I started writing this post sat in the peaceful surrounds of a public library – always a reliable haven for mums with small children. Little Miss was at nursery and Little Mister was snoozing next to me in his cosy buggy.
For the first time in days, maybe a few weeks even, I felt able to just sit, still and calm, and be me.
Neither child was demanding anything from me and being out of the house removed the ever-present temptation to start filling this time with chores instead of taking a moment for myself.
It was bliss. The autumn sun was shining through the window. There may even have been a rainbow as I’d just ducked out of a heavy shower.
It was quiet. There was no CBeebies, Peppa Pig or nursery rhymes playing in the background! And, much as I adore her, no Little Miss asking constant questions or insisting I do or get something for her NOW!
I felt refreshed and it made me realise that I should prioritise trying to do this more often.
Having two children is what I always wanted. I now have the perfect family I dreamt of, a girl and a boy, and I love them to infinity and beyond. But one of the things I have found most difficult these last few months is the lack of personal time and space.
I sometimes wonder if growing up as an only child has made the transition more difficult for me. Whereas my husband grew up in a busy household with three brothers (and a very naughty dog!), I suppose I’m just more accustomed to being on my own a lot. My dad worked long, irregular hours so it was often just my mum and I at home.
I am used to, and sometimes really need, time for peace and quiet. Incessant noise, after a while, makes my brain feel frazzled, my head ache and my thoughts feel all over the place.
Whenever we’ve done those personal development quizzes at work, the ones that try and categorise people by character traits, I always come out as an introvert. This used to surprise and slightly alarm me as I’m not especially shy and can be a terrible chatterbox at times. But I’ve grown to realise it means that I like, and need, my own space to function well.
But it’s not just a need for personal space that has made having two little ones feel overwhelming.
My other big problem is the demands I place upon myself. I crave time and space but when I have a chance to grab some I all too often fritter it away on some mundane household task that could, for the sake of my sanity, have waited. Or at best it could have been done much quicker if I wasn’t on a constant quest for perfection.
That’s why getting out of the house the other day was so good for me.
Usually on Little Miss’s nursery day I stay at home and set myself an impossibly long list of household jobs and admin tasks that I want to get done. I nearly always end up feeling disappointed not to have finished the list, even though it was unrealistic in the first place.
I also often spend too long trying to do simple chores to an unnecessarily high standard. And sometimes it feels easier not to start at all if I think my standards won’t be met in the time available.
It’s a catch 22 situation. I feel frustrated about my lack of time, yet when I have it I don’t use it wisely or get less done than I could have and end up feeling I must get even more done the next day. Ahhhhh!
Anyway, getting back to the point, taking myself out of my usual routine did me the world of good this week.
Instead of staying at home and filling my toddler-free day with hoovering, washing and housework – in between the nappies and feeds – I escaped our four walls, which can feel pretty claustrophobic even at the best of times.
My husband was heading to the quaint, historic Sussex town of Lewes for a work meeting and Little Mister and I went along for the ride, meeting him later for lunch. It’s a place I used to go with Little Miss when she was tiny too, so it brought back many happy memories and a strong sense of déjà vu.
I had a lovely, relaxing morning. I sat and fed Little Mister in a coffee shop – without having to chase a hyperactive toddler every few minutes, or bribe her into sitting still with biscuits or Peppa Pig on my phone. I drank a latte while it was still hot and I enjoyed a packet of crisps without having to share. Little luxuries, I know!
And then I hit the shops!
And although I was enjoying myself, the trip was very productive too and did actually enable me to tick quite a few things off my to-do list. It was a winner all round!
I bought Christmas cards and a fair few presents. With just under six weeks to go until the big day, I now feel that we’ve made a major dent in the shopping. Something my bank account was also clearly feeling when I checked last night. Whoops!
It was lovely to have time to look around for gifts – something which has become increasingly tricky when Little Miss is in tow.
Little Mister, when he’s awake, loves being out and about, with plenty to look at. And it’s nice for him to be complete centre of attention for once. He enjoyed smiling and gurgling at all the old ladies who stopped to admire him. He is a fantastic flirt – loves putting on his cutest performances for an audience!
It was lovely to be able to focus just on him for a while. He was rewarded with a nice new pair of Sock Ons! (for those not in the know, these are genius little things designed to keep babies’ footwear on their feet. Little Mister is terrible for rubbing his feet together to lose his socks).
And, once I was all shopped out, I still had time to start writing this, my first post in a while.
The day was a reminder, a wake-up call, that me-time matters. That, sometimes, it needs to be made more of a priority. My wellbeing is important and giving myself a bit of a day off from the housework was one of the best things I did this week.
It’s made me realise that I should try and carve out more time for myself – either to rest, relax or do nice things. If that means lowering my standards a bit at home then I think it will be worth it.
Having a bit of breathing space, time to clear my head, makes me a calmer, happier, more positive parent when I return to the joyful chaos of childcare.
So I will strive to do it more often.