Making routines around health and prioritising activities
The HMHF program asks you to pay attention to yourself, work towards making small everyday changes to support better health and happiness, and bring support around you to achieve what you want to achieve. As we discussed in module 1, the journey of mothers, and where you are on that journey today, can influence your family situation. The journey may also influence how you are experiencing health. Many mothers find it hard to dedicate a lot of time to themselves in the early years. Or, to use the phases that are described in the Journey of Mothers, the initial phase, speakership and disability focused phases are all difficult times to attend to your own health and wellbeing. Family routines may be based around your child’s needs and care. That is okay. You will know when it is time to move forward, change your family routine and find a way to take care of your health.
All mothers are capable of finding time to care for themselves. Knowing that you are vulnerable to neglecting your own health and wellbeing as a result of prioritising other activities will allow you to make an alternate plan. If your family routine and daily activities do not involve attention to your own health and wellbeing, consider what small changes might be possible within your family and your daily life. Where could you find time? Thinking is the start of your plan!
How you spend your time matters
Have you ever thought about how you spend you time? Across every day and night, we spend our time in many different activities such as:
- Self-care activity (sleeping, getting up brushing our teeth, dressing and eating breakfast etc)
- Child care (transporting, dressing, feeding, helping children etc)
- Productive activity (domestic including cleaning, preparing meals, paying bills; paid including a job; and community such as running errands etc)
- Leisure (including taking care of ourselves, spending time with others, enjoying ourselves and doing activities that allow us to use our talents or follow our interests etc)
Time use research suggests that women excel in productive activity. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that men spend 30 minutes more in leisure pursuits every day. Women spend more time in domestic activity than men. Women spend more time in childcare than men. Mothers spend less time in paid work than their partners.
In the words of a past HMHF program participant:
I realised that most of my time is productive time, and very little is for leisure. I realised that I feel guilty if I even think about doing something for me, because there’s this never-ending list of things that I should be doing for my two sons with extra needs… so any time that I would spend in leisure, seems to me counter-productive because that means I’m not moving through that list… it’s like a little black cloud hanging over me…
In a study of over 150 mothers in Victoria (Bourke-Taylor, 2010), mothers described that most of their time was spent being productive (unpaid or paid work) and the least amount of their time was spent in leisure and self-care (meaning sleeping, showering, dressing etc). Compared to other mothers, mothers of children with a disability spend nearly 3 times as much time caring for their child (Hahn and Bourke-Taylor, 2008). When you think about these statistics, it starts to become unsurprising that mothers of children with a disability spend less of their time in selfcare, leisure and paid work and more of their time in domestic activity and child care.