Mums can’t pour from empty cups so fill yours up however you can, says counselling psychologist Dr. Suzanne McClean

I have a friend who loves knitting. She’s been doing it for decades. In fact, the lovely Annie Lennon has probably dressed half the children of Galway at this stage, including my three. Her grown-up grandchildren still adore her handiwork and only last week, she donated a package of teeny tiny woollen hats to the maternity ward in UHG.

She tells me it’s her therapy and I can’t help but think of Kodaline’s Steve Garrigan and his recent appearance on RTE’s Late Late Show. He spoke with experience and authenticity about his panic attacks; and how he considered music to be therapy, until he discovered actual therapy. Now he understands the distinction between something that has therapeutic value, and therapy itself.

As a Mum and as a counselling psychologist, I appreciate the significance of both.

Therapy is my jam. I do it for a living and I love my work. It is never disappointing to encounter other humans in such a uniquely intimate capacity. I also attend therapy as a client and feel extremely lucky to have found a therapist who knows her jam.

But as a Mum, a bit like Annie and her knitting, the stuff that has therapeutic value is becoming more and more imperative as I age.

I recently escaped on a solo day trip to Kells to attend a literary festival, and found myself getting a bit teary eyed during a conversation between Marian Keyes and Ann Ingle about Ann’s memoir, Open Hearted. The interview was a poignant one, but at the risk of sounding like I missed the point, my emotion was of the joyful variety.

You see, I love a good road-trip. And some child-free time to myself, mixed with the richness of a conversation (any conversation) between two of my favourite authors? What’s not to love. It’s the stuff that reminds me of who I am when the school bags and the laundry baskets are out of sight.

It could be writing – or listening to writers talk about writing. Perhaps a swim in the sea or coffee with an old friend. Maybe it’s listening to records that remind us of way back when. Or making music. Or knitting.

Us mums need to recognise whatever it is that keeps us lit, safe in the knowledge that our children will benefit from having mothers who self-care and self-actualise. Who thrive, rather than simply survive.

Whether we’re alone in the front row of a festival with tears of contentment in our eyes, or at home feeling like the world (or the laundry) is caving in on us, it’s essential that we find our jam. That we find a way to pursue what we love in the knowledge that we cannot inspire passion and drive in our children if it is absent from our own lives.

Claire Keating and Sinéad Dore are two Limerick based mothers, who also happen to be primary school teachers and mindfulness practitioners. They have seen their passion come to life through their Breathe with Bea series of books for children. Their characters represent exciting ways to help children recognise and manage a variety of emotions, while also encouraging them to use positive self-talk, affirmations, gratitude and breathing techniques.

Like Claire and Sinéad, all of us need to find ways to channel the stuff we are passionate about. And if we don’t know or can’t remember what that stuff is, then maybe we need to take a road trip. Preferably solo.

Living in Galway, Dr. McClean is mum to Ruben, Rosabel and August Rose. She is co-founder of Rosabel’s Rooms, a child loss project in partnership with the Irish Hospice Foundation; hospicefoundation.ie and runs a private practice in Galway where she works therapeutically with individuals and couples.

For enquiries: counsellingpsychology@galwayclinic.com


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