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'Remember to look after yourself and your baby'

YOUR MOST PRECIOUS ACHIEVEMENT: Jernine Russell says you should take time to love the person you have become

WELL DONE for overcoming the most rewarding, difficult, emotionally, physically and men- tally exhausting year of your life!
Congratulations on finally becoming confident and comfortable in your role as a mother. Nice one, for all the new skills you have acquired, such as an entertainer, cook, clean- er, doctor, the superwoman of multi-tasking.

Sorry to inform you that these skills cannot be added to your CV. Unfortunately, we cannot ever repay or compensate you for all the sacrifice, lack of sleep or, release the pause button that has been on your life for all this time.

Now, not only are you expected to perform your new role expertly, but you are expected to bounce right back to where you left off in your old professional role – both literally and figuratively. There is also an expectation for you to adjust to the demands of your job combined with your already challenging motherhood position.

The latter part of my maternity leave was doomed by the recurring question: ‘When are you going back to work?’

Being a mother had taken some getting used to, and now I had to cope with more change with even more meticulous planning and co-ordination. I had barely managed get- ting to social engagements on time with a baby in tow, not to mention getting to work every morning. In order to return to work with peace of mind, the all important ‘childcare’ needs to be considered. Nursery vs child- minder, part-time vs full-time.

The only general rule when it comes to childcare is that it is expensive, and you need to plan in advance. Getting your child’s name on a waiting list for a good nursery is like your chances of winning the lottery. My advice would be to do it as early as possible. You need your child to be settled so that you can have a smooth transition and not be wondering if they’re okay while at work.

What I most enjoyed about returning to work after having my children was re-establish- ing my identity as Jernine. I was not merely ‘Reiley’s mum’, but felt like a real person again. I loved engaging in adult conversations and eating my lunch without having to share! The down sides were missing all the new things that my little one was doing, and being absolutely exhausted.
One of the things I struggle with most being a mother – and a working mother at that – is finding enough time in the day to do everything. I have found that I have to be super organised but also to ask for help as and when.

FOCUS

As the focus is no longer on you, inevitably, it is difficult to find time for yourself. I recommend making a conscious effort to make this time as it is not only important, it is essential. You cannot care for anyone else if you do not care for yourself, or as the saying says; ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’! Your cup needs to be regularly refilled with time out for yourself, extra rest, a night out, a massage, a spa trip, a spot of retail therapy or a glass of your favourite tipple. These act as quick little pick- me-ups and can make you feel like ‘you’ again, and lift your mood. A happy mummy makes happy children!

When I am honest about all of the up and downs of being a mother, the most prominent and most lasting and impactful insight I have experienced is losing a little piece of my- self that I have never actually managed to get back. As a mother, you have to change as you are now responsible for someone else who is totally reliant and dependant on you. You may lose friends, or make new ones that are more fitting to your lifestyle.

I like to use the analogy of the life cycle of a butterfly. The Jernine before she became a mother was a caterpillar, going through life eating leaves. Jernine then went into a cocoon while being pregnant, and after having a baby, Jernine has evolved and emerged as a brightly coloured and beautiful butterfly sharing her experience and positive energy and light with the world.

Here are a few of my top tips to help make motherhood happier:

1) Find a hobby/class/activity for you to have that gets you out of the house regularly.
2) Arrange regular date nights with your partner so that you can spend some quality time together.
3) Meet up with your friends for a good laugh and chat (cheapest form of therapy).
4) Enjoy your child/children and capture the moments with them as they grow so quickly. 5) Take a minute to stop, appreciate and applaud yourself for how far you have come since that first night you took your baby home.

Jernine Russell is the author of her debut book, ‘The Naked Truth About Having a Baby’ which she has self- published through her company She Reigns. She Reigns’ core values are to empower, uplift and encourage others to realise their dreams. For more information, visit she-reigns.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @shereignsltd, or search for She Reigns on Facebook and YouTube.

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