I was desperate to go out and see my friends, so I excitedly peeled myself out of my snot and banana encrusted clothing and pulled on a fresh pair of jeans before quickly glancing at myself in the mirror. It was that exact moment that I knew I needed to grasp back some of my former self. Yes, I was about to sneak out for a few cheeky drinks (hugely medicinal with three little ones) but I’d realised that this occasional wine or gin charged escape was the only time I had for myself.
As I looked back at my reflection in the mirror, I quickly went through a mental list of all the things that I’d like to have done before going out but simply ran out of time because I was charging about like a frantic wild person trying to get all the kids fed and ready for bed. You know the drill!
Then my mind wandered onto the other things that I’d love to do for myself if I could juggle better or perhaps not take on so much. I’d love to start running again, read a book, eat properly instead of my current diet of the kids left overs and carbs, go into a real life clothes shop and actually try on some things. This wish list could go on and on.
I was now running late so I quickly covered up my bags with concealer, straightened my hair (in an attempt to degrease it) and left to join my friends looking slightly frazzled but keen for a drink.
That brief ‘mirror gazing’ moment really struck a cord. I decided that there were two key things holding me back in my new quest for investing something little back into ‘me’. These were time and a nasty thing called guilt.
Let’s start by talking about guilt.
So why do most mothers feel so bloody guilty if they do something for themselves? Is it an offence to sit down with a coffee for 10 minutes when the baby naps? Is it a crime to answer work emails while you cook the kids’ tea and plonk them in front of the telly so you can concentrate?
I have a six, four and one year old and I’ve battled with this gut twisting feeling ever since my first was born. The guilt of looking forward to kids’ bedtime. The guilt of packing them off to nursery when it’s time to return to work. The guilt of excessive telly, frozen food and sugar related bribes. The guilt of putting off their heart-felt requests to play because work emails needed answering or there was a backlog of washing to conquer.
On many occasions I did turn away from my computer or toss the washing back into the basket so I could kneel down and play with them but I still hung onto the plethora of other times I didn’t. More so to torture myself for not being a better mum and to blame myself for taking on too much.
However, this unforgiving word - guilt - achieves absolutely nothing and therefore needs to be ignored or, if you’re more of a visual person like me, strapped onto a rocket and launched into outer space. Easier said than done but I’m now acutely aware of this emotion and it’s reckless capabilities. My rocket ship is perhaps more of a jam jar and instead of blasting ‘guilt’ into oblivion, I’m desperately trying to shove and squeeze it in but the jar’s too small so the lid keeps popping off. But I’m trying and hopefully one day I’ll be able to lock down the guilt and store it away for good.
The other obstacle in my path to clawing back something for me, is time. Now this is a tricky one, especially if you’re not keen on getting up an hour or so earlier each morning. Do I need to juggle harder? I don’t think I could. Should I drop something? I enjoy my work, the other projects I take on and I can’t really drop my children. They seriously put me through my paces and have taught me the try meaning of exasperation, but they are my total world and I love them to pieces. So, I’m going to keep it simple and write a list each Monday in my old-school Filofax. Yes, that’s the visual thing coming in again, I have to see my week set out in front of me. It’s not an earth shattering conclusion. I haven’t worked out how to manufacture extra minutes in the day. But, it has become clearer. By removing guilt and focusing on two or three little things for me each week, I will hopefully not gasp at my reflection next time I rush out the door.
If you have any hacks for coping with the juggling game and making time for yourself, please do share them.