I recently took a break from my kids. I went away for the weekend with two girlfriends, and we drank wine and ate calamari and talked about everything under the sun. It was a good weekend. And I have returned to my children with more sympathy for their woes, more energy for their needs and more joy with which to share their happiness.
I needed that time away.
There’s this notion that parenting is all soft-focus calmness as mothers kiss their babies’ forehead or feed them liquidised organic, fair-trade vegetables on snow white furniture without ever spilling a drop. In reality, parenting is busy, messy and loud. As human beings, we are quite good at giving ourselves time off from all the other things that are busy, messy and loud, but we have a tendency to keep our ears, hands and eyes in the game when we’re parenting. And well we should.
But even the most committed of mothers needs a break every now and again, and when my husband noticed that my patience was wearing thin, he offered to man the pillow fort, and let me regain my sanity somewhere else over wine.
However, now that I am home and energised (and my son has bronchitis, of course), I am trying to think of ways to introduce smaller breaks or shorter bursts of “me time” into my life so that I don’t have to repair myself by removing myself from my family periodically.
Mothers need time outThere’s no question that mothers – even mothers who share the load fairly equally with their husbands like I do – don’t get much time to themselves. And even when we do, it’s often admin time or time allocated to essential grooming. So when we find that we’re looking forward to the calm of grocery shopping or a leg wax, we probably need to acknowledge that we need something that feeds our souls rather than our families or our vanity.
Mandy Collins, a friend of mine, recently wrote a blog post about how we should make sure we have something to look forward to every day. She’s not saying it should be something mind blowing like skydiving, or unhealthy like a mountain of chocolate cake, but just that we should make sure that we have regular access to little things that make us happy.
I remember to do that sometimes with a cup of tea. I allow myself one cup of Earl Grey tea with a spoon of honey in it every day. And some days I remember to appreciate my cuppa. Unfortunately, on others, I slurp it back while researching or writing or checking Facebook. So, as part of my soul-feeding resolution, I am going to make a point of enjoying that cup of tea on a bench in my garden, watching the sky or the grass, instead of experiencing it in exactly the same position and head space as the one in which I do all my work.
A small part of the solutionI don’t think that this is going to be the cure to all the anxiety induced by having two children yelling “Mama” from different rooms while I am trying to cook dinner, but I think that taking this first, small step to be mindful about something that brings me joy will help me to find moments of serenity in my rather frenetic existence. Having something to look forward to is a powerful thing, and appreciating it when you do have it makes it worthwhile.
I’m not saying I won’t be heading for the hills with my girlfriends again – because that was rather nice – but next time I would like to be able to do it for its own sake rather than as an antidote to a rising tide of parenting-induced stress. Tea-on-a-bench may not be the whole solution, but it will certainly help.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.