Time Out: Noun: a pause from doing something (as work); “we took a 10-minute break”; “he took time out to recuperate,” respite, break, recess; pause – temporary inactivity.
If you follow me on Twitter you may or may not have noticed my unusual silence of late. I needed some time out, and from life not just Twitter.
I had recently read an article in Psychologies magazine about pleasure that got me thinking – and in it there was the following quote:
‘Our culture teaches a woman to over-give and she ends up depleted, lonely, cranky and victimised. Pleasure is something every woman requires.’
Now this article very much focused on sexual pleasure (don’t worry, we won’t be going there in this post) but it also mentions how pleasure also comes from discovering what brings you fun and joy in your spare time, and that if you do nothing and always wait for others to make you happy, chances are you’ll lead a miserable life.
Now I know that sounds a bit dramatic – and maybe it is – but recently, even though I think myself happier than I’ve ever been before, I am almost certainly not finding many things pleasurable, and have become increasingly downtrodden with the groundhogdayness of life that comes with looking after three small people. Clearing food repeatedly off the floor was becoming beyond boring; doing the laundry, endless loads of laundry, was almost unbearable to the point that there were piles and piles of clothes in my house and I had no idea if they were clean or not; my husband walking in after a hard day at work and casually asking me what was for dinner was increasingly making me want to rip of his man bits, fry them in a little oil and then ram them down his throat. Life had become so repetitive and familiar that I was locked in my own sweet hell, where everything was beginning to irritate me and I was morphing into a spiky ball of built up resentment and frustration.
We all know how hard parenting can be, we all support and listen to each other, yet when really faced with the really of its relentlessness are we truly honest? I know I’m terrible for plastering on my make-up (never seen without it, God forbid!) and casually throwing the phrase ‘I’m fine’ into everyday conversations, when inside I’m screaming ‘no, I’m bloody well not fine, I’ve just had to change the biggest, smelliest nappy with one hand whilst simultaneously emptying the dishwasher with the other and watching my umpteenth cup of coffee go cold. I’ve already had three people burst in on me whilst I’m trying to have a poo and have yet again been faced with the constant ‘why have you got a beard down there mummy?’ question whilst dipping under the shower for five minutes whilst hoping my youngest doesn’t flush himself, or my mobile phone down the toilet.’
Most days, most days I can laugh about all of the above, even when I’ve stupidly given the toddler a packet of Cheerios that he takes great pleasure on firing across the lounge. Or when I run to catch vomit in my hands for the gazillionth time, knowing damn well that it still manages to go absolutely everywhere and then makes my hands stink of sick for days. But last week it had all completely and utterly got on top of me and I was properly fed up. Fed up with feeling like dogsbody that was solely there to make everyone’s life easier, when no-one was making mine simple in any way shape or form – and so I quickly arranged for some time out. Four days in fact of total time out where I went away with my mum somewhere special…somewhere that we disappear to once a year…somewhere that is child and husband free.
I remember as a child how important time out had been for my parents – my dad would regularly go on fishing holidays (he was a keen fly fisherman, often having meetings with a Mr B. R. Owntrout on Friday afternoons!) and my mum would often go away with ‘the girls’ on Butlins fitness weekends. I clearly remember a time that my dad was left with us on one such weekend. He served up dinner, and it was stew…and it was grey…and yes, my brother and I refused to touch it. For years we teased and taunted him unbeknown to us that mum had actually cooked it (mushroom stew, hence the greyness!) and had left it for him to reheat! So I’ve grown up knowing time out is important and maybe that is why I am a firm believer in doing it myself, without any guilt whatsoever…honestly! And when I was away I fully indulged in activities I categorically can’t do with children. It was uplifting, refreshing and so very indulgent. Someone else cooked for me, another did the dishes for me and conversations with my mum were uninterrupted and always complete. I only got up when I needed something and chose to, my sleep was uninterrupted, my coffee was hot, and oh joy of joys I got to pee and shower on my own.
The time away gave me time to think. Having recently turned 37 I’ve been feeling a little uneasy…not a young ‘un anymore my life is very much set on its path, and yet I’ve not been ready for middle age-ness at all. I have very much been feeling feel torn in between two lives, unsure of which step to take next. When young your life is always segmented by different events – you work towards GCSEs, then A-Levels before further education if you so choose. Marriage and babies give you life-changing things to look forward to and your life is broken into different stages; however now I’m settled. My life doesn’t have a next stage as I am having no more children, which in turn means no more maternity leave, just unbroken work for the next few decades. It’s a strange time and one that honestly, hadn’t been sitting well with me. I’ve always been someone who gets bored relatively easily. I feel I need to achieve more than I have. I feel like I need to make every day count, every experience a memorable one and I’ve recently not been very good at living in the moment and being grateful for all I’ve got.
I know I’m so very lucky, several years ago as a young single mother I’d never have dreamt of having a career, a husband and a wonderful family. I’m so blessed to have everything I do, I’ve just been totally determined for it to be perfect. Maybe my need for perfection stems from losing my father when he was just 48, and then a dear friend at the age of just 40 – I don’t take a single minute for granted, but in turn that means my aspirations are often unrealistically high and I strive to meet them, failing often.
However over the last few days I’ve been able to take a step back from my life…and am so much more appreciative for it. I’ve been able to look at things in more perspective and have relished the opportunity to regain my momentum and zest for life. I’ve recognised that bringing up three children is a huge achievement, as is maintaining a successful marriage – which is so very hard at times. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve written a book to support families living with post natal depression and am involved in some wonderfully exciting charity work in this area at the moment. I have an amazing group of friends who are so brilliantly supportive. I may not be going out as much as I used to and I may (definitely) have several more wrinkles than I did ten years ago, but these things now seem so unimportant.
These four days away have been magical, powerful and I feel revitalised. I came home to smiles and cuddles and a husband so exhausted from looking after the children that he fell asleep at half past seven last night. And today? Today I’m back in the swing of being a mum and a housewife. I’m no longer irritable and have an infectious grin across my face. Never has the phrase happy mum = happy family been more true – without doubt everyone is more settled and grounded because of it.
Now where did I leave that cup of coffee….
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