plonker writing down my feelings and we lived miles away from my parents, so I couldn’t rely on them to look after our daughter whilst I went on a champagne fuelled, salad munching, day out, loosely disguised as a Spa day.
What I did have was thinking time, mostly at 3am, when my brain was so wired, with my epic to do list, that I couldn’t sleep. What I began to realise was that I’d lost who I was, and I craved time and space just to be me, the new me, coupled with a bit of the old me.
I wrote down what I liked about me now and what I missed about me from before (pre-motherhood). I loved the wisdom I’d developed as a mum and a ‘late 30’s’ adult but I missed the time I had to make more of myself (make- up, clothes, hobbies etc etc). Running my own business was the realisation of lifelong passion, but I struggled with the lack of routine I had, when I was managing myself. I craved the normal working day, but on my own terms!
Once I had my list I sat down and worked out how to rectify those things I needed to change or evolve. So, I put the business to bed for a while and I applied for a job that I was not only passionate about but a job that gave me a working day, with flexibility to do my own things. I also recognised that I’m a very sociable ‘Wonder Woman’ but just like Diana Prince (80’s kids high five!), I needed the ability to float off to my own ‘Paradise Island’ for a bit of me time and the only way I could manage this was by getting up early.
My alarm goes off at 5.45am, which gives me at least an hour of quiet time to shower, drink a full cup of tea and take time to do my hair and makeup. I still work from home and It would be very easy for me to sit in my PJ’s all day, which would see me sink back into ‘making no effort mode’ so I decided to post my daily outfits on Instagram. At first, I felt a little like Alexis Carrington turning up to a car boot sale, when I did the nursery run each morning but now people seem to look forward to my daily outfit inspo. I drive a Land Rover Defender and I have no issue pounding the clutch of ‘bumpy poo’ (yeah, that’s what we call her, long story!) in my Zara animal print stiletto boots!
So, here are my top tips for claiming true Wonder Woman, plate spinning, self-assured happiness:
Your self-care, is YOUR self-care. What works for you may be very different from what works for Cat Woman or Super Girl down the road.
Realign your priorities. I have a sign above my desk that simply say’s ‘ Self, Family, Work’.
Take some time to be honest about what you like about you now and what you miss about you from before and write it all down. Don’t feel guilty about missing your pre-mummy, pre-marriage, pre-divorce, pre – whatever self, we all do it!
Hey, no one is telling you to go into work tomorrow and tell them to poke their job because you are off to Bali for a Gap Yah. But take your list and have a serious conversation with yourself about how you can make the changes you need to feel less ‘crockery smasher’ and more ‘crockery spinning world record holder’
Self-care need not be something epic, merely clawing back some time in the day for yourself. Time to achieve some of the stuff YOU want. I love my early morning me time, so does Dolly Parton, she gets up at 3am everyday to write music. Don’t feel obliged to do a Dolly though! Sleep is important.
Find a way to remain beholden to the actions you decide to take. I post on Instagram, you might choose to do something less public. You could write up and sign a contract (perfect for lawyers and accountants!), ask someone else to be your self-care manager, people love helping people. Whatever it is, make it happen.
Finally, reward yourself, but make it meaningful. In my worst state I’ve rewarded myself with far too many red lipsticks and that just fed into my own self guilt. A bath and a new book is always something I look forward to after I’ve completed my to do list for the week. If you love the thrill of something new, that’s fine, just keep to a budget. A Lifestyle Box might be the perfect reward !
Finally, your life has many different seasons, and with each season you lose some of who you are, but you gain something new. We are all, continually, changing and evolving. In my forty-year career as a human being I’ve noticed that people don’t really like change (No sh**!) In reality we need to walk up to change and give it a big old hug, because change is the only way we become better people.
Follow me on Instagram for daily outfit posts, mid-week makeup porn and wisdom @amumknowsbest
Sarah is 40 and a mum to three-year-old Neave. She is married to Nick who is a British Army Officer. They currently live in Germany, next stop … who knows! She began her working life as a radio presenter before working in education, both in a teaching capacity and later through her own business as a leadership and outdoor education provider. She currently works for the MOD as leadership specialist.