World of Mums - Meet Neasa
I am sure most of you know her and follow her account and that we are all eagerly waiting for all new content coming from her every week. If I had to choose my favourite posts from her grid, they would be probably ‘Before’, ‘F*ck’, ‘Loop’, but now that I think about it again, I love all of them, so please don’t make me choose. :) Her whole account is an innovative way of using social media to publish flash fiction. Her stories are addictive, the characters are spot on and while you read her posts you can’t help but feel that you have probably met most of them at some point on your parenthood journey. I feel so humbled that she agreed to join our little mummy village and allowed us a small glance behind the @5am_tales scenes. My guest this week is Neasa McGuinness alias @5am_tales. I know that I am biased, but this is another brilliant one with so much to take away!
Hi Neasa! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm Irish and from Dublin originally, though have been living in North East London for the best part of a decade now. I'm on maternity leave at the moment but I normally work in an advertising agency. I'm lucky as it's a very creative and progressive company, quite thought-leading in both their work and how they treat employees.
We have met through Instagram. I am a huge fan of your account and I have read all your stories. I would never miss one, if I don't have the time to read the latest on the day, I go back to it. Your stories present the many faces of parenthood, they are inspiring, honest, quirky and cut right into the core of the everydays. They are truly the best entertainment for the sleep deprived. What made you start your Instagram account in the first place? Have you written anything before?
I've always wanted to write fiction and have been writing on and off for years. However it's only since having children that I made the decision to start taking it seriously. Maybe it was the realisation that I was definitively not young anymore and that my life wasn't a rehearsal. Or maybe it was the brutal squeezing out of "free" time that helped me reassess what was actually important to me outside of family, friends and work.
So from that point I began (very slowly) writing my first novel. I also decided to start this literary experiment on Instagram. It's been a really useful way of exploring writing as you have such a short space to land a story, so it really forces you to think about what's actually interesting about a character or scene. I've also loved the community element of Instagram, and in particular the genuinely joyous ways that women are supporting each other there.
What do you feel was the biggest challenge for you as a new mum?
Sleep deprivation!!! My babies are not big fans of sleeping at night or napping through the day. I was a solid 8-9 hours a night person before having children and suspect I still am. Although it is amazing how quickly you adapt and get used to ploughing through the exhaustion. However I have also become completely dependent on caffeine for survival.
Did that change along the way? What are the challenges now?
From a wellbeing perspective, I think becoming a mum is an ongoing journey in conquering perfectionist and control freak tendencies. You learn to lower your standards. While that might sound like a negative thing, it's actually very freeing and healthy.
Not only do you now lack the time / energy / resources to care about all the little things, you also lose control over most outcomes. When you're only dealing with your own actions, you can control the outcome, and work hard to make something work out. But there's nothing like wrangling a tantrum throwing toddler or a fussy eater, or just trying to get all of you out the door on time, to rob you of that illusion.
It's very humbling. You're definitely not perfect. They're definitely not perfect. Life's not perfect. But that doesn't mean it's not wonderful.
What does self-care mean to you?
I believe it's really important for you to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally. Never more so than when you become a parent. Put your own life jacket on first. Your kids depend on you to do that. Sometimes that means doing things that feel selfish, like every so often making your own needs a priority. But actually children benefit so much more from having happy healthy parents, than they do from literally anything else.
So yes it's great to make homemade meals or do crafts with your kids or ferry them about to activities etc. All the many things that parents feel pressured to do nowadays (although our parents and grandparents didn't!)
But what will shape them most as a person is the emotional connection you have with them and the example you set. A parent who is fulfilled in their own life, is content and not burned out, has a life beyond the home, that's a parent who can give the quality of attention a child needs (and not just the quantity).
Has that changed since becoming a mum? Or since becoming a mum of 2?
I've always felt that self-care was really important. I think the biggest change is that when it's just you, there's no guilt involved in taking that time. When you have children, you never have enough time for everything. So something always has to lose out.
For a lot of parents (especially for mothers for some reason), we are the ones who lose out.
I've had to get over the "all or nothing" mindset. Like I don't really want my two year old looking at screens all the time, but equally if a bit of Peppa Pig means I have a few minutes to have a proper shower and feel like a human again, that's a good trade off.
How do you find time for yourself these days?
See above :) Thank you Peppa. I also have a very supportive and egalitarian husband. We're constantly bartering and trading for time off, so that both of us can still do some of the things we want to do in our lives beyond the kids.
We've also started using babysitters more. For some reason we didn't do this as much with our first child, maybe because it's easier to get out and about with one. Once we had two that became impossible and we realised that if we ever wanted to leave the house, we needed to go find some reliable babysitters. It's been amazing to get back some time for ourselves as a couple too.
What kind of self-care routines do you have?
Routine might be a bit of a stretch as everything still quite chaotic! But I try and do the Instagram writing a couple of times a week and the novel writing once a week. I also go to yoga once or twice a week, early mornings before my husband goes to work.
I've always been good at nourishing myself properly as I love food, both cooking and eating! And of course as an Irish woman I do like a glass of wine too, though I find having young children who wake early and don't seem to care that it's Sunday morning, is a natural way of making sure you don't drink too much.
I also love reading and try to do as much as possible. Often the Netflix binge feels like an easier and more attractive option (and I do love TV) but there's nothing more satisfying than finishing a good book.
Do you have one that is your number go-to routine for really difficult days?
I like the meditation app Headspace. It's a very accessible way of getting into meditation and they're constantly adding new sessions and programs on different wellbeing topics from sleep to stress to creativity.
Do you have one that takes only a couple of minutes?
Breathe. It's a cliche, but actually concentrating on your breath, and slowing down for a few moments, really does reset your day. When I open my eyes again I often find I'm much more appreciative of the good stuff in my life.
Finally, where can people find you if they want to follow your journey?
On Instagram: @5am_tales
The @5am_tales logo has been used with Neasa’s permission.