At the start of August I had one major deadline and four weeks till our big family trip to Europe and Asia. So when my daughter’s carer told me she was taking early maternity leave, I didn’t really panic.
Then, as often happens in life, I got two new clients. Given I am still building my freelance writing business, I was not going to say no to these opportunities, even though I didn’t have any child care in place. I decided I would muddle through by working every day during Freya’s sleep time, and in the evenings, if needed, when all three children were settled.
So that’s what I did. Muddling through would probably be the most accurate way to describe it. Any one who has any experience with babies and toddlers will know, they can be unpredictable, even when you’ve mastered a perfect routine. Some days I’d plan to do the grocery shop in the morning, be home for lunch and then work after lunch while she slept, only to pull in the drive way at 11 and find she had fallen asleep in her car seat. The end result was that I did meet all my deadlines, but everything else went by the wayside, including this blog.
I’d fall into bed at night, with piles of washing waiting to be folded and put away, dust gathering slyly on my window sills and furniture, vegetables wrinkling up in my crisper, and me, feeling cranky, scratchy and pulled in all directions. It’s fair to say, chaos reigned (more than usual) in that period.
There was no down time because the time I would catch up on household jobs – while Freya slept – I was busy working to meet my deadlines, the evenings were spent trying to (unsuccessfully) catch up on things like the washing. But the biggest cost came in sacrificing my outlet. My sanity, my little love; my writing.
I mentioned earlier that I was tetchy. In hind-site, I can see that it was because I had sacrificed writing for pleasure and I had completely underestimated its importance, and its value in my life. It’s a thing that brings me calm, restores balance and brings me satisfaction. And I had foolishly abandoned it when life got hectic.
It’s been a great lesson for me, because not for one moment did I think that not taking that time for myself, to do what makes me happy, would impact so significantly – both on me and on my family. Because I was scratchy, they all suffered. And I suffered doubly – firstly because it’s not pleasant feeling harried and strung out, but I recognised that when I was like this, I wasn’t that pleasant to be around. So that old chestnut, mother guilt, came galloping back in to my life.
Whenever my husband could, he took over caring for the children, and doing house work, so I could work or rest. Which is how I now know, with some distance from the situation, that it wasn’t that I was trying to do too much (which obviously was part of it) but it was that I had let my outlet slide. I’d stopped doing what I love to do, what makes me feel happy.
I know that self-care is the most important thing a mother can do for her family, and in theory I always agreed. But it wasn’t until this little crazy month in my life, where my self-care got unintentionally ditched, that I truly recognise how important it is to make the time to ‘do your thing’. Arianna Huffington says that ‘when we take care of ourselves, we are only going to be better at everything.’ There is a lot of wisdom in that.
The practicalities of life will often prevent us from doing the things that we want to do, but the important thing is that we recognise what is really important to our wellbeing and make a commitment to carve out this time. After all, it not just for yourself, but also for your family.