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When you’re a mum, any kind of mum – single, working, attached, stay at home – alone, or ‘me time’ become incredibly precious. In your new job as caretaker of a little mewling, pooping, vomiting bundle of joy you suddenly become indispensable, the most important person in the world to your offspring.
Sure, Daddy’s grand, but having grown inside you for the last 9 months, new baby reckons Mummy is where it’s at. And new baby has no sense of night and day, so Mummy is suddenly where it’s at 24/7.
Come to think of it, toddlers don’t have much respect for the twilights hours, either. Neither do school kids. This new job of Mum is basically like being an on-call doctor, only you don’t get holiday time and you’re paid in gummy grins and Ready Brek on your clothes.
This is why the force of Mother Nature is so strong. If we didn’t have these amazingly fierce and emotive bonds with our kids they’d probably be out the window quicker than you can say ‘dry clean only’. Even now, although I was woken at 5am this morning by a 3 year old’s fingers in my eyes as he wanted me to look at the ‘shooting star’ out the window (AKA early morning Ryanair flight from Luton to Dublin), I’m kind of going all warmhearted and doe eyed thinking about him. MOTHER NATURE, YOU CLEVER MANIPULATIVE BEAST.
But I’m not a robot. I can’t be this ON all day every day – it’s exhausting, emotionally and physically. So I’ve started to re-introduce the concept of me time.
Since I’ve started taking this thoughtful and purposeful time out from my children, either when they’re at school or with their dad, I’ve realised how important it is. I am with them for so much of the time and feel like I’m always on – even when they’re asleep I’m a quick call out away from bounding up the stairs to stroke foreheads and whisper soothing words. In fact, even when I’m asleep I’m never really fully gone like I used to be: there’s always one ear open. And when I am awake there’s always something I’m doing for someone else – cooking, cleaning, working, nagging, dressing, tidying, bathing, feeding. The job of a mother is relentless.
In December I took the bull by the horns: it had been an incredibly tough month and I was simply done. DONE. I needed to get away and in true last minute style I shot off to a spa. I felt like I was in need of time to lie in a dark room, rocking and moaning, but because people look at you strangely when you do that in a spa I chose the alternative… a massage and facial.
It was incredible. I fell asleep and dribbled. And then woke myself up by snoring. Sexy? Not so much. Relaxing? HELL YES.
It made me realise how important this time is alone. Time out to hold our hands up and say: this one’s for me. It’s not about the baby, it’s not about the toddler, it’s not about the teen, it’s not about nurturing someone else. It’s about looking after myself so I am better equipped to look after others when I return to real life.
I can’t tell you how important that is for me. It makes such a difference to return to normality after pampering myself; I feel so much more capable to take on the world and my children. I need that time to remember what’s important in my life and where I’m going… why I persist with the relentlessness that is motherhood, day in, day out.
I’m not suggesting we all head off to spas every other weekend. The whole premise of this idea of needing me time is that we’re parents, and if we’re parents we can’t afford regular spa breaks (sigh). But we can afford to take ourselves to a coffee shop once a week to read our books for an hour, or to drop by a local restaurant to enjoy lunch in blissful silence (I love Carluccios £10.99/2 course menu for this). Or how about going for a child-free walk or run, or even sticking the kids in the creche at IKEA and enjoying a one hour stroll around the shop (I recently did this with my friend Amy and it was heaven).
There’s a flip side to this, though: I do feel strongly about some things we interpret as ‘me time’ that really aren’t. The pleasure of going to the supermarket alone? NOPE. Locking yourself in the toilet for 10 minutes to get your business done? NAH. A haircut? NON.
STOP CALLING IT ME TIME WHEN IT’S A DAILY ERRAND.
Basically, if it’s an activity a man does alone without a second thought then it ain’t treating yourself. As beautifully serene as those Waitrose aisles are.
I feel like I should start a campaign here: Stylist did Reclaim Your Lunch Break, now it’s time for us to Reclaim Our Me Time. Are you in? What else should we do in our me time?