Released On 22nd Jan 2021
Linda's blog: Me time (what’s that?!)
When did you last do something for you? I mean really for you. Not something that was with or for the family or someone else that you were looking forward to. Something that was indulgent and designed purely for your pleasure. If you’re anything like me, this question will have drawn a blank.
Having survived (I won’t even pretend we’re thriving in this house) the first month of the second period of home schooling, I suspect there are even fewer parents who could answer that question than before. It was hard enough in the normal daily cycle of work, eat, child care, sleep, repeat but add lockdown and all that brings, who wants to put another thing on their list? And yet this is the time when it's even more important for us to do something – anything – that will spark some joy because it will help us get through this.
I will admit that I have never been good at prioritising myself and this is the kind of advice that is far easier to give than receive. Whilst I fully agree with and understand the mantra that we can only help our children if we have first helped ourselves, I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the concept of putting me at the top of the extraordinarily long to do list, almost impossible to comprehend. The grey cells were busy enough pre-lockdown and what with the addition of 2 children’s online lessons to our work calendars, the need to burn some energy and the never ending meals, it’s rare that I even think about doing something for me, let alone actually planning or doing it.
It turns out though that sometimes, these things don’t need to be planned. Sometimes, an opportunity appears out of the blue and all you have to do is seize it. This happened to me last Friday when I told my 5 year old I was going to run her a bath. Now, this is a child who loves bath time and is relentless in voicing her baseless preference for me to do it. But rather than grin and skip up the stairs with me as I expected, she burst into tears. It turns out that I can be trumped by watching tv and that’s what she wanted to do with her big sister.
Out of nowhere I had a cartoon style lightbulb moment: I could have the bath! Without giving it a second thought, I shocked and delighted her by not arguing and instead ushering her into the sitting room. She shut the door like a flash (no doubt worried I’d change my mind) and I found myself moving just as fast, racing around downstairs collecting every candle I could carry. Up the stairs I ran (Joe Wicks would be proud!), just about managing not to spill my wine which I’d grabbed on my way past the kitchen table.
Out went the bath toys, on went the candles, off went the light and in went the (children’s) bubble bath. I was in such a rush it didn’t occur to me to dig out the expensive stuff that's been languishing in the cupboard but I didn’t care: they were bubbles! It was my bath! I found some classical music on my phone and sank into the hot (way too hot for children) water. Mrs Large, eat your heart out (for anyone who hasn’t read "Five minutes' peace", I highly recommend it!)
I can’t tell you how utterly elated I felt about what I had achieved. My glasses steamed up so my book was left untouched but in any case, reading by candlelight would have done nothing for my terrible eyesight, so even that was a good thing.
When, a few songs later, I heard two mini elephants thundering up the stairs, I looked towards the door and waited. But the children, expecting to find me working in the bedroom, roared past the bathroom and I had a few more seconds until they realised where I was. They opened the door and for a moment, a tiny moment, even they were struck with awe by the dark and peaceful scene.
Naturally of course, all havoc followed as they jumped into the bath and my time ended. But I had it. And not only was it not planned, it was all the better for it. I’d never have thought it was worth running all that water and creating a sanctuary for what was no more than 15 minutes. But it was: it really was. I can’t say I’ll be doing it often (I suspect being able to do this alone before the kids’ bedtime was a one off now they’ve seen what “fun” it is), but the memory makes me smile and it gave me a much needed glow and burst of energy.
Sometimes there’s a chink of light and we need to recognise it and grab it with two hands. It’s probably (definitely) way less than we need but anything is better than nothing and we all have to start somewhere, especially at the moment.
Linda is a lawyer who has two primary school age children. She and her husband work full time and juggle the school run and everything else between them.