I wrote recently about taking a pretty joyous day off.
And when I say a ‘day off’, I don’t meant a ‘don’t go to work, but do the laundry, dusting, grocery shopping and clean out the fridge’ kind of day off.
Thanks to a One4All Gift card, I grabbed the chance of a real actual day off. Sorry to be a living cliche, but the first thing I did was go shoe shopping (yes, I may have stroked the pretties but I did at least buy the mum-shoes. But, dammit, they’re lovely too. #PracticalShoeFan). I had lunch out, just me, by myself. Well, accompanied by my lovely new paperbacks, of course. Then I went for a long, soul-refreshing much-needed walk. Alone (and yes obviously, if it had been raining I’d have gone to the cinema. I’m not an idiot).
Best of all, I barely spoke to anyone all day (except for the odd please-and-thank-you. I’m not rude). And it felt… weird. But also, so good.
By mid-afternoon I had settled into the oddness of no one being there. No one requiring anything of me. No one needed me to think about their food options, their emails responded to, questions answered, clothes found… I didn’t need to consider anyone but myself in my choices, from what to eat for lunch to where I should walk. I was responsible for nothing but me.
And I realised it had been a really long time since I did that.
Any parent knows that every day is busy, from the second you open your eyes (and often even before then). Because it’s all your responsibility. And no, it’s not just mums, it’s dads too (though we women especially seem to have grown ourselves a whole heap of NO around doing something – anything – selfish). Taking a break from our regular day-to-day life causes us anxiety and guilt.
It’s a new phenomenon, isn’t it, the whole ‘self-care’ thing? And yet, we all know it’s true. We’re just better for everyone, for the whole family, if we can be better to ourselves.
Self-care is not selfish;
it’s one of the best things you can do for your family. It’s easy to feel like we’re just not loving them enough if we choose time away. But actually – we get worn out. Taking an interest in Minecraft is far too much effort. Another round of that game just feels exhausting and we’ll bung the TV on instead. Dinner menus fall into a same-ole-same-ole rota because even contemplating finding something new and interesting that they’ll all eat is exhausting. We get snappy and irritable at our partners – because, y’know, it’s annoying when they start to help do the laundry – and our kids (yeah, you irritating small person with your need for a drink and a cuddle. Just stop being so needy.).
Not exactly the beautiful family life, right?
And think about it – if you were choosing someone to look after your family, would you pick the stressy tired one or the relaxed fun one? Taking time out isn’t selfish at all – it’s the very best thing you can give your family in the long run.
And yes, I had a totally fabulous whole day to myself. I genuinely returned home relaxed, contented, humming a tune, and excited to see my family and hear about their day, looking forward to date night with my husband.
But you don’t need to find a whole day to yourself every week. None of us can manage that!
It is absolutely okay, however, to set aside time for just sitting with your book for an hour, or a few episodes of Grace & Frankie. Taking yourself out for lunch. Giving yourself a long slow pedicure. Plan some bigger things, plan some smaller things. Some days, simply taking 15 minutes to hide with a hot cup of tea and a book while I ignore the To Do list is all it takes to refresh my brain and reset the day.
I am the mother of four children. I’ve been a parent for nearly 20 years (every time I say that out loud I laugh inside my brain. I am SO not that old!), and in all that time this is without doubt the biggest parenting lesson I’ve learned.
And whether you’re a new Mum desperately trying to keep her eyes open, or a veteran mother that’s suddenly navigating the terrifying new parent-of-teen game changer years, now’s your perfect time to start.
Write it on the calendar, set a definite date with yourself. Better yet, you can gift some me-time to a Mum you know is in need – if we all look after each other, we’ll all be better off.
It can be as simple as a cup of coffee together. Or offering to do the school run and keep the kids til bedtime. Or maybe you should do what One4All did for me – gift them a card, and the freedom to choose just what to do for themselves.