Making Room for Me Time

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

There’s no denying the fact that raising young children is all-consuming. Particularly if you’re a full-time mum or taking a career break to raise your brood, it’s tremendously important to reserve at least a small part of the week that is just for you. Otherwise it’s all too easy to lose your very essence under the mountains of laundry, nappies and crusting-over cereal bowls.

Ho-hum, you might say suspiciously, so exactly how is this possible? Well, the answer is that it depends completely on the ages and stages of your child or children.

During pregnancy

You know those all-encompassing waves of tiredness that hit you at various points throughout pregnancy? Well, they’re there to teach you something. No matter what kind of superwoman you were before motherhood came along, there’s nothing like pregnancy to remind you that your body is a machine: it needs regular care and maintenance. So listen to it.

If you need a nap ג€“ sleep. If you suddenly can’t cope with the million or more questions flying round your head ג€“ make a date with a childfree mate and step away from the whole expectant she-bang for a fun day out. If your hormones are messing with your emotions ג€“ indulge them. Cheer yourself up with a rom-com, a long, indulgent bath or a trashy magazine.

The newborn stage

Once your baby actually arrives, the immediate perception is that much of the free time you enjoyed during pregnancy is gone. To a certain degree this is true, but you possibly haven’t taken into account the sheer amount of sleep a newborn needs. OK, so it can be unpredictable and not follow a normal adult pattern, but it does provide you with some necessary time alone. Use this time wisely. Don’t buzz round the house doing the housework ג€“ unless this actually makes you feel happy. Nobody is judging you at this early stage, so let the chores slip and do whatever you feel the need to, whether that’s sneaking a few zzz’s, zoning out in front of daytime TV, or catching up on the phone with a friend for a rejuvenating gossip.

Older babies, movers and groovers

Around the age of 4-6 months, babies become far more predictable in their sleeping and behaviour patterns and ג€“ gasp ג€“ may even begin to sleep through the night. As over the next year or so they grow into crawling, bum-shuffling, climbing and eventually toddling miniature humans, your body will respond by feeling a little more capable every day. Now is the time to plan around naptimes and introduce a friend, family member or babysitter to give you a little much needed time out and away from your household every once in a while.

One thing I found particularly helpful at this stage was to join a gym and make good use of the linked cr¨che facilities. This allowed many things: time apart, time spent exercising with friends (vital for both mental and physical health), my little ones made new friends and learned to deal with temporary separation from mum in a warm, caring atmosphere.

Nursery, pre-school and beyond

At last you will arrive at a childrearing stage where the schedule is not set by you, but by your local education authority. It can be very strange at first to have an empty house, and it takes a bit of getting used to, but embrace it if you can. This is your opportunity to catch up with all those friendships that fell slightly by the wayside during the blur of the baby years, your time to explore other avenues within your life (whether they be career-led or otherwise).

Above all else, try to maintain a healthy balance whereby you allocate enough time to yourself. Don’t spend your life matching tiny pairs of socks and meal-planning ג€“ these things are important, granted, but they’re only a minute element of all the amazing things that make you you. And if a little time spent walking in the open air, reading a book or popping over to your mum’s makes you happier and healthier, then your family will respond in kind.

Bryony Sutherland

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