“Me” time. It sounds so cliche and 21st century, 3rd world problems-esque.
Until today, it did not occur to me that I may be seriously lacking in complete, unadulterated, switched off, recuperation time. Now, I’m sure this is a common condition of, in my professional estimate, 99.99% of stay-at-home, and indeed, any variety of parent (if you know of any of the other .01% who feel as though they are plenty rested, please let me know). According to this article, the average mother gets just over 15 minutes per day to relax, and that the majority of Mums go weeks without even a minute to relax. However, it just did not occur to me that it was something that I am overdue on. I love having the privilege of being a stay-at-home Mama and am so thankful for this life. I love getting to have cuddles and play with my gorgeous LA anytime I please; having time to don the apron to cook and bake up yummy and healthy goodies (yes, this is something I missed having time to do when I was working); getting to notice each and every change in LA’s development; setting my own schedule (well, kind of) and socialising with other stay-at-home Mamas. Cleaning and laundry I do not quite so much enjoy, but we can’t have everything now can we. The point is, I feel like life as a Mum to a still relatively stationary 6 month old baby is pretty carefree and relaxing anyway, because I get to set my own pace and do things as I please them. I realise I may rethink this sentiment as LA gets more mobile and as we potentially add more munchkins to our brood, but at the moment my “work” is playing with my baby. I get to drink coffee with friends during the day on weekdays. And on top of that she still naps three times a day! Who needs extra “me” time?
And yet…some mornings I wake up dog-tired (this part is not unusual: oh hi 4-month-sleep-regression-that-never-ended… ) and, it feels like, completely incapable of doing anything. Some days I have this giant mental block in my head that says, “nope, you just can’t do it today”. Every task seems like a huge, insurmountable mission. Somehow, I manage to drag myself through my daily chores…well at least the bare minimum thereof (aka feeding Papa and baby and diapering), but just cannot bring myself to do anything else. On those days I am so in awe of Mums of toddlers, multiple children and of the generations of mothers who went before me who could be justified in giving me a good eye-roll right about now.
Today was one of those days. I finally jumped into the shower at midday. As the warm water washed the morning’s drowsiness away I asked myself, why, if I love being a stay-at-home Mum so much, do I have days like this at a much higher frequency than when I was working at an office?
Sleep-deprivation is the obvious answer that immediately popped back at me. LA is sick, which means she has needed more of my attention than usual, on top of the fact that she’s been waking up every 2-4 hours for the last couple of months (and she used to sleep through the night!). Whether it’s been teething, growth spurts, development spurts or sickness…I just haven’t been getting much sleep lately.
But yet, it seems like it goes deeper than plain old sleep-deprivation, my constant buddy. Hmm. I probed deeper and it occurred to me that pretty much every single minute since she was born, I have been “on”. We have had the odd day where we have gratefully enlisted babysitters to give us some time away, but this always takes a bit of organization. Living in a foreign country we are far from eager grandparents and lifelong friends. We do have a wonderful plethora of friends to call on, but they have their own busy lives and families so it takes a bit more planning than “hey, could you watch LA tonight?”.
So, for the most part my “down-time” consists of her glorious 3 naps each day, which are spent rushing around getting caught up on emails, studying Japanese, getting housework done, watching a guilty episode or two on Netflix, or taking a guilty nap all while keeping an ear out for her cries. Or during a walk with her strapped onto my front. Or in the evenings after she has gone to bed and the dishes are done which I spend in an exhausted state on the couch willing myself to have the wisdom to get to bed early for once. During all of this “down-time”, and indeed, even during the night when I wake up, I have a constant narrative in my mind talking through the list of questions about child rearing I need to Google, what I need to get done next, whether she is getting enough milk, enough sleep, enough solids, enough stimulation, whether the redness in her cheeks means she is about to start teething …and oh, is that her crying and about to wake up? That’s a far cry from pre-Mama days when, if I felt a little tired or perhaps had had a mentally draining day, or just felt like chilling, I could easily switch off, pick up a book, take my guitar down to the river, convince AB to have a date night or flick on a movie. With no narrative. No guilty feelings. And no listening out for cries.
No wonder I feel like I’m done sometimes! It’s kind of like when you have a bajillion apps running on your device and haven’t actually shut down and turned off the poor thing in…well…ever, and then wonder why its acting a bit drowsy.
So, I’ve decided that I need to listen to myself. Those feelings are the cue that, at the very next opportunity, I need to intentionally close down every programme and flick the off switch. Pass care over to understanding hubby for an hour or two, head out somewhere I can’t see the housework that needs to be done or the baby when she fusses, and do something refreshing, like taking a walk, blogging, reading a book, or drinking coffee with a friend. No narrative allowed. And definitely no baby-care related Googling.
Then, hopefully, it’s safe to reboot and start again with a renewed appreciation for this life I lead.