What happens when working parents don’t take care of themselves – and then what happens when they do – read 2 case studies

Ali, Mum of 1

Ali returned to work when her baby was 10 months old. The side effects of birth had finally drifted into the past, she had stopped breastfeeding and she felt closer to being her old self again. However, despite previously being an excellent sleeper and now her baby sleeping well, Ali suffered bouts of insomnia, sometimes not sleeping for up to 3 days. It was overwhelming.

As a result of the insomnia Ali started to realise she had to make changes, and start putting herself at equal importance of her new baby and family. Making changes to her day was the best way to impact her nights. She started with her diet…as that was the easiest, avoiding caffeine, alcohol and too much sugar, despite her sleep deprived body craving it.

Next, she focused on meditation. During her baby’s morning nap she spent 5 minutes meditating and relaxing, ensuring an alarm was set in case she fell asleep! Incorporating exercise into her day and taking time out for herself during the weekend when dad was around started to help with the insomnia and she began to feel more herself again.

However, as thoughts of going back to work, in a new organisation, in a new location, with more responsibility, the insomnia crept back in again. Of course, Ali now had strategies to deal with insomnia but it didn’t stop the concerned thoughts. Being back at work made it worse as she worried about building her reputation in a new organisation while balancing parent duties on very little sleep.

With life being even more busy than when she was a full-time mum, Ali recognised the need for her own self-care to help manage her sleep problems and as a result her image. Now, rather than working through lunch, Ali walks to her favourite café once a week, orders her lunch and reads a chapter of her favourite book. That 15 minutes just for her makes her a better mum, wife and employee.

Stephen, Dad of 2

Stephen works as a freelance training consultant for start-up organisations, and when his second baby arrived, he had very little time at home with the family. Stephens’s business was booming and he loved his work and being able to provide for his growing family. However, when his second baby turned 6 months, he realised just how much he missed; she was babbling, crawling, grabbing at everything and even trying to stand. He didn’t understand how he missed so much. Stephen became anxious and overwhelmed, and as a result his happiness was affected.

When there was just one baby in the family, Stephen and his partner managed to balance a happy and healthy life-style. They would take it in turns to do some exercise, they’d plan healthy meals and go out together or separately with their friends. However, as luck would have it, as soon as the new baby arrived, Stephens’s freelance work gathered momentum. He was working longer days, working away more, and more often than not, doing administrative tasks in the evening and on weekends. His partner was exhausted caring for both their toddler and their second baby. Stephen felt torn between his family and his work.

With both parents exhausted, the smooth running of the household collapsed. Stephen and his partner would find themselves grabbing what they could from convenience stores or eating out, their weekends dominated by the needs of their eldest. Doing any exercise was a distant memory, let alone having time for just the two of them.

Stephen knew that this change in lifestyle was the force behind these new anxious feelings. His anxiety didn’t just affect home, his work suffered too. He was less confident in front of clients, he was forgetful and disorganised. Stephen knew he had to start looking after himself and his family to change the course of time.

The first thing he did was talk to his partner about it all. They spent an hour together while the baby, (finally) fell asleep and talked it all out. They found out how one another were feeling and what they wanted to do about it. They made plans, lists and priorities to make their home the happy one it was before.

Stephen became more selective with his work, he built up the courage to increase his fees and hired a virtual assistant to help with his administration. With a bit more order restored, the family is eating better and exercising more. As a result, he feels more active, happy and focused. Anxiety still looms over Stephen at times, but the sense of control he’s built back has been life changing.

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