“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.
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.