I’m in the middle of a peculiar Honeymoon period. Not a marriage honeymoon, or even a relationship one, I am in a strange sense of limbo; my youngest has just started school. In all my years on earth I don’t think I have EVER had six hours in a day to myself. There has been school, then university and then slogging into the office every day. Eight years ago, when my eldest came along, I began working from home, which was great, but with small children around, work happened in the evening, and ‘me time’ became non-existent.
For the past eight years there has been a child with me fairly constantly. Even when my youngest was at nursery, it was only a couple hours a day, so by the time I got home I was turning around to go out again. Then that dreaded day came, the day when I kissed my youngest at the school gates, flooded with emotion, ‘I can’t believe my baby is off to school,’ ‘Where did those years go?’ On that first day six hours seemed like an endless expanse of time. I cleaned out my kid’s rooms, sorted through the junk, achieved goals I was setting myself all Summer.
‘It won’t last’ a fellow Mum at school remarked, as I turned up at the school gates glowing with admiration for myself. How right she was. I increased my workload, because I could, and now, just a couple of weeks later, six hours a day is nowhere near enough time to get everything done. The house is back to a shit tip and I rarely even get around to washing dishes until I have to use them to make supper. To top it all off, said youngest is a highly-strung bubble of emotion, ready to pop at any given time. I am exhausted just from treading on eggshells around her.
Last Friday the exhaustion caught up with me. My work pace had slowed, I had no creativity left in me, and sat at my desk staring at the early Autumn sunshine, knowing it is (probably)the last of the warmer weather this year. Screw it. I grabbed my book, swivelled a deckchair into the sunshine and took the afternoon off. It was beautiful. I haven’t read that much in an afternoon for years. There was no one to bother me. But then, why did I spend every second feeling guilty? Guilty that everyone else is was school, or work, so I should be doing mine too. Guilty that I was slumming it in the sunshine. Every noise made me jump, was someone coming to my front gate, was I going to be caught vegging out? I even went to the extreme of moving the deckchair back to its original position, just so my kids wouldn’t know what I had been up to.
When my husband returned from work, he asked how my day was, I admitted to him how wonderful it had been as I had sunned myself for two hours. ‘Really?’ his response echoed my guilt. But you know what? I don’t think he meant to sound condescending, I think he was jealous, at not having the opportunity himself. I know better than anyone, if he had an afternoon at home, it would be his first choice too.
Eight years of solid parenting, and it is time to drop the guilt. Countless sleepless nights, hungry mouths to constantly feed, working until the early hours, just to get the work done. I think I am allowed a little ‘Time Mum’ in the sun, what’s more, my family need to know that I need some time off sometimes too, just like they do. Mums are referred to as superheroes, and yes, we have been known to pull off pretty impressive stunts when needs must, but in realty we are just humans, and we get burnt out too. I was a better person having some down time. I was kinder, less irritable and ready for a weekend of fun. From now on, Friday afternoons should be ‘Time Mum’, because Mums deserve time off too.