So I’ve got a controversial question for all you new mums out there: when’s the last time you did something just for you?
The thing about motherhood is that it is so easy to get sucked into the vortex of looking after your baby that you forget all about looking after yourself. And, in my experience at least, the likelihood of you doing that is probably doubled when you are looking after a baby who is having problems with teething.
In my case, although it strikes me as incredible now, and I’m almost a bit embarrassed to admit it, I was so absorbed with caring for Minnie - and also preoccupied with trying to alleviate her teething pain - that it took me TWO YEARS to take a break.
Perhaps there was an element of ‘Superwoman syndrome’ – you know, that thing of, ‘I can do it all’ and, ‘I don’t need help’ and, ‘Breaks are for quitters and wimps!’ The kind of thoughts that certain perfectionist types sometimes – OK always – incline towards.
But there were other things going on too. Both my children were quite clingy. Minnie’s teething problems definitely made that worse. In fact she screamed so much when I left her that it was just too distressing to do so. It made me really anxious hearing her cry and feeling like only I could soothe her and her poor teething gums. The other issue was physical: I breast fed Minnie until she was one because she was allergic to formula and I found expressing was sheer agony. So I was literally tied to her for quite a long time.
With the benefit of hindsight, and some sleep, I can see more clearly than ever that it’s really, really important it is to peel yourself away from your beloved baby (leaving them in good hands, obvs!) without feeling guilty. And, looking back, when she moved onto solids I should have struck while the iron was hot. Instead, I waited a year to make absolutely sure she could live without me!
I’m not talking a mini-break to Ibiza or anything drastic like that. In fact my epiphany came via the humble medium of pilates.
I was constantly tired, a bit claustrophobic and I needed some breathing space. I suddenly realised what a short fuse I was on. My husband realised too – and one day he practically shooed me out of the house to go to a local class.
And I came home and hour and a half later feeling like a different woman: refreshed, much happier and, frankly, less uptight and much nicer to be around. Best of all, Minnie had – shock horror – been absolutely FINE without me.
It’s such a small thing, but I didn’t realise the impact that taking some time for me could have. I was so much calmer and even my skin was better. Was it my imagination or had I spent two years holding my breath and not breathing properly?
The thing about being a mum is that it’s a seven days a week job. You don’t get sick pay, weekends off, or paid holiday. But – as with anything - if you don’t take a break it wears you out. And when you don’t take a break for, say, two years it takes its toll.
I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions but maybe spring, with all the new beginnings and pink buds of hope and renewal is a good time to make a promise to yourself to spend half an hour a day putting yourself first. Even if you can’t actually bear to be parted, there are yoga and other fitness classes where you can bring your baby. Or, as well as soft play and feeding the ducks, make a point of doing something that YOU want to do – an exhibition, say. Could you swap half an hour’s babysitting with a friend and go for a trot around the park? Leave your baby with your partner and go for a coffee and read your magazine, meet a friend for a glass of wine, just have a bit of a potter and a delicious bath?
It’s about taking some time to remember the Old You, and all the things of the past that you used to love. The more you do it the more you’ll realise that small breaks are a necessity rather than an indulgence to feel guilty about. Your baby won’t mind - in fact they’ll benefit from it because you’ll be all refreshed and happy.
In short, don’t be a hero. Not even if your child is teething.
I’m SO glad we had this chat.
PS What about you? What’s your favourite way to take a break from being mum and being ‘me’ again?