You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup & Other Mum Mantras I Love

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Take one look at my Pinterest boards and you’ll see I’m a fan of a mantra. I’ve got notebooks with them scrawled on the front, postcards with positive messages pinned to my office noticeboard and some are even framed on the wall.

The way I see it, the world needs more positivity and support, and there’s never a time when we need more positivity and support than when we are parenting. And whereas we possibly once had lots of time on our hands and could browse the ‘Self help’ aisles of the book shop, taking time to read our chosen book and mulling over the messages within, I’m all about the QUICK mantra now. Glance at a postcard, think about what it means, BAM, done.

Of course, there will always be topics and issues that require a bit of a further delve into, but while I’m looking after small babies, I’ll letting myself off the hook for now.

My favourite ‘Mum mantra’ is ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’ – it just sums up so succinctly the need to look after our own needs, as a parent. If we’re keeping an eye on our emotional wellbeing and physical health, then chances are, we’ll be better at looking after the needs of our little ones.

Yet, it’s so easy to be 100% focused on the needs of our baby or children, isn’t it? I often find myself on autopilot, dashing from one thing to the next, without even catching a breath. Take our morning routine, for example…

I’m making porridge for the babies, while making toast for the eight-year-old. Then while the porridge is cooling, I’m playing with the babies, then quickly unloading the dishwasher, before feeding the babies. Then it’s straight into wiping down the babies, wiping down the highchairs, picking up the debris, vacuuming the crumbs. Then the 8-year-old comes back in and asks me to put her hair into a ponytail, reminds me she needs a packed lunch for the day and I ask her (for the fifth time) to pick up the two pairs of socks that are discarded by the sofa. 

I realise that I haven’t taken a sip of my (now cold) tea and I’ve forgotten to make my own breakfast.

And, believe me, I’m a much happier person once I’ve had my breakfast and my first cuppa in the morning! But if we solely focus on the needs of our kids, and ignore our own, then it doesn’t do anyone any favours. 

But the thing about mantras is this: You need to keep repeating them, in order for them to work. It’s all well and good KNOWING something, but if you’re persistently reminded of it, you might actually ACTION it. Which is why I’m a fan of having the postcards pinned up or the notebooks dotted around, to remind me.

Three more mantras that I think can really help parents are:

  1. This too shall pass – it’s so good to remember that most things are just a phase. They won’t last forever. Whether your baby is teething or your toddler is refusing to go to bed or your older child is suddenly refusing to eat anything that isn’t beige, it will pass. I try to keep this in mind and remind myself not to get too worked up about things that seem huge in the moment, but won’t seem as huge a week/month/year on.
  2. I’m so lucky that I have this opportunity – this one is all about reframing things when you’re having a bad day. It’s something I saw psychotherapist Anna Mathur talk about on her Instagram. When I’m having a stressful, knackering, day, and the babies are crying lots or refusing to eat what we give them, and the eight-year-old is in a grump, and the doorbell rings in the middle of me cleaning up a nappy explosion, and I realise we are totally out of pasta yet I’ve promised the 8-year-old pasta for tea, and I’m thinking ‘I just can’t face the walk to the shop for pasta’, it’s good to stop. And reframe things. So instead I try to think: ‘I’m so lucky that I have a shop nearby. I’m lucky that I have the money to buy pasta. I’m lucky that I have three happy, healthy (OK, a bit grumpy) children. I’m lucky that not every day feels as hard as this.’
  3. Hug it out – I learned this one when my eldest was around three or four. She’d be having the hardest morning, struggling with me asking her to get ready for pre-school, refusing to put on her shoes, getting really upset on the kitchen floor. And rather than me get frustrated or cross with her, I’d just sit down on the floor with her and hug her. So often, it immediately stopped the tears, her breathing would slow and she would seem a lot happier.

What are your favourite mum (or dad!) mantras? Comment below and tell me, and have a listen to the Nappy Natters podcast where we discuss mum mantras and lots of other new parent issues!

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