It’s been 9 months since I had any ‘me’ time. By that I mean a whole 24 hours all to myself: no morning routine to abide by; no child to get ready for school or drop off at childminder’s; no job to do; no chores at home that must be done in snatched moments of time before bed.
Before I became a mum one of the main pieces of advice people kept telling me (aside from “Calpol is the answer”!) was to make sure I made time for ‘me’. Especially as a single mum.
Let’s be clear…I set out to be a single mum all on my own. I wasn’t in a relationship with someone and now have an ex who shares my daughter at weekends. I didn’t become a widow. I was already single and decided I wanted to be someone’s mum. Well. Now I am. And when I feel like this – knackered and burnt out – I have only one course of action…suck it up! I chose this life you see…it’s what I wanted…so tough tanarnies!!
Hmmm…this martyr business is wearing thin. I want a break. Actually, no….I NEED a break. And I don’t mean an hour snatched at the end of the school day when Squidger goes to swimming or Rainbows. Don’t get me wrong…these precious two hours are gratefully received but they’re often spent doing an extra hour at work or getting a bit of shopping in. Once in a while I’ll get home early and drink a cup of tea in silence! Generally these little breaks keep me going through the week. But I now need a proper break.
Let’s explore this ‘me’ time people speak of…’Get up an hour earlier’ someone advised me. Are you insane?? I already get up at 6 and this is a huge stretch. I go to bed between 10 and 11 to get a full 8 hours. Getting up at 6 is a nightmare! When I do, I have enough energy to shower and get Squidger ready and that’s about it! Squidger is up at the same time anyway…she has the ears of a bat and can sense when I’m up before I’m even up. All getting up earlier will achieve is the same routine at 5 am but us both sitting around like lemons ’til it’s a reasonable hour to go to the childminder!
I try to ‘relax’ in the evening. 7pm comes around and I’ve a whole 3 hours to myself! Whoop! Three hours to make packed lunches, sort out uniform and do one of the household chores eg clean bathroom surfaces. I used to save all the chores ’til Saturday morning…not great! I now have all the chores split evenly throughout the week. If I do one 15 minute job every night I need only do a cursory Hoover on Saturday and get the wash on! So, my three hours in the evening are reduced to perhaps two and a half. Two if Squidger doesn’t go to sleep on schedule(!) I may spend these two hours watching TV, or reading or bathing. Generally, they keep me going. But as we speak…I need a proper break.
Some people find refuge in their work when home life is really busy. I’m a teacher. Secondary school, with some challenging classes. There’s not much down time in my job. Lessons aren’t copying out of a text book you know. It takes oomph to be engaging (Did I mention my OFSTED ‘outstanding’ judgement from last week?!) in a classroom! I sometimes forget/don’t have time to a) drink and b) pee during the course of a working day. And I don’t really class going to work as ‘me’ time. My time is being paid for and I’m earning my keep!
Weekends…surely time for ‘me’ there? Well, you know what I do Saturday morning! The rest of the weekend often involves a Squidger type activity…a party or a trip out somewhere, usually interesting to the both of us. I also encourage Squidge to play by herself…and she does…brilliantly. But I am then subjected to a couple of hours of ‘Barbie, The Opera’ as she sings her way though the various dramas of 12 plastic dolls and their compadres. Our flat is small. There is no escape.
So. ‘Me’ time. What does it look like to me as an ideal? Well, pretty much what it looked like before I became a mum…its defining feature? Peace. That’s it. Were you expecting massages, book reading, walks along the beach? All I need…but I do need it really badly right now…is peace. Home is noisy, my job is noisy, life is noisy. Most of the time I thrive on this. But. It’s been 9 months since my daughter went to stay at her aunty’s for the week because our October half terms didn’t coincide. I cried when I left her. I came home and the house was too empty and sad without her. The quiet was sometimes too much. But I needed it. I didn’t realise at the time but it helped to recharge me.
We’ve had a particularly busy couple of months: Lily’s dear Grandad (Foster carer) died; we lost our nanny and had to start a whole new routine with a new childminder; Squidge put herself in A&E, “Is that Lily’s mummy? She’s had a fall. She’s unconscious. We’ve called an ambulance”; at work our new school year starts in June, not September, so I’ve had all new classes to deal with and Ofsted to boot; Lily’s started Rainbows and swimming; she’s also turned 5 and has all the chutzpah of a 15 year old!
I’m so, so lucky. I adore Lily and I love our life, but this week end (the past two weeks?) my patience has been less than paper thin. I need some peace and 24 hours of it please. I’ve done the usual – bath, book read, walk. It’s not enough. I need recharging and I need some peace before I tackle the next 9 months. It’ll come and there’s little pockets of me time coming in the next couple of months. In the meantime: no radio on the way to work; I’ll continue bathing and reading in the evenings; I’ll try and come home early and enjoy that Rainbows cup of tea, just to tide me over til I get my 24 hours.
If all else fails, I might try that Calpol stuff out myself.