Motherhood is a wonderful experience. It’s also exhausting, relentlessly demanding, and at times overwhelming – especially during those early days. However, with just a few simple adjustments to our day, we can move from merely surviving to actually thriving. Ellie Gwilliam shares five daily rituals that have made a significant difference in her world.
Dilmah Extra Strength English Breakfast Tea
Mornings, especially the part where you have to get out of bed, are tough when you are a sleep-deprived mama. I found respite in having something to look forward to, and it was a simple as a cup of tea. Staggering to the kitchen, the sound of the kettle slowly starting to boil, finding my favourite cup … this became a ritual that made the start of the day more manageable. I would sip and savour the tea, even if there was chaos slowly mounting around me.
As our kids got older and didn’t wake me at the crack of dawn (or beforehand), I found that getting up before them and being the first one awake in the house was a privilege and gift in itself. As hard as it is some days to move my feet out of bed, sitting alone in a silent house, with a cup of steaming tea, is wonderful. It’s the best way to start my day and makes a huge difference to the next 12+ hours.
Some of us are more ‘outdoorsy’ than others and, if I’m honest, I probably fall most naturally into the homebody camp. Going outside just for the sake of it takes some intentionality for me, but I always feel so much better for doing so. Getting outside is good for the mind, body and soul and I’d place it at the top of my list of everyday must-dos, except for the fact that I really do need a cup of tea before I can function.
Getting out of the house is equally beneficial for our children, but it doesn’t have to carry the burden of a multi-sport endurance event. Just an unrushed stroll down the street can work wonders. In this digital age we live in, we need to keep bringing our children – and ourselves – back to the natural world. When we make getting outside a daily habit, we keep our adventurous spirit (that otherwise risks getting suffocated by the comfort of the couch and Netflix) alive and well and it will feel more automatic to head outside for recreation, entertainment and exercise. Of course the weather doesn’t always play the game but we’d do well to take a leaf out of the Scandinavians’ book. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” they say. In other words, gumboots and raincoats were designed for a reason: so we can get our fix of outdoor air, rain or shine.
Sit together and pause
I don’t need to tell you how frantic the evenings can be in any family’s household. We’ve established a dinnertime ritual, however, that calms the storm and reconnects us as a family. It’s the simple act of sitting down together at the dinner table, waiting until everyone is present and then pausing to give thanks to God for the meal. You don’t have to have a faith to be thankful – thanks could be directed to the cook before everyone digs in – but the act of pausing to be grateful is a powerful reminder of so many valuable concepts we want to instill in our children. We are fortunate to have food, for one thing, and we are blessed to have each other – regardless of what the evening antics have suggested! It is also really powerful to simply pause and be still for a moment. It slows the pace, centres us and reminds us that dinner is not just about consumption, but also connection. The rest of the mealtime may not be as idyllic and peaceful, but at least for a moment there is calm – and we’ll savour whatever calm we can get!
Oh how I look forward to all my children being asleep at the end of the day. Not that I don’t love the time we all spend together awake – I do – but the days a long with young children and everyone benefits at bedtime. And being such a pivotal time of the day, our routines around bedtime can really enhance this important moment. It will look different in every home, although there will be common themes. Bedtime stories, songs, prayers, cuddles, kisses, whatever a child requires to achieve a peaceful closure to their day. Children thrive with routines and habits and any bedtime protests at our house have been subdued by calmly sticking to the plan.
We do walk a bit of a tightrope here though, lets be honest. The bedtime routine, in all it’s lovely snuggly cosiness, is what stands between kids awake and kids asleep, and with the peace of post-children’s’-bedtime in sight, it is tempting to rush. But when I do, I always regret it. It is better for my soul - and theirs - to slow down and connect with each of my children at bedtime. To review the day and give an opportunity for any worries to be shared. Time for the reminder that they are deeply loved and valued so that these are hopefully the last thoughts on their minds before they head to dreamland (and I head to the couch!).
Before I head to bed, I’ve found it hugely beneficial to squeeze in a couple more day-changing rituals. I try to do one thing every evening that will make the morning easier, whether that be getting lunch boxes out on the bench and ready for packing (I can’t quite bring myself to make lunches the night before – that’s next-level parenting!), getting a load of washing ready to go, or clearing the bench. It’s tempting to leave these tasks to the morning, especially on really exhausting days, but the pay-off in the morning is well worth the evening investment.
The other thing that has made a real difference in my world is turning off devices and leaving them on the other side of the house before going to bed. I used to lie in bed swiping my smart phone screen. As harmless as this may have seemed, the endless distraction left me anxious and angsty. Facebook feeds of comparisons, staying up too late, not to mention the blue light affect – all worked together to steal my peace at bedtime. My phone is now banned from the bedroom. I have an alarm clock by the bed, a light and a book. Nothing else. I feel calmer and sleep more deeply. The day ends better, and it starts better too, as my phone is not the first thing I look at. It’s there waiting for me beside the kettle and the Dilmah Extra Strength English Breakfast tea.