Sarah Hausler is owner of Bloom Wellbeing, an Occupational Therapist of 16 years, pilates instructor and Mum of two.
Throughout her career, she has worked as an Occupational Therapist in a range of settings, but her passion lies in working with mothers, children and families. She believes that supporting children and parents to navigate their development as individuals and families, both on a physical and emotional development level, is the most important work she can do as an Occupational Therapist.
You can join her free 21-day Small Steps to Mindfulness program here
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Lisa: Hey, everyone. Welcome to this episode of the podcast. Really thrilled to have you here, and really thrilled to introduce a special guest. Her name is Sarah Hausler. Hope I got that right, Sarah?
Sarah: You did.
Lisa: Yay! I met her at the AusMumpreneur conference, in 2016, and you sort of couldn’t miss her. She’s got the friendliest face, and the loveliest smile, of almost anyone I’ve ever met. I’m not too sure who introduced to who, Sarah, but I was so, so glad we connected, and we had lots of things in common. But she’s, you know, qualified, and stuff, at things, and so has so much good stuff to share, and I’m really excited about the conversation that we’re going to be having today. So, thank you for joining me Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you so much! And thank you for that beautiful introduction. Yes, I can’t believe it’s been, like, several months since AusMum. We actually met in the middle of the gowned casino somewhere, because I was not sure where to go, and you and Laura Trotta were wandering around.
Lisa: Oh yes, that’s right!
Sarah: And it’s hilarious, because out of everyone that was going to be there, I was actually most excited to meet you, before I knew you were going to be there.
Lisa: Get out!
Sarah: Yes, no, because I’d been following you for so long, and I knew you were nominated in the same category as me. And I was like, I said to one of my business best friends, I said, ‘I’m going to meet Lisa Corduff while I’m over there.’ She’s like, ‘Yes, that would be awesome!’ and then you were the very first person I bumped into. How’s that? Manifested, I’m sure it was.
Lisa: That’s awesome. It was, totally. And I think, you know, we’d seen each other on Instagram, or was it Facebook? And so we were kind of primed to meet each other. But then, there we were.
Sarah: Oh, it was fate.
Lisa: Oh, it was fate. It was beautiful. Well, firstly, so everyone gets a really good understanding, and I don’t muck up explaining exactly what it is you do. Because it surprised me, the bent you have on your business. So, could you just fill everyone in on what it is that you do, and, I guess, how you fell into it? Why you love it.
Sarah: Sure. So, I am actually an occupational therapist. I’ve been in OT, which is the shorthand version of occupational therapist, because if I had to ‘say occupational therapist’ every time I talked about myself, I’d just probably get laryngitis, I think. But yes, I’ve been in OT since, oh gosh, 1999, 2000. So, for a good sixteen or seventeen years. And at the moment, I run my own business. So I started my own business about three years ago, which is called Bloom Wellbeing, and it’s a specialist area of business. I focus in maternal wellbeing, and also paediatric wellbeing, and especially that connection between both. So, the connection between maternal and children’s wellbeing. And it’s an emerging area of OT practice. There aren’t a lot of us working in this field, in OT, in this maternal wellbeing or women’s health space.
And it’s funny how I kind of fell into-, so when I started OT, I was working in the vocational rehab sector. So I was working with, you know, like, big burly 60-year-old truck drivers who had dodgy backs. Yes, no, here I was, this, like, 21-year-old girl, trying to tell them to stop eating so many meat pies, and maybe do some stretches, you know, when they stop at the truck stop. And I did that kind of work for several years, and eventually I got a little bit burnt out by it. Because the work cover system’s just sometimes not very nice, and it just wasn’t the right fit for me. It became quite process-driven, and I had lots of paperwork. It was really hands-off, there wasn’t a lot of, you know, work, supporting people, helping people.
So, you know, like I said, I got a little bit burnt out, and I decided to quit OT altogether. I was never going to be an OT again, and I went and studied journalism. So, I got my graduate diploma in journalism, and became a journalist. And I loved it, it was great. A lot of telling people’s stories, and hearing people’s stories. You know, I’ve always loved writing, and English, and those sorts of things. And then I, kind of, fell back into OT. Somehow, it was quite serendipitous, when I moved up to Queensland, when I was pregnant with my first baby, I had to get a job. There weren’t many journalist jobs around, and I just thought, ‘Oh, I wonder if I can get some OT work again,’ and so that’s what I did. And, yes, that’s how I kind of fell back into OT.
So, my background in OT, like I said, I was in rehab, but also quite a little bit of mental health experience, and also worked in a school, as well, before I moved onto different avenues. So I had a broad cross-section of work in OT, and OT’s one of those interesting professions, in that what you do as an OT really depends on the client group that you work with. So, you know, you tell people that you’re an OT, and they’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, I had an OT when I was a kid, and they helped me with this,’ or, ‘My grandma’s got an OT, and she put handrails in,’ or, you know, ‘My dad had an OT to help him to get back to work after an injury.’ So, we do really different stuff with all the people that we work with. So it can sometimes be quite confusing when people say, ‘Oh, you’re an OT, how do you work with mums?’ Because it’s not something that people would associate with motherhood very much. So, but yes, that’s how I, kind of, fell into it.
When I became a mum myself, about six years ago, when my little Ella was born, I started noticing. I met my mums’ group, and was around a lot more mums. Because I’d never really given motherhood a second thought, until I became a mother myself, as most of us don’t. Yes, but then I met all these mums, and I started to notice just how many injuries they had. So all these mums in my mothers’ group, I think there were maybe only one or two people that didn’t have some kind of injury. Like a wrist complaint, or a back complaint, or shoulder soreness. Or maybe they had, like swollen ankles, or a few of them were really struggling with depression and anxiety. And coming from my rehab background, you know, I thought to myself, ‘Geez, if motherhood was a vocation, like, an industry, there’s no work cover insurer in the world that would insure it, because of all the claims they would have.’ And I was doing some further study into soft tissue injury management at the time, and I focused all my study on postnatal injuries, and looking at the rates of postnatal injuries among mothers, and all that kind of thing.
So that’s how I, kind of, fell into starting this idea of bringing OT into the motherhood sphere, because I just think there are so many skills that we OTs have, and the philosophy of our work just fits so nicely with motherhood. So, it was just after my second baby was born that I decided I just didn’t want to go back to work for anyone else, so I would start my own business, and that’s what I did. So there we are, that’s the long version of the story.
Lisa: That’s an amazing story, and, you know, in absolute honest truth, I didn’t really know what occupational therapy was. I 100% thought it’s for kids who don’t have proper motor skills, or something. You know, friends whose kids do OT because they’re not at the level that they should be. But when I was on your website, I think it was something like, ‘OTs help people to function optimally for different roles in their life,’ or something like that.
Lisa: That, sort of, gave me a bit of an understanding of what you actually do, or what the purpose of occupational therapy is. But then, I wondered. Oh, hello little one.
Sarah: That’s alright, I’m just sorry.
Lisa: No, don’t apologise.
Sarah: I’ve just got my little munchkin over here, who’s just naked in her knickers, because it’s pretty hot here in Adelaide today, and she’s just finished Octonauts on TV, so she wants me to replay it for her.
Lisa: Of course she does.
Sarah: Not Octonauts? You want the phone. Oh, but you know how to use the phone. Okay, off you go.
Lisa: She can hear that Mummy’s having a conversation, and, well that’s just, like, you know, it’s like Velcro. Start to talk, kids come.
Sarah: It is, isn’t it? ‘She’s talking to someone who’s not me? I can’t have this.’
Lisa: Exactly. And, like, the kids are playing happily, Mum chooses to jump on the phone to have a two-minute conversation. Kids all come to Mum and ask for food, or something that they didn’t need one second ago.
Sarah: Even if Dad is sitting right there.
Lisa: Oh, I know. Ah, it is, it totally is.
Sarah: Yes, no, what you’re saying is really common. So a lot of people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I thought OT was just for kids,’ or, ‘I thought OT was just for older people,’ and, like I said before, it’s about who our client group is. So at its basis, occupational therapy focuses on what we call ‘meaningful occupation’. So when we talk about ‘occupation’ in occupational therapy, it’s not just about a person’s job, or their vocation. So what we talk about is that an occupation is anything in your life that you want to do, or have to do, or need to do. And OT is about helping people to fill their lives, you know, with meaningful occupations, and to get back to doing those meaningful occupations that make their life theirs.
So, in that respect, when we talk about paediatric OT, which I still do a little bit of paediatric work as well, our major strategy is play, because play is the number one occupation for kids. So, we use play to help them develop, so to help them develop those motor skills, or to develop those visual perception skills. Or, you know, to help them develop their co-ordination, and their motor planning. So, you know, we’ll be playing hopscotch, or Connect Four. And, you know, sometimes the parents will be sitting there going, ‘You’re just playing with them,’ but we’re really thinking about, how is this helping them to integrate all their senses, and their movement processes, and the neurological connections, and all that sort of thing.
So, that’s what we do, and when it comes to motherhood, so when we talk about occupations, I always, sort of, think that motherhood is the greatest occupation there is. And I mean greatest in terms of most all-encompassing, not so much whether it’s the most wonderful. But I really feel like it’s the one role, or one task, that people do, that, kind of, infiltrates every single area of your life. And I think until you’re a mum yourself, you don’t really understand that. You don’t really understand that once you’re a mother, that component of you that’s a mum kind of influences every decision you make, from then on. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, there’s always in the back of your mind, you’re always thinking about how this decision that you’re going to make might affect you or your family, with children.
Lisa: It’s so true.
Sarah: So, it really has a big impact. Yes, and it changes your life so much. So it really changes the way you interact with your life, and the roles that you take on in your life, and the tasks that you can do, and the vocations, and all those sorts of things. So motherhood has a really huge impact on our occupations as a human, and it can have a really big impact on the meaningfulness, and the visibility, of what we’re doing as well. So, people can become quite unwell, or quite stressed, when they become mums. And so I see a really great role for occupational therapy in supporting mums to just adjust to this transition. So that’s what one of my taglines early on was, it’s about supporting women to adjust to the physical and emotional demands of motherhood, because there are just so many of those.
Lisa: So many. Like, why aren’t other people do this? You’re a trailblazer. Because when you think about it like that, you know, I don’t know anything else that has had a bigger impact on my life than having children. And I never really thought about it, in the sense of occupation. Like, really, when it comes down to it, like, you start a new job, you go through training, you use different muscles. You know, your body is stretched, contorted, in different ways. You have to call on different parts of your brain, that maybe you’ve never even used before. You have to learn how to talk to, like, basically an alien, because they can’t talk back to you. Like, I hadn’t actually really thought about it in the context of occupation. So, if you work with mothers in this occupational therapy, OT, sense, you know, what would be things that you would help people out with in their everyday life? Like, why would someone who is a mum, like, what would be signs that she might need an occupational therapist? What would you help with?
Sarah: Yes, so one of the big things that people come to me for is some support with mental health. So, a lot of mums come to me just because they find they’re just not coping. You know, they’re just feeling overwhelmed, or extremely anxious, or perhaps very sad and depressed. And they’re just really struggling to adjust to that transition on an emotional level, so they’ll come to me for some support in that respect. And so we use a bunch of different tools there. We might use some, you know, kind of, counselling kind of tools, or psychological tools. But then we’ll also use some things like mindfulness, and just looking at basic stuff around planning your day, and organising your day, and, you know, energy conservation techniques, and putting in support. And all those kinds of things, and we’ll look at, maybe, perhaps, you know, sleep. Like, safe sleep is a four letter word for mothers, isn’t it? But, you know, that’s one of the things we might look at. And also, just a way around the way that they’re looking at social media, or they’re talking to themselves. And talking to them about the concept of self-compassion, and, yes, so it really depends on what they’re struggling with.
So that’s a big one, I’m finding a lot of anxiety at the moment. Anxiety is a big one that’s coming up, and that’s also presenting in, I’m getting quite a few referrals at the moment for children who are anxious. So toddlers who have got separation anxiety, and that seems to be really commonly coupled with mums who are heavily anxious, as well. So, doing a lot of work there, I’m talking to mums about, you know, building connections with their children, and attachments, and building that secure attachment to help them to support their children through this separation anxiety, and to support themselves as well. We also do, you know, some things like injury prevention sort of stuff. So I’m also a qualified Pilates instructor. Like I said, I came from more of a physical kind of OT background. And so, there’s a lot of stuff that we can do with mums who are struggling physically as well.
So, you know, just helping mums to recover after birth. So, looking at pelvic floor function, and abdominal separation, and just really rebuilding their strength, and their core strength, after having babies. So, we will talk to them about how to carry their baby effectively, about how to set up their nursery, so that they’ve got everything at the right height, and that sort of thing. Again, looking at those energy management practices, and how are they lifting their baby, and is that why they’re getting sore wrists, and those sorts of things. So, it’s always about, you know, a holistic approach. So, OT is founded on what we call the biopsychosocial model. So it’s biological, psychological, and social. So we look at all those different areas of a person’s life, whether it be their socialisation, their physical wellbeing, or their emotional wellbeing. So we look at what’s the area that they’re having trouble with, and then how we’re going to help you through that.
Lisa: Oh, I just love this, Sarah.
Sarah: It’s fantastic. OT is one of those things, because it is so broad, it’s often really misunderstood, how we do and what we do it. But it just gives us so much scope to work with people on such different levels.
Lisa: And, you know, I love it, I guess because I’m in that food world, and sometimes it can be a bit all-consuming. And I think once people have, kind of, found health through changing their diet, and that’s what they want to talk to people all about it. So, women start following these people on social media, and thinking, ‘Yes, like, I want that too.’ But it’s always about so much more than food.
Sarah: Oh, absolutely.
Lisa: And, you know, if you’re hating on yourself, if you have not even one minute to yourself throughout a day, if you are chronically tired, then it’s going to be hard to create lifestyle change around food. And so, it feels like, you know, I just 100% believe in being gentle on ourselves. Especially because my Small Steppers are mostly mums who, within the context of very full lives, are trying to make pretty big changes to the food that they, and their family, eat. I just reiterate all the time, like, ‘You know, if it’s going to be fish and chips on a Friday, because you’re burnt out, and everyone’s screaming, and you can’t take any more, then let it be.’ Because there is so much more to the person. Not discounting the importance of food, of course, but I love this holistic approach. And I would love to ask you, because you talk a bit about ‘meaningful motherhood’ and, you know, the cynic in me is like, ‘Oh man, like, this is going to be something else I have to do.’ Or, ‘This is just going to show up how I really let my kids down a lot of the time.’ Or, how disconnected I am. ‘This is just going to be something to add to my to do list. Can I take on meaningful motherhood?’ Do you know what I mean?
Sarah: (Laughter) can I do it, is it too much?
Lisa: Yes, like, we’re always being told how to do things, or, you know, better ways to do things. And I think your approach is actually really different to that, so I would love you to explain what you mean by ‘meaningful motherhood’.
Sarah: Yes. Well, yes, meaningful motherhood is the total antithesis of that, because it’s really about creating a version of motherhood that works for you, and for your children, and for your family. So it’s about recognising the fact that motherhood is unique. So the way that you experience, and want to experience, motherhood should really reflect who you are as a person, and how you interact with your children, and how you interact with the world. And there’s no one right way to be a mother, or to be a good mother, or to be the perfect mother. Well, there’s no way to be the perfect mother at all. But it’s about, you know, I guess, figuring out what motherhood means for you, and creating a version of motherhood that’s purposeful, and meaningful, and enjoyable, as well. Because I really feel like, as a generation, we have lost the ability to enjoy motherhood. We’ve lost that playfulness, and that energy, and that spark, that I feel like mums, you know, are really missing.
So, yes, and like I said, that, kind of, links back to that work as a paediatric OT, as well, in that we used play as a primary means of, you know, working with our children. And I feel like, you know, play is the number one way that children learn, but you never stop learning from play. So I think mums can really take some information from that, if they can just have a little bit of playfulness back in their life, it can help a little bit as well. But again, it has to work for you. If you’re not the playful type, then that’s not part of your meaningful motherhood. But it’s really about, I guess, you know, looking at your own values, and looking at what you want out of life, and what you want your motherhood experience to be like. And to be able to, I guess, reduce the noise, and reduce the ‘shoulds’, and reduce the opinions of everyone else around you. And to stop trying to please other people, and just making sure that you are being true to yourself.
Lisa: Oh, I just love that so, so, so much. Because I feel like it’s the looking around that is the thing that can destabilise us. But before we talk about that, because that’s a big topic, and I want to ask you a question specifically on that, I just wanted to say that-, was it last weekend? I said, you know, ‘Often we get to the weekends, and Nick works full-time, so it’s like, the things that we need to get done on the weekend.’ And I’ll be up, and out to a market, or, you know, whatever it is, and, kind of, you know, we’re away. And there are always things that should be done, and I said to him, ‘Let’s just get up and play with the kids.’ And, like, make that our thing to do.
Because they’re always at us, they’re always wanting us, and we’re like, ‘Well, guys, Mummy and Daddy just need to get this, and this, done, and then we’ll get out to the park,’ or whatever. And I said, ‘Actually, let’s just put our action items,’ and it was easier, because we were on holidays, and he’d been around, and so we didn’t have that kind of urgency about the weekend. It was like, every day is a weekend. And just said, ‘Let’s just be with them.’ And the whole tone of our house just changed, when they knew that they were our priority, that I wasn’t, you know, jumping into the shower straight away, to, you know, get out to a market. I just thought, ‘Whatever, let’s just let this day be what it’s going to be, and just be with the children.’ And let them lead the way, like, they can think of cooler stuff to do than we can, every single time.
Lisa: If we just, yes, give them the space for it. But, like, I am a big fan of letting my kids get bored, only because it’s such great entertainment for me. I’m like, ‘You’re so smart, how did you even think to do that?’
Sarah: I know!
Lisa: ‘How did you just create a game out of that?’ But, yes, I think that, you know, when you said we’ve lost the ability to play, or, yes, we’ve lost that spark. Well, I think for me, when I was really in the young years-, I mean, they’re only six, four, and two, so they still are young! But, you know when you’re having the babies, and it is just what you’re doing, and it’s all-consuming, and you’re in it. I feel like, you know, now with one at school, one at Kindy, and we do family daycare for the youngest one. And it’s, you know, by no means full-time, it just feels like I’ve passed through into a different stage of motherhood, because I’m not literally on the ground with them, or I’m not literally feeding them, or growing them. And I think at the moment, Nick and I are establishing what this next stage means for our family. Like, we can do cooler things with them, but we’re still, kind of, stuck in that afternoon sleep, on a weekend. Like, I find it like a constant re-establishing. And just saying about the spark, yes, I think maybe I have lost a little bit of the playfulness. Yes, I don’t know, it’s a weird thing to think about.
Sarah: Yes, it’s really interesting isn’t it, because we do have these different phases of motherhood that we go through. And one thing that I like to talk to people about is the concept of values. So, when we talk about what we value in life, our values will change throughout our life, and I think they change throughout motherhood as well.
Sarah: As our babies are tiny infants, you know, they’re so dependent, so, you know, we value that safety, and security, and all those sorts of things. And then as they grow, you know, we value a bit more independence, and a bit more freedom that we have, and that ability to go out and do more work, and that sort of thing. But then it’s about balancing those new values with the old values, and how do you actually, kind of, line them up against each other, and when does one come on top, when does the other one come on top? And I think it’s really important that you said, you know, you talk to your husband about that a lot. Because parenting, you know, if you’re parenting with someone else, you really need to have a consistent approach in parenting. Because I think, I find that’s one of the biggest factors, you know, for troubled parenting, or for troubled relationships, is when the parents just aren’t on the same page. And so there’s just all this, kind of, resentment that bubbles up, and there are all these, kind of, issues that happen, and the kids know that, they can feel that.
So, it’s about having that ability to sit down with your partner, and just, kind of, go, ‘You know, where are we at, and what are we doing, and how do we feel about this happening in our family? And how do we feel about this happening in our family? And what are these values that we want to instil in our children? And how we’re going to model those values for them, through what we do every day?’ So, that’s really good that you do that.
Lisa: Yes. Well, I mean, at the moment, I think we’ve got used to it also just feeling like a bit of a slog, you know? Three kids, I had in three-and-a-half years, and that was, kind of, our motto, was, you know, ‘We’ve just got to get through this phase.’ And then we kind of stopped ourselves, and went, ‘No, hang on a minute, there are going to be challenges, there are going to be, you know, difficult times throughout all of these stages of parenting.’ If we can’t find ways to enjoy, and be present in, and appreciate each one, then why would we think we could in the next one? So, yes, we’re definitely going through, sort of, looking at our values, and thinking about, also, what we like to enjoy. Because it felt like a lot was put off, for a long time, as we were in the child rearing, sort of, stage. And now, it’s like, ‘Okay, we’ve got these kids, they’re pretty cool. We actually quite enjoy hanging out with them.’ So, what’s cool stuff, like, how can we fill everyone’s bucket, on the weekend? And, you know, as a mother, and I guess, creating my own version of meaningful motherhood, 2016, for me, was a lot about, ‘If I’m going to have this business, how do I do it in a way that I don’t sacrifice what is important to me as a mother, and a wife, and for our family?’ Because, yes, 2015 was a bit out of control.
Sarah: Yes, and it’s really interesting, isn’t it, a lot of my clients are women who run their own businesses. And I’m just finding that so many women who are in this space of running their own businesses are just really struggling, because there’s so much pressure to get the business right, get the business up and running. And, you know, running a business takes so much energy, both on a physical and an emotional level. And I’m finding what’s happening, and I know what happened for myself, as well, is that the thing that slips is your self-care. That’s the first thing that goes out the window. So, your morning walks, your yoga class, your coffee catch-ups with your friends, you know, your early nights, your late sleep-ins. Those are the things that disappear, because those are the things the mums think, you know, are the least important, at the time. But it’s really important that mums keep that stuff happening, because, like happened with me, you’ll just get burnt out. And that can really happen, really quickly, and once you’re already in that burnout phase, it happens so quickly, but it takes such a long time to come back out of it.
Lisa: Yes. It’s a very, very important message.
Sarah: Yes, it’s a big danger zone, I think, mums moving into that space. I don’t think I’ve met a single mum who runs her own business who found it easier than they thought it was going to be!
Lisa: Oh yes. If I only knew what I was starting. I had no idea! But, I love it. So, can we just talk quickly, before you give us some small steps, can we just talk about that issue of comparisonitis, and how you see it playing out with your clients? And how it can, kind of, I guess, destroy motherhood in lots of ways? Or at least destroy our security in our parenting abilities? Because, I mean, I see it all the time. In fact, in my Small Steps membership at the moment, there’s a big conversation going on about people needing to simplify and streamline who they’re getting their information about food from. So they’re saying, ‘I’ve just pretty much unfollowed everyone, and I’m following you, Lisa, and someone else, because you don’t make me feel like shit about yourself. You know, you keep it real. It’s not about trying to live up to some crazy, you know, expectation that I’ll never reach.’ And I found that so interesting, so many people are using the start of the new year to just really go, ‘I don’t want to feel like crap about myself any more.’
Sarah: It seems like there’s a big push towards that, you know, just simplifying and decluttering at the moment, isn’t there? Which I think is just really great, because I feel like social media is such a double-edged sword. It has so many potential positives for mums, especially for those mums who might be isolated, either physically, like Geography, or just, you know, that they don’t have a lot of people they can connect with in their local area. But there’s so much negativity come out of it as well, and one of the huge things is, you know, like you said, that comparisonitis. That, you know, ability to look at someone’s Instagram feed, and immediately just feel shit about yourself, you know? And it’s really interesting, it happens so quickly, and a lot of it has, kind of, got to do with, I guess, the way that our brains work, and that our brains are, kind of, hard-wired for danger, and for keeping us safe. And so, you know, we look at social media, and we see all these things that are on there, and we immediately think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to live up to that standard, if I’m going to be accepted in society. And I’m not there, and I can’t do it, and it’s terrible, and I’m a terrible mother, I’m a terrible person, and I’m fat, and I’m ugly, and I’m horrible, and no-one loves me.’ And it’s amazing how quickly our brains jump to those conclusions, isn’t it?
Lisa: Oh, yes. It can happen in all areas of our life, but I think motherhood, it’s just so pervasive.
Sarah: I really feel like, as a society, like, society and media in general do not value mums, unless we’re yummy, or we’re super. And I feel like that’s something that really needs to change, because those notions of yummy mummies and supermums are so damaging, because those ideals are not achievable, without huge amounts of sacrifice. And again, it comes down to values, so, you know, like I said before, when we talk about what we value in life, we have to be able to pick, like, our top, sort of, three-to-five values about how we want to live our life, and what we want to pass on to our children, and the way we want to perceive the world, and have the world perceive us. Because when you look at your Instagram feed, you’re probably going to come across a hundred different people’s values, and there’s no way that you can value all of those things as your top values. Sorry, I’ve got a thirsty toddler. There you go, you take Mum’s drink.
So, sorry, like I was saying. So, you know, you look at the Instagram feed, and, you know, in the space of ten photos, you might have, like, the mum who really values her health and wellbeing, and is super-toned, and super-ripped. And in the next photo, you’ve got the mum who really values playtime with her children, and is always constantly coming up with new creative craft activities for their kids. And in the next photo, you’ve got the mum who really values order, and organisation of their home, and has this beautiful, neat, toy cupboard and room. And in the next photo you’ve got the mum who really values social media, and so she’s talking about, you know, the latest business deal she’s signed. And the next mum you’ve got is the one who really values freedom, and you see her backpacking through the Swiss Alps with her baby.
Lisa: Oh my God, yes.
Sarah: You know, and so you see all these things happening in the space of, literally, thirty seconds, and your brain’s going, ‘Why aren’t I doing this?’
Sarah: ‘Why aren’t I this kind of mum?’ But what you’re actually doing is you’re making a conglomerate mum, of, like, twenty different people, and you’re trying to live up to this expectation of twenty people’s top values, when it’s just not possible. So you need to really nail it down to, ‘What’s your value? What do you value as a person, as a mother, as a family? How can you live your life so that those values shine through?’
Lisa: Oh, amen to that. I just, yes, so much. And I guess, yes, once again, I’d never thought about social media in the context of values, and that I am actually comparing values. Oh, you’ve given me so much to think about, this is so awesome. I guess, to finish off, I would love to know if you have, I guess, there are a lot of mothers listening, and we’ve just heard about this concept of ‘meaningful motherhood’, and, you know, having it be a very personalised thing. You know, we get to determine what type of mother we want to be, and based on what feels achievable, and good, for us. So, can you give, like, where would you get people to start in creating those meaningful motherhood habits?
Sarah: Cool, okay. So, I guess, if I had to say, like, my top three tips. So my first tip would be, know which plates you’re spinning. So let me explain. So, you would have heard of the expression of, you know, having too many balls in the air, juggling balls, as a mum, and blah, blah, blah. And I kind of use that analogy of spinning plates. So, you know those crazy performers with a load of plates, sitting on their fingers, and their toes, and sticks on their heads, and all those kind of things?
Lisa: Yes, totally.
Sarah: I think I might have actually stolen this analogy from Laurence Tham, off The Wellness Guys, as well. So Laurence, if you’re listening, thank you for the analogy, and I’m putting it into motherhood. But think about spinning plates. So, as a mum, we’ve got a million plates spinning in the air at any one time, but those plates aren’t all equal. So, some of those plates are your A$2 cheapos, from Kmart, and some of those plates are, like, your grandma’s Wedgwood that you inherited. And so, when we’re spinning those plates, we have to think about which ones are the most important, and we have to give a little bit more attention to those ones. Because if that A$2 Kmart plate comes crashing down, and splits into a million pieces, sure, we’ll be a little bit upset, but we’re not going to be devastated. But if our health plate, or our relationship plate, or our marriage plate, comes crashing down, because we’ve taken our eye off it for too long, then it’s going to really impact our life, really, really big. That’s terrible English, there’s my journalism degree working for me! But, yes, so know which plates you’re spinning. Know which plates are the irreplaceable ones, and know which plates are the ones that are just frivolous, and fun, and are there for a good time. And pay attention accordingly, I guess. That would be my first tip.
Lisa: I love that. And, I don’t know where I heard it, but ages ago, I did a Facebook Live, or it was probably just a video back then, before Facebook live, about balls in the air. And my analogy was some of them are rubber balls, they’ll bounce back. Like, the cleaning the house. You know, drop it. But there are some that are glass balls, and they are the ones I don’t want to drop. And, you know, it is just about deciding which are your glass balls. And so I totally resonate with the spinning plates, and I’m feeling dizzy thinking about that, in my mind.
Sarah: Sorry, am I giving you vertigo?
Lisa: I absolutely love it, so spinning plates, or glass balls. Beautiful! Okay, what’s tip number two?
Sarah: Number two is self-compassion. So, really practice self-compassion. I find mums are the group that are the hardest on themselves, out of anyone I’ve ever met. We’re harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else, and we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else would be on us. So, you know, when we talk about self-compassion, it’s really closely linked to self-care, and a lot of people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have time for self-care.’ But, the first thing about self-care is, really just speaking kindly to yourself. You know, so, it takes just as much time to say to yourself, ‘You’re a fat, lazy cow,’ as it does to say, ‘You look great today.’ You know, and so sometimes, we just need to actually take a step back, and be a little bit kinder to ourselves, to recognise that we’re doing a great job. We’re doing a hard job, and we’re doing it to the best of our ability. And you can’t have meaningful motherhood without self-compassion, because if you don’t care about yourself enough to treat yourself kindly, then you won’t be able to create a life that’s meaningful for yourself.
Lisa: I 100% agree. It’s so hard. It’s like flexing a muscle though, isn’t it? When you just try to grab those negative thoughts, like, shine a light on them, and then turn them around. It is really hard, but so necessary. Okay, love that one. What’s your number three?
Sarah: So number three, you mentioned it before, is just be here. So, be more present, and be more mindful, you know? And that will help you with those first two, as well. So, being more mindful, and practising mindfulness through your day, will help you to be aware of what plates you’re spinning, and will help you to be compassionate to yourself, as well. Because it will help you to pick up how quickly you’re bringing those negative thoughts into your mind, and that sort of thing. And just on that, kind of, point, as well. Sometimes we don’t actually need to rebuke those negative thoughts. So, a lot of the time, what happens is, we’ll have negative thoughts that crop up into our mind, and they’re automatic. Those things come up, without us even knowing it, because it’s part of lizard brain part of our anatomy, that ancient part of our brain that tries to keep us safe all the time.
So, we often can’t stop those thoughts from cropping up, and so, then what happens is, we will try to fight them, ‘No, don’t say that. You’re a terrible person for thinking that.’ Or, you know, you try to spend a lot of energy teaching yourself not to think these things, and that sort of thing. And so, sometimes what you can do is learn to accept that sometimes you’re going to feel this way, and being mindful of when those thoughts come up. And just, I guess, you know, having a little bit of practice in sitting with them, and making space for them, and allowing them to be there. And not getting drawn into them, and not trying to fight them, or to get rid of them, to expend all that precious energy, you know, fighting against these thoughts that we can’t control anyway. That’s one big part of the mindfulness training that I do, is about supporting people to be aware of what those negative thoughts are, and how they occur, and rather than trying to fight them, just, sort of, let them be, and let them move on. So that’s another trick, as well.
Lisa: I love that.
Sarah: But being more present, being more mindful, you know, it’s so important, and it’s the one thing that’s probably helped me the most, in the six years that I’ve had my children. You know, whenever I am having a period of time when I’m getting really angry, or frustrated with them, or I’m not coping, it will always be because I’m not being mindful enough, that I’m trying to do too many things at once. You know, that things are going a little bit haywire. It was funny, so, the other day, we were camping last week, we were down at Kingston, in the South East of South Australia, camping in a caravan park. And my little three-year-old was still asleep when I woke up, and I, kind of, walked through, and she rolled over, and she said, ‘In just a minute,’ and rolled back to sleep. And I kind of looked at her, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, she would have heard that from me. Just a minute, in just one minute.’
Sarah: You know, that was a little wake-up call for myself, as well. It was like, just being aware of how often we do that with our kids, you know. Like, how often are we saying, ‘Just one minute,’ or, ‘In five minutes,’ or those sorts of things. Being able to, like you said, just be with them. I know it’s tricky, and I know that it’s not always possible, but just being aware of what is it that we’re doing, that is stopping us from being there with them, at that moment. Is it something important, or is it something that doesn’t need to be there?
Lisa: Yes. Oh gosh, all of this is just pure gold, and I am so glad that we’ve had this conversation, because you’ve helped me reframe things. And now I actually understand occupational therapy, especially in the context for mums. But, if people are loving this too, and thinking that they might want to work with you, or find out more, like, get more of your tips. Where should they go, and what do you offer?
Sarah: Sure. So they can go to my website, which is bloomwellbeing.com.au So there’s the blog there, and I also have an online program called Mindful Motherhood, which is a five-week e-course, which will be running three times this year. I’m just setting the dates out for that, coming up soon. But what I’ve done for your lovely listeners, Lisa, I’m creating a little free 21-day Small Steps to Mindfulness program.
Lisa: Love it!
Sarah: So, you can go to bloomwellbeing.com.au/smallsteps and there’ll be a link there that you can join in, at any time, basically. So it’ll be a free 21-day program, just be a daily email with a really short, quick, kind of, little mindfulness tip. Like I said, you know, number three was be more present, be more mindful, because I find this is one of the most powerful tools that mums can use to support their own wellbeing. And what I find is that mums will say, ‘I know that I should be more mindful, and I know that I should mediate, and I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I don’t have time.’ And I know it can really feel like that sometimes, so what I’ve done is, kind of, introduce mums to the concept of what I call micro-mindfulness. And it’s just for those mums who don’t have the time yet to do 24 minutes, or 30 minutes, or even ten or fifteen minutes, is how can you actually fit little, kind of, like, 30-second, one-minute, two-minute bouts of mindfulness into your day? And it’s entirely possible to do that, it’s just about being a little bit more mindful in everyday stuff that we do. So this program is all about helping mums to do that. Because, just because we can’t find a solid twenty-minute block doesn’t mean that these shorter little bursts of mindfulness won’t be as effective, as well. So, that’s where you can sign up for that.
Lisa: That is awesome, and I will, of course, have a link to all of this in the show notes. I appreciate your time so much, and now everyone’s going off for 21 days of mindfulness. It’s the best thing ever. So, thank you. I’m sure we’ll continue chatting, because you’ve just got so much to share. It’s like you’re an untapped resource, Sarah.
Sarah: Oh, and I can chat all day.
Lisa: I know, we totally could! But alas, you know, kids.
Sarah: I know, I can’t let her watch Octonauts all day long.
Lisa: (Laughter) thank you so much for joining us on the podcast, Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.
Lisa: Speak to you soon.