The Mother of All Movements: What You Need & How To Ask For It
Written by Kathryn Meadows
Kathryn qualified as a pilates teacher in 2005 but has been involved in sport and movement since she was little having “dabbled” in ballet, horse riding, rowing as a Junior for Great Britain, climbing, swimming, water polo, triathlons, running and all sorts in between. She is also a qualified personal trainer and since she had her first child in 2010 Kathryn has been more and more interested in post-natal recovery. Things became personal when she developed a stubborn abdominal separation and various associated injuries and issues after the birth of her 2nd child, including a challenging mental health recovery and gut health issues. Kathryn trained as a post-natal corrective exercise specialist to really hone her knowledge and now works with women 1-1 either online or in person, and in her home studio in Sussex.
Last week one of my clients came in saying she hadn’t been able to do her home exercises because she can’t find the time between her kids being ill, her husband being at work late and her general exhaustion. She was frustrated, resentful and felt, in her words, like she’d failed at what I had set her.
I always find this a tough conversation to have, I want the best for my clients and for them to get the most out of their efforts, but there should never be any pressure on anyone to do things a certain way or by a certain time in the fitness industry - our clients are not olympic athletes and mothers particularly already have enough to feel guilty about without pressure from their PT/pilates teacher!
So how can we find balance between our own needs and those of everyone else around us? Mothers are always bottom of the list when it comes to priorities; kids food, caring, sickness, clothing, happiness, fulfilment and nourishment are way up there before we get through the partner/husbands needs and the dog/rabbit/guinea pigs comfort and nourishment which are all dealt with first, it’s no wonder we’re either too tired and strung out to think of ourselves or there’s just no time left in the day.
I find my clients tend to say things like “I always stay up watching Netflix until midnight even though I’m super tired” or “I drank 2 massive glasses of wine I didn’t really need just because I was so stressed by the end of the week” or “I just need to go away for a weekend and sleep”, and all mainly ending in “it’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, it’s all fine…fine…fine…fine”!
If we want to stop feeling resentful and frustrated about putting others first and not being able to do things we want, we need to prioritise our needs for the sake of our families. Doing that, however, can often be a massive struggle that feels like it’s not worth the effort.
You are not being selfish, it is not luxurious, you are not a bad mother for wanting time to yourself for something you need, this is caring for yourself in the way you’d care for your best friend or a lovely Mum at school/nursery who confided she needed some time. You must remember you are always worth the effort it’s all about working out how to communicate what you need effectively.
Those around us are not mind readers, I’ve definitely been guilty of saying once or twice in the huffiest, most petulant voice I could muster: “well you should just know what I need, I can’t believe you can’t tell, I think it’s perfectly obvious!”
Is it obvious though? At that time, I don’t think it was obvious to me what I needed, and it certainly wasn’t obvious how I could be helped, I felt like I was failing at keeping my head above water and constantly finding little life rafts that only just stopped me from drowning - the odd movement class here, a night out with friends there, a random sleep in - nothing consistent, nothing that nourished me on a daily or weekly basis, nothing that felt like I could step out of the constant physically and emotionally draining life that was mothering at that time.
After spending a weekend completely by myself in the Lake District as an extreme reaction to needing some personal space I realised I needed to deal with this properly. Gratefully at that time I was learning from a life coaching programme (the amazing One of Many organisation) which helped me to recognise and ask for what I needed:
Write down all your needs, wants and desires - absolutely everything from enough water each day, to a night out with your best friend once a month, to a whole afternoon a week to yourself to re-energise. Nothing is too extravagant, luxurious, selfish or silly, if you feel that thing makes you whole then you write it down - dancing in the kitchen, a beautiful smelling bath oil, alone time with 1 child at a time, daily yoga practice, anything at all it goes in there.
Then you divide those “things” into 3 columns: Needs - these are essentials that you need to be able to be you every day, they might be a weekly thing but doing that weekly re-invigorates you for your everyday: Wants - these are “things” that are lovely to have, definitely make you feel great and more whole but they are not totally essential, you’ll survive without but not for long: Desires - these things might be far fetched and infrequent, but it’s good for others to know and understand what’s on your horizon (a yoga retreat weekend or a weekend away together with your partner for example).
Ask for help. Now you need to communicate what you need and how someone else can help you with that. Remember that others only want to help, your partner absolutely wants you to be happy, you deserve to ask and be supported.
So take some time to sit down with whoever can help you - that might be your partner, your parents, your sibling, your friends, your children if they are old enough to give support and understand.
Explain how you are feeling now, explain how amazing it would feel for you if you could have …. (whatever your thing is you are asking for - let’s say “time to attend that post-natal pilates class that I’ve heard is really effective and will help get me strong” or “the money available for me to buy an online programme that’s really effective” - and then ask for what you need them to do to help: “I have been feeling a bit down recently about my body and how I used to do more but I now can’t find the time, it would mean the world to me to have 2 hours a week that I can dedicate to myself physically and I really need you to help me with this, can you leave for work 1 hour later on a Friday and come back earlier on a Monday so I can do a class, it would make me feel amazing and so much happier, you would be my total hero for stepping in like this!”
Now who could refuse that? It is of course important not to be unrealistic and if adapting a work schedule is never possible then don’t ask but there’s always another way - online workouts, friends swaps for running buddies, extending childcare a little once you are back from work, or only doing classes on weekends and movement practice at home during the week. Getting creative with it so that you feel fulfilled, energised, and the amazing woman you are - think on this simple statement: If nothing changes, nothing changes.