Me time

“You need to get more time for yourself! You need some ‘me’ time!” I didn’t miss the irony when, earlier this week, a health care practitioner remonstrated me about the busy nature of my life, then in the next breath advised me to sign up for the extra classes he offers. Didn’t he know that in order to get to this appointment on time I had to start preparations the day before? Dinner had to be easy so that I could feed the family before I left. I worked out when it should be served, counting back the hours on my fingers to determine what time it should go in the oven. My husband agreed to go into work early so he could get home in time to stay with the children. As soon as his bike swept into the drive, I dashed to the car, slammed the door and sped to the appointment.

I was on time! It was a triumph! I breathlessly walked into the office and sat down, my heart racing, sweat dripping down the small of my back. When he gave me his prescription (more me time, plus an extra class to fill that me time) it took enormous effort not to roll my eyes to the ceiling and wonder at this man’s failure to understand the reality of my life.

Daisy St F

Only this morning the four year old upended a bag of lentils onto the sitting room floor, a tide of orange wholefood goodness spreading across the wood. Only this morning my daughter in her frustration screamed at me so loudly that my ears ached and rang in the moments that followed. Only this morning I emptied and filled the dishwasher, prepared all three of our day’s meals, wiped the surfaces and the floor in the kitchen, gave three children three lessons in fractions, subtraction and number formation, listened to the 8 year old read, applauded the 11 year old when she played her latest clarinet piece, hung washing on the line, took it off again when the rain came down, mentored each of my children in their self-led projects, got us all out the door to the library (paid the overdue fines) then piano lessons (only 3 minutes late, thank you very much), and… I breathed. I took a sip of cold tea. I thought about all I had done. I closed my eyes and slowed my breath. Phew.

We all make choices about the way we live. My choices include being a stay at home parent, working part-time outside the home. I home educate my children and from birth have chosen to keep them close to me. These are my choices. There’s not a lot of room in my life for me time of the sort most people suggest or seem to think a mother is due. This means that I am tired most of the time, that I carry out mundane tasks for much of my day, that many of my friendships have fallen by the wayside. I have, for the moment, put aside my career aspirations and many of my personal interests. What I choose to do with my time has changed. I have to be choosy; I have to get the most bang for my buck. I prioritise those things that nourish me the most.

I don’t go on spa weekends.

I don’t have romantic meals at fancy restaurants with my husband (well, I did once, back in 2010).

I don’t have any local relatives who could lovingly spoil my children while I spend time developing my interests or go shopping.

I don’t get large swathes of time. I accept the small morsels that fall from the family table and I learn to savour them. Mussing then smoothing my son’s lemony hair; the feel of the tiny bones within my daughter’s pliable hand; the glint of sun on my eldest’s dewy freckled cheek. I store away these little moments and allow them to nourish my heart. They are gifts that I receive every day.

Of course I want time without the children too: to concentrate on my own projects, to sit quietly in meditation, to have a run on a country road. Without it, life feels off-kilter and resentment builds. But I can’t wait around for an hour or two of free time to miraculously arrive. Because it won’t. Me time is reading a book before bed. It’s staring off into space and counting my breaths for a few minutes once the littlest one has finally fallen asleep beside me in the evening. It’s ten minutes of Yoga postures and ten minutes of meditation every day, in spite of the chaos and noise. It’s a few extra minutes of hot water pouring down my back in the shower once my ablutions are complete. It’s watching through the kitchen window as the birds peck at the feeder as I surreptitiously sneak chocolate into my mouth.

Now and again I get a long run or a few hours to write. I make the most of these occasions, but they’re not the norm. I accept that this is the way my life is right now. A time will come in the not-too-distant future when the amount of time I have to myself will grow. I can see it happening already. Right now, I’m making the most of what I have, stolen pockets of time and plenty of tender moments and I’m savouring it.

And guess what, Mr health care practitioner? I’m not going to that damned class.

©Lisa Hassan Scott 2014.

With special thanks to Amanda Mays for her helpful comments on this piece.

Spinning wheels & not-missing

My friend Colin once accused me of being a completer-finisher. Apparently that’s a personality type that likes to complete and finish a job. Yup, that’s me. I love the scratch of my pen across the last chore on my to-do list. I love ticking that empty box with a flourish. Making lists helps me to manage the home, my volunteer and paid work and my own interests and hobbies. Crossing off the items on those lists leaves me feeling accomplished, and able to sit down and relax at the end of the day.

Having three home educated children means that I don’t often get through my to-do list. There are days when I don’t even get one task completed. It’s all I can do to get up, dress myself and feed the family. Standards have dropped to the point where my four year old chooses to cut holes in a pillowcase and wear it as clothes all day, and I just shrug my shoulders and write an amusing Tweet about it.

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The Other Side of Sleeplessness

A few years ago I was asked to contribute a piece to a forthcoming anthology on mothering. Since publication, several people have asked me to include the piece here on my blog. After discussion with the publisher, I am pleased to publish it here for the very first time.

The Other Side of Sleeplessness

I can still remember the initial shock of it. Being woken repeatedly, night after night, never quite getting into a deep sleep cycle, never quite grasping that complete relaxation that goes with perfect rest. Without regularity or apparent sense, my baby frequently and piercingly woke me from sleep. She woke to be nursed, to be held, to be rocked, to be changed. She woke for comfort and for company. She woke because she needed me, and my role as her mother did not stop when the sun dipped below the horizon. A 24-hour job, I was on call all the time. But the sleep, oh the sleep. I needed it, it needed me, and yet we were kept apart by the ceaseless needs of my newborn baby.

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Make a wish

Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day 29 November’s prompt

My eldest child is a maker. An idea possesses her, and with a single-mindedness I can only admire, she decides what she is going to create, and she makes it.

Submarine

This week when I unfairly stopped her from taking the coffee table up to the treehouse, she got out her tools and some scrap wood from the garage, and made one. When her brother asked for a submarine from cardboard boxes, she put one together for him and even hooked up headlights with some bulbs, batteries and electrical wire. When she can’t think of anything else to do, she gets out the sugarpaste and food dyes and makes models. A pom-pom craze hit this house mid-week, and she has now made five pom-poms and is currently partway through making “the World’s Biggest pom-pom” with what might be the World’s Biggest ball of yarn.

As I attempt to access those thin, flickering films in the archive of my mind those last few days of pregnancy in a November eleven years ago seem like a hazy, shaky memory. I try to visualise myself as a not-yet-mother, and I can’t quite see who she is. I’m so young. So green. So naïve. The birth took me by storm, as did the recovery. (Which I write about here) I mostly fumbled through new parenting and hiked my way up that steep learning curve, one uncertain step forward, two steps sliding back. I found myself at the bottom of the well of post-natal depression, and eventually clawed my way back into the light. I journeyed to the darkest reaches of my own heart as I experienced new and startling emotions: boundless love, desperation, rage, fatigue, connection like no other.  I looked into the dark pools of my child’s gaze and within them beheld a reflection of who I really am.

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Finding beauty where I least expect it. Or, another lesson from my children.

Quiet Beauty (16/11/13 prompt)

Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day

“Hook nose!”

In sixth grade one of the cool girls nailed me with her withering stare and spat these words at me. Hook nose. I went home and checked myself out in profile, and yes I guess my nose did sort of make a hook shape. It certainly wasn’t the upturned pixie that Ms Cool had. An epithet that has stayed with me, I later came to understand it as having a racial element. But at the time it only confirmed what I had always felt about myself: that I was ugly.

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A nature table… of sorts

‘On my table’

Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day

I tried to have a seasonal nature table. Honestly, I did. You know, those little sacred spaces in people’s homes, usually covered with items like acorns, pumpkins and gourds, maybe an autumn leaf or two. There’s almost always a little Waldorf-inspired felt gnome and maybe even a red and white spotted toadstool.

For years I have walked into friends’ houses and admired their little gnomes, all white fluffy beards and pointy hats crouching wisely beside those Fly Agaric toadstools. Little felt leaves with white-stitched veins, maybe a felted acorn, possibly a wee wooden house for Mr Gnome to retreat to in the evenings (no doubt with a fireplace and a cup of cocoa). Ahhh, so gorgeous, so homely, so tidy.

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Once upon a time I was 4

Today’s prompt was: “Begins with ‘M’”

Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day

When I was little, probably 4 or 5 years old, my mother bought me a bag of M&Ms. It was an impulse buy from the candy shelf near the check-out at our local supermarket. I picked M&Ms because you could really make them last: one by one you select a little piece, so pleasing in their not-round-not-flat shape, predictably comforting in their uniformity. Colours mattered: greens were the best, browns not so good so to be eaten quickly. There were no blues because according to childhood lore they ‘caused cancer.’ The other colours were all equal. Some had intact Ms imprinted in white on the side, others had partial Ms; still others had little chips out of the side. I wouldn’t gobble them up. No, I would savour each one.

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Finding the Language of Silence

“Find the Language”

Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day

There are different kinds of silence. As a Yoga teacher I know this. The hush of a room full of students moving in unison with their breath, the no-sound after a sustained chant, the concentrated stillness of the mind when during meditation thoughts grudgingly, fleetingly stop. Yes, there is a time for words, thoughts, language… and there is a time for silence.

Words: the relentless daily onslaught of sound. From the youngest’s still-dark morning, “I want mokie” to his last half-willing, half-reluctant “no, I don’t waaaant to go to bed,” my day is embroidered with those words. The children talk, oh do they talk. Three high-pitched voices giggling, arguing, scheming, reading, singing. And my own voice. An American baseline underpinning those Welsh melodies. I talk all day, talking with my children, talking at them at times, mentoring them as they learn, helping them to heal their squabbles, shepherding them over the rolling hills of family life.

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Meeting our children’s needs, all at once

How delightful it would be for everybody to be happy, all at once.  In my mind’s eye I see each person content with what they have and what they are doing.  And there I am at the centre of this peaceful dream, resting in the comforting thought that each person’s needs has been satisfied. I might even run my white-gloved finger across a surface of my home and smile in smug satisfaction that it is clean. (By the way, my hair looks nice too.)

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