World of Mums and Dads - Meet Louisa

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Here, at 5 for Mum January has been all about the mind and how physical practices can support our mental health. I wanted to continue the same theme on the World of Mums and Dads series too. Let me introduce you to a very special mum, Louisa, who is the founder and editor of A Mama’s Mind magazine. If you are interested in mindfulness, yoga and living a conscious life as a mum, you should really check out her site. I’ve found Louisa first on Instagram as @amamasmindmag and I have been deeply inspired by her beautifully written captions and her posts have been gems on my feed ever since. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her and her new venture.

Hi Lousia, Thank you so much for coming on the series. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Louisa. I recently moved to sunny Bournemouth in Dorset (UK) having spent all of my life previously a lot closer to London. So, now, my husband and I are raising our two children: a boy aged nearly 5, and a girl approaching 9 months, by the sea. It’s a decision that we made for various reasons, but we haven’t regretted it so far. We’ve really enjoyed the change of pace and we relish the sense of adventure that it’s brought to our lives.

Before becoming a mother, I was busy working across three industries: the creative industry as a photography and film stylist in London. Enjoying this ‘work’ (if I may call it that) enabled me to not only meet many different types of wonderful people, but to experience some very exciting, and sometimes even very glamorous, projects that encompassed commercial and editorial film and photo shoots.

It was fast-paced and I really enjoyed it in my twenties. Though, due to back pain, I found it increasingly difficult to take part. Especially once my body began carrying new life. So, while pregnant I began focusing on my freelance writing and merging it with my experience of working within the third sector. Primarily in the mental health arena. Which at the time involved both a part-time job for a national mental health charity, as an advisor working with people on their recovery journeys, and, separately, my long-term work with one of the first in the new wave of women’s wellbeing publications: Sanctuary Magazine.

Since having children, and around being the main care-giver to my children, I’ve continued to be involved in wellness publishing. Having written copy for a number of wellness-related businesses, freelance articles and blog posts, and also starting my own wellness blog/website: amamasmind.com

In addition to all the non-fiction, but I guess, as more of a hobby, I write poetry and fiction, too. I just love writing. It is what I would do all day if I could. And although my life has taken me down some very interesting paths, my one true constant has always been the written word.

As well as writing, I love yoga, music and will try anything creative at least once.

I've been following your account on Instagram and first of all your grid looks so creative and beautiful. I just love seeing your new posts appearing on my feed because I know they will have something for me about appreciating the little moments and living consciously. So to me @amamasmindmag is a true mindfulness inspiration.  What made you start your website and your Instagram blog in the first place?

Thank you. That’s so wonderful to hear because that’s exactly why I wanted to start the blog: to help mothers, myself included, to connect with the moment and to remember to breathe. Also to know and feel that what they are doing (what I am doing) and who they are (who I am) is enough.

With so much going on day-to-day when nurturing little humans, I needed an outlet for all my misplaced maternal energy, and a focus point. A place to enable my own wellness to flourish, as well as to help others in the process. A way to avoid the over-thinking through the selflessness that eventually leads to burn-out.

I am by no means an enlightened person and I hope to not come across as some sort of know-it-all. Merely, I am sharing my journey and the knowledge that I gain from others via the blog and insta account. So, I guess, it acts as a method to process that information, and it demonstrates how I engage and reflect on it. How something may or may not influence me. Not directly through my mothering per se, though that is definitely a bonus, but the aim is more about my experience of motherhood. How the essence of who I am (who we are), as individuals, can get lost in motherhood.

I wanted the website to help me focus on what is most important to me, so that I can stop wasting energy on stuff that isn’t important, nor healthy for that matter. So that I can be the best version of me: a fulfilled, happy and free me. And, in turn, anyone else who gains meaning from it, can feel their best selves. And this then benefits our children, and the world around us. Which is truly amazing.

What do you feel was the biggest challenge for you as a new mum?

There have been and continue to be so many challenges. Not all huge. Some are small. But I think each day is a challenge in motherhood and that’s because of the realisation that so much is beyond our control. Which itself is monumental. I think this illusion of control over our lives is more thinly-veiled during pregnancy and then ripped off during birth and motherhood.

After all, I ended up being a mother who elected for two cesarean births. I never thought I’d be ‘that mum’. I did everything I could to avoid it: yoga, Optimal Foetal Positioning, hypnobirthing classes... but my first baby was still breech. I couldn’t believe it.

Motherhood is a massive lesson in life. I’m not saying mothers have no power over the outcome of their births/lives. That’s not what I’m saying at all. It’s just a realisation that there are other forces at play. Learning to let go. And I mean, really let go, was and continues to be the area that I work on most.

There’s a freedom in it. But also the fear can be disabling. It’s learning to live with it anyway. To do all the things you want to do as a person because now you can appreciate the fragility and wonder of life. Not to mention also how precious time really is.

Did that change along the way? What are the challenges now as a mum of 2?

It has changed along the way. I think I went from a place of denial at not being out of control. I truly believed I could influence everything in my life. Despite practicing yoga, becoming a mother made me realise that I had no idea what yoga was really about - though I certainly believed that I did. I meant well. I just didn’t have a clue. Because although I’d previously tried to look within before, it was obviously only really up to a certain point.

In fact, now I can see that I had so many preferences and judgements that I was sort of blinded. As we all are unless we take time to look and see. That’s often painful stuff to do. We’re not always ready to do that. And that’s ok. It’s not about being wrong then, and right now. It’s just been the nature of my journey. I’m still growing, every day.

Reading your blog and your Instagram posts I have the feeling that you and I have a very similar definition to self-care, still I'd love to know how you would define self-care, what does it mean to you?

Self-care is anything, and I mean anything, that helps you at your place on the journey of life. These things may change. They are likely different for each is us. So, it’s not a one-size fits all. Though many of the key aspects of self-care apply to us all. I guess it’s about knowing yourself, or at least being prepared to look into who we really are as people. Then honouring the things that keep us well, happy, healthy and free. By that I mean, as true to our nature as possible. For I believe we are all these things. But sometimes, energy is taken away by other influences and it happens to us all.

We get ill. Stressed. Depressed. Either through duty or circumstance. No one is immune to it. But by practicing self-care, we can protect our true selves. This in turn helps us to lead productive and authentic lives. Which is only ever a good thing when we consider the incredible business of raising children.

Has the definition changed since becoming a mum? 

Before children self-care was probably regular facials and massages. Exercise and yoga, from a physical perspective, and diet and lifestyle from a slightly vain position (in that it was appearances-focused, if I’m brutally honest) .

As well as that, plenty of time to write and create and be involved with lots of incredible projects. I enjoyed a buzzing energy that had a flow. Those things brought me happiness at the time. I had a sense of well-being. Becoming a mother, I found my creative energy stilted. Those things didn’t fit anymore. Yet mothering is perhaps the most creative thing in the world. But you have to be open to seeing it that way.

Self-care is now practicing yoga weekly, meditating daily, writing weekly, early bedtimes. Good, nutritious food. Walking. Limiting social media. Saying no to people. Protecting my energy, as rightly so, after my children, there isn’t much left for anyone’s dramas or nonsense. Certainly not with the aims and ambitions that I have. And not when I like to practice a meditative and meaningful lifestyle. I have to retreat. I have to be selective. We all should do so without guilt or apology.

How do you find time for yourself these days?

I enjoy the 5 minutes that I get here and there. Those moments of sweet solitude are rare: a quick cup of tea in bed when my husband takes the children down to make a start with breakfast. The walk back from the school-run when the baby has fallen asleep and I can meditate or call someone I love to speak to them. On a nap in bed with baby and I can get work done or write, or meditate.

It’s being present in the moment. Coming back to the here and now and savouring it.

What kind of self-care routines do you have?

Sunday mornings I go to yoga. Currently I am enjoying lessons which follow the Jivamukti path. I like how Jivamukti challenges me mentally, spiritually and physically. I feel engaged by the monthly focus and it always raises questions which lead to healthy internal debate and growth.

As well as that, I am now very assertive when it comes to saying: “no, thank you.” I know my limits. And I know that when I’m stressed, my children suffer, and that’s just not something that I’m prepared to do anymore. Not for anyone or anything. No one comes before my children or my husband or me. I work so hard to protect all of our well-being. I am happier and more content now than when I was a total people-pleaser. I carried so much resentment in me before.

There has been some resistance to this change, both within myself as well as from others, but ultimately I come back to the question: whose opinions really matter to me? And it’s those three people, and my own, at the end of the day.

Do you have one that is your number go-to routine for really difficult days?

Don’t look at the phone. Come back to the breath. Now. Now. Now. Just get through the day being present.

Do you have one that takes only a couple of minutes?

Yes. Meditation. I will just come back to the breath for as long or as little as I have. It’s a real take-anywhere coping mechanism.

Finally, where can people find you if they want to follow your journey?

Please do come and say hello at @amamasmindmag on Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to meet you.

Photo courtesy of Louisa MF