It’s all about me

We challenged three busy mums to take time out and do something for themselves. It was easier said than done, writes Catherine Shanahan.

It’s all about me

WITH no time for riding, Cecilia’s stagnating horses were fast becoming field ornaments. Jean’s grand plans to write a book remained — grand plans. And Gillian was so lost in the haze of motherhood that doing something for herself was quite unthinkable.

These three mothers were handed the challenge of finding some ‘me’ time against the backdrop of a new book, A Month of Somedays, by journalist and mother of three Catherine Cleary who overcomes huge hurdles to do the things she has always dreamt of doing — learning bikram yoga, running barefoot and speaking Mandarin.

Recognising that most mothers of young children rate getting to the supermarket an achievement, we demanded less from our participants. Cecilia, Jean and Gillian each set themselves a single challenge over the October midterm. Success rates were fair to middling…

Cecilia Foster, mother of two — Alfie (nine months) and Isabella (two years). Lives in Carrigtohill, Co Cork. “I had hoped to get in a couple of hours horse riding and a massage. In the end, all I managed was the chiropractor.

“I did need to get my back sorted and I needed more than a muscle rub.

Mothers of small children have bad backs.

“It would have been tricky if my husband wasn’t there, but he’s on a three-day week, so I took advantage of that.

“I didn’t get to go horse riding. When I’m looking after small kids, I don’t really feel I should be running off doing my own activities. My toddler does swimming and music classes, so I spend a bit of time on that.

“But getting to the chiropractor was a step forward. My mind was a bit more focused knowing I’d have to report back on how I got on.

“When you have kids, you commit yourself, especially when they’re small. It’s only a few years before they start school.”

Jean Wallace Jones, mother of four — twins Olivia and Andrew (11), Harvey (eight) and Lucy (five). Lives in Carrigaline, Co Cork.

“I’ve always wanted to write a book about bullying, for kids, written in the kind of language they understand.

“In my area of work (life coach and hypnotherapist), a lot of the adults I see would not need to see someone like me if they had more confidence as children.

“While I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, I did cover a lot of ground. I talked to my own kids to get a feel for their take on bullying. I also spoke to other parents about it.

“Involving the kids made it easier. I know the initial plan was for ‘me’ time but as a mother, it can be hard to separate work from children, especially during midterm. I’d probably find it impossible to take time and not to involve the kids, and to be fair, they gave me some good insights. I learnt a few things in the process. I’m hoping to put their knowledge to good use in the book.

“I didn’t tackle it formally everyday, but despite the lack of structure, I was surprised at the progress. Accepting a challenge is good for motivation.”

Gillian O’Sullivan, mother of three — Grace (nine), Kate (eight) and Mary (five). Lives in Lusk, Co Dublin.

“In between work in All Hallows College and picking up the kids, I had to be realistic about what I could do, so I decided to keep a diary. It was something I used to do and enjoy when I was younger.

“A diary is something that transports you back to a time and a place. I spent a couple of hours one afternoon going through my wedding album with my kids and sharing memories of that day with them. Later on, I recorded their reactions. It will be nice in years to come to have a record of that day and what we shared.

“Another day we went to Skerries Park at twilight and played hopscotch, and my youngest, Mary, rugby tackled me to the ground to try and get me out. We had a great laugh, and I recorded that for posterity. I hope my kids will get enjoyment out of that memory some day.

“I did write about more than my own kids. One entry was a rant about the Children’s Referendum.

“I thought I’d get to write for a half hour every day, but in reality, it was closer to five or 10 minutes, what with the kids having gymnastics, ballet, swimming, football, running, guitar and fiddle. But I would like to keep it up. What it brought home to me is that it’s an effort to make time for myself.

“I think men find it easier, even if it’s only to watch match highlights on Sky Plus.

“I can see the value of having to think about myself, people can be in danger of losing themselves.”

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