In my previous blog, The Secret Side of Motherhood, I mentioned how important it is to take a break. No matter who you are, what you do, you get tired. Tired of working, of parenting, of commuting or even just tired of the same old weekly routine. It is exhausting being you.
Like all mums out there, I am permanently tired. Both my kids sleep through the night on the whole but I’m still shattered. This is certainly not unique to me and parents everywhere will be nodding their heads in agreement right now. I suspect some will also be grimacing with jealousy that my kids sleep through. There is physical tiredness sure but perhaps more damaging, emotional tiredness. When I tell my husband that I’m feeling tired, his standard response is ‘didn’t you sleep well?’ Oh, I know he means well but if he says it just one more time I feel I may have to iron his shirt collars the wrong way. Or something else equally horrific.
We learn to cope with this tiredness on a daily basis but we all have a breaking point. That moment when one more cheery nursery rhyme or rendition of the same bedtime story seems impossible. The moment when you know you should be enthusiastic about your child’s latest tale but actually you are eagerly eyeing up the sofa and your favourite book. Even just thinking feels like wading through treacle and you wonder how you will summon up the energy to get through to bedtime.
This week I had a hair appointment. Not an unusual way to spend a few hours but definitely one of my favourites. First of all I was greeted by a friendly smile, instead of a sulky pout, followed by being shown to a seat and handed a selection of magazines to read. Yes that’s right, I had time to read. I was presented with a proper filter coffee and a rather tasty little biscuit. Handy, seeing as I didn’t have time for breakfast as usual.
After discussing the cut and colour that I wanted, the stylist set to work and I began to read one of the magazines. I had time to read the whole magazine, from front to back, without interruption. Amazing.
Then followed the best part, the hair wash. The massage was heavenly. All thoughts of nappy changes and homework slipped out of my now perfectly still mind and I sank into a blissful state. If only it lasted just a few minutes longer.
When the final snip was done, I looked at myself in the mirror and then it happened. I felt like me. I mean I know I’m always me, but I mean the old me. The me that had energy in abundance and made an effort to look good every day. The pre-kids me.
When I got home my husband admired my new look (no really, he did) and the kids stared at me with strange curiosity for a moment, before going back to roaring at each other like dinosaurs. I was back amidst the noise and chaos of family life and I loved it.
And this is why my hair appointment is so much more than just a cut and blow-dry. It is time for me. A time to relax, to read, to think. To bask in the feeling of being pampered and of being the most important person in my life for just a few hours. Then I feel ready to take on the world again. Well, my two kids and the washing anyway. I benefit and so do they. Let’s not forget about dads in all this, they need a break from family life too. On the same day I had my hair appointment, my husband took the time to get a new tattoo done. Although I’m not really sure if you can count that as a treat.
Over the years, friends who also have children have told me about their favourite ways to have a breather. These include visiting a garden centre alone, going for a coffee in a well-known coffee shop and going to the gym to sweat it out. There are so many ways to enjoy a little alone time, the list is endless. Quiet time is good for the mind. Even Winnie the Pooh said in his Little Instruction Book, ‘Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.’ A wise bear, even if he did pretend to be a storm cloud to trick a swarm of bees.
There are many websites and books out there with helpful advice on how to better manage stress. After all, it affects not only health but also relationships with both our partners and our children. We constantly hear how important it is and in all sorts of places. Just last week the nation watched as a constipated Darren Day was told to ‘let it go’ and as soon as he did let the stress go, the rest followed…
The Mental Health Foundation’s website has some sound advice when it comes to looking after your mental well-being. There is even a section dedicated to family mental health. They tell us that ‘forming a family and parenting is an important part of life, with many changes taking place. Both mothers’ and fathers’ mental health may be affected during this transition, which may influence their child’s mental health. Poor mental health in parents can have a catastrophic affect, not just for parents but throughout their childrens’ lifetime.’ With it being reported this week that thousands of children aged just 5 are suffering from depression, we owe it to our children as well as ourselves to take care of our own stress levels as much as possible.
Whatever your luxury time is, do it. It is easier than you think to fit in a soak in the tub, a chat with friends or even a workout routine. A lengthier break once a week is a tall ask, perhaps impossible and also a tad greedy. However, once a month is surely plausible. I can’t afford to have my hair coloured every month but I can visit that well-known coffee shop for a couple of hours with a good book. I can meet a friend for lunch and talk about grown-up stuff or I can even just go for a long walk. Although I think I’ll wait for the weather to improve a bit for that one. After all, I don’t want to spoil my perfectly coiffed hair.