The time of year has come for sorting through the 5,827 photographs on my IPhone. I know I will need more room to film ‘Dad Dancing’ at the office Christmas party, the kids opening their presents or Boxing Day Charades. However, emptying my albums are never an easy task. There are so many photos I want remaining on my phone. ‘This one will make me smile when I’m waiting anxiously at the Doctors before a smear’. ‘This one will be great to show a friend wanting to see a recent snap of the kids’. They never fail to conjure up memories of the year past.
As I began the task this week I came across a gorgeous photo of my kids frolicking in a meadow. It was taken on a perfect Summer day, not too hot, not too cold. We had packed a picnic and walked a good couple of miles. All smiles and laughter. I showed the photo to my eldest who commented, ‘We haven’t been to that field in ages!’ Funny, I was there last week. Oh that’s right I was there, but I had left the kids at home.
Thinking about the dog walks I take daily, it seems, aside from school run dog walks, I walk alone. I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision not to bring the kids, but it has become routine. My children walk a lot during the week. It is a mile to school from our house, which we always walk. Then there are the sports clubs at the weekend. I never feel the need for them to come, if they are playing happily at the weekend then I leave them under the watchful eye of my husband. The dog walk has become my time.
When we think about self-care, or time to ourselves, we often think about the bigger luxuries in life. We picture Spa days, weekends away, we barely acknowledge the little things. I am a stay at home parent. I work, but I work from home. If I am mid essay writing and a child wakes from a bad dream, I am there. I don’t get to chill with a book in the evening, once the kids are in bed the laptop goes on. My youngest isn’t yet at nursery so, I have constant company. There is a little face next to me if I try to take a bath. There will always be banging on the toilet door (if I am lucky enough to get into the loo without her in the first place). If I go out, I am out with friends, or my husband, which of course is lovely, but I’m never alone.
The dog walk has become my place to think, to be silent, to be comfortable with myself. I don’t need to answer to anyone. I don’t need to listen to 800 million ‘muuuums’, if I want to think about a blog, I can. If I want to imagine myself in a ball gown drinking Champagne, I can. If I want to think of nothing at all, just take in the beautiful countryside, then that’s fine too. It has also become necessary for my mental health. After an hour long dog walk I return happier, relaxed, and I am always a better parent for it.
For any parents out there struggling to adapt to a life where ‘me time’ is not always put first, make it more of a priority. I know it isn’t always easy, particularly for single parents, but it doesn’t need to be much, a dog walk, a trip to the supermarket, an hours swim. If we can all manage it, then we not only feel better about ourselves, but it is better for our families too. Of course, when the family ask to join me on a dog walk in the future, I will embrace the family time, until then, I won’t encourage it, we have plenty of time together as it is, let this time be mine.