How to ‘find yourself’ as a mum on a limited income

How to save time, spoil yourself and be the mum/woman you want to be when you’re broke!

Being a mother is a full-time job, on top of work, relationships, hobbies and your own interests. It is one not everyone wants or is able to do. While it requires sacrifice, putting others needs before our owns and at times the sleep deprivation can be killer, most mothers find it hugely rewarding.

That said, too often I speak with mums who lost themselves in their kids and being a mum. Their lives go from being filled with friends, fun and hobbies to being completely absorbed by the needs of the kids. Spending on themselves leads to feelings of guilt and instead of doing anything for themselves, everything goes to everyone else. Including time, energy and money.

While motherhood is an incredible blessing and we do absolutely need to take care of our children, you still need to take care of yourself too. My daughters and I discuss this and I’ve said:

“I am a better mother for you when I look after myself, pursue my hobbies and spend time with my friends.”

It isn’t about neglecting the kids, it is about remembering you are still a person with your own interests and needs, outside of being a mother.

This post is going to cover all the excuses I hear from mums plus how to start taking care of yourself and afford to do it. Disclosure, I do have a few affiliate links to products or services I personally use. I do not recommend or link to anything I don’t use or trust. 

Excuse 1 – “I can’t, I feel too guilty!

Mum guilt is the first thing I wanted to address. Many mums find it hard to spend any money on themselves because they feel like they are taking money away from their kids and their needs. Let’s look at it differently.

Have you noticed when you are stressed, the kids act out? They can feel the tension so their anxiety levels rise, causing them to do behaviour you probably don’t like, fight more, get clingy and other things. When you are more relaxed, they often are too.

Taking care of yourself benefits them! “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Your health, both mental and physical are important. Your needs, wants and interests matter.

Nothing is going to completely remove your mum guilt, it’s a mindset shift. Finding that balance between the family’s needs and your own is important.

Excuse 2 – “I have no time!”

Between work, school, extracurricular activities, playing at their friends’ houses, cooking, cleaning and everything else, you’re exhausted and have no time, right? I’ve often been like this, stressed out, no time for myself, doing everything for everyone else with nothing left for me.

What I realised is, when I have good systems in place and involve my kids I have more time. There are so many ways to save time, check out 18 in this post. This is your life and you can decide how to live it.

To give you an idea, I rarely watch TV, my kids help around the house and I have no issue outsourcing things if needed. Time is important to me.

Excuse 3 – “I can’t afford it!”

You can’t afford not to. 2015 I ended up paralysed, lived in excruciating pain which I blacked out from, had multiple surgeries and loads of medical issues as a result of neglecting myself. Your mental and physical health should be a top priority and it doesn’t have to cost a cent! Have you heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Basically, our actions are motivated by meeting our needs. When your base needs aren’t being met, you will function on a lower level and your actions will reflect that. The basics start with food, water, shelter and what we need for survival. Next, is security including financial stability, the ability to get affordable health care etc. The third is social needs where you feel you belong are loved and accepted. This can be through a church, school, community groups etc.

Fourth are your esteem needs where you feel appreciated and respected, both externally from others and within yourself for your own self-esteem. Last is self-actualisation, basically fulfilling your needs and being the best you can. Through each stage of the needs, you are working on yourself, improving and achieving personal growth.

How can you afford it all?

Meeting your needs and being the mum/woman you want to be is important. It doesn’t need to be expensive either! If your base needs such as food, shelter and security are not being met, seek the appropriate help. It’s ok to get assistance from charities, ask for help or share a home to split the costs. Give then high rate of divorce, homelessness and domestic violence in this country, many women at some point probably don’t have the basic needs met. I have been there (you can find out more about me at www.kylietravers.com.au) so I know how hard it is to function in those circumstances.

Get help if needed

There is so much help out there for housing (or sharing a home e.g. ShareAbode), food packages, bills being paid and assistance to find a job. It might not be your dream job, but getting a job/running a business or studying so you can provide financial security you need helps. Check out 18 ways to make money in 2018 and do the free 21 day money challenge to overhaul your finances to get this sorted.

Do free activities

Next, when it comes to social needs, your community and that support, so much can be free. Catch up with friends by walking through the park, going for a job or doing a free class together. It keeps you both healthy plus you have quality time with loved ones. When I meet up with people now it’s a BBQ at a park or we go for a jog or walk around the city. So many of my friends have commented on how much money they save hanging out like this instead of drinking at bars PLUS we have real conversations instead of drunken messiness.

Check out Meetup or look for free classes and activities in your area. Join a sports team, take a class or join a club. Join groups on Facebook and attend events or anything they have going on.

Acknowledge your success

The esteem category is basically free! Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, apply for awards, put yourself out there and accept compliments. If someone congratulates you or offers a compliment say thank you. You deserve it and are worth it!

Excuse 4 – “I have special needs kids so can’t” or “I have a disability so can’t.”

Wrong! In this scenario, it is even more crucial you do. My eldest daughter is on the autism spectrum and studies have shown parents of children on the spectrum have similar levels of stress to combat soldiers and holocaust survivors. If you are a parent of a child with a disability, you need to look after yourself.

Being the one with a disability is extremely difficult. In 2015 then again in 2017, I spent a long time with paralysis and level 10 pain issues. Childbirth is level 8, at level 10 you black out because your body cannot handle it. I had multiple surgeries and was told it would be permanent. I understand the difficulties of living with a disability. While I am no longer disabled, that period of my life gave me a great appreciation and understanding.

You still need timeout and self-care. Work out what you enjoy, what you can do and what you feel you need.

In Australia, there are payments from Centrelink to help, there is the NDIS, you can apply for respite care and there are various charities. I get it. Your life does not go as planned, your time is consumed by caring for someone else and you get left behind.

Make a change

As simple as it sounds, you need to choose what you can change, what you have control over and work with it. As an example, last week was a mess. My daughters had the Monday off school because they were sick. Tuesday and Wednesday I was called up to the school because my eldest was vomiting from anxiety due to her autism. She simply wasn’t coping and when it gets to that stage her body stops functioning and she can’t think.

At home, the kids argued, both were anxious and the housework was next to impossible. I kept it together because I had to but it wasn’t easy. What I knew though was I could not control it all. I can’t control when my daughter will be unable to cope. How I react to it is within my control. Talking to her teacher and implementing strategies (which we did) is also within my control.

Choosing what to let go and what to take action on is about all you can do in some of these circumstances. What changes can you make? Is there something you can let go? Are you trying to control too much which is actually uncontrollable?

Excuse 5 – “I don’t know how!”

Have you put self-care into the too hard basket? Has it been so long since you did something for yourself or pursued your own passions that you simply don’t know how to do it anymore? Or maybe, you don’t know what your interests are?

Get out a piece of paper and start brainstorming. Here are some things which can help:

Think about your childhood

Write down things you loved to do as a kid, interests and hobbies you had. If you are drawing a blank, ask people who knew you then. Maybe you collected certain things, played a sport or instrument? I lived on the beach and loved spending as much time as I could there. Sports played a big part of my life as did cooking and doing things to help my family. As such, I have made sure I cook things with my daughters, I do volunteer work I enjoy and have taken up some sports.

Try new things

When is the last time you tried something new? The great thing about the internet is you can look up how to do anything or where a class is and try it. This year I committed to it being a year of new. New experiences, new food, a new me. I’ve done dancing classes, redecorated my house, am learning guitar, have gotten back into yoga and holidays are booked.

What would you like to try and how can you do it?

Get small snippets of time

Take a longer shower, do a full body scrub and face mask. On a Sunday night do a manicure and pedicure while watching TV. Listen to an audiobook or podcast after you’ve dropped the kids off. None of these things cost a lot of money nor is it a large amount of time, but it’s better than nothing! Taking care of yourself like this boosts your confidence and when confidence is higher it is easier to be yourself.

Pair up with other mums

If you don’t want to do things on your own or don’t know where to start, pair up with other mums to do something. Plan regular outings, join a class together, do something. Or, arrange with other mums to look after each other’s children so you can all get some downtime.

Get your kids involved

Do you have a cause you are passionate about? Get the family involved! While it’s great to be able to do stuff on your own, you can get your kids involved in your interests. I love to travel so have actively ensured my kids were used to travel and enjoyed it from when they were a few weeks old.

We incorporate their love of animals and conservation into travels as well. They’ve also been involved in events for the blog, charity work and other interests of mine. It creates great discussions and memories, plus they learn so much.

Did you lose yourself as a mum? What do you do for yourself?

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