Friends often ask, “Do you get much time to yourself?” And I smile contentedly and reply, “Not really, but that is fine with me.” But this answer is not strictly true. It is not that I don’t get ‘me time’, it’s just that the definition I have for it has changed and yet my friends perception (at least those without children, though even some with) has not changed.
Some still remember the me of old – a self-indulgent, social butterfly who would spend free time drinking, dining, planning ones next weekend away, indulging in leisurely brunches, keeping up-to-date on all the latest festival events in the city (because, at the time, that was all that really mattered), keeping regular hair-appointments, never leaving the house without first blow-drying ones hair and applying make-up, systematically ordering ones wardrobe accordingly to seasonal variations, reading a book in a bath lit by candlelight, spending a romantic evening in a hotel rather than going home to bed (as the sheets were in the wash)… the list goes on and though some of these pursuits I really should put on my list of, ‘Things to do again when the children leave home,’ many more of them I’m glad to see the back of.
Prior to my first pregnancy the endless rounds of drinking and partying were beginning to take their toll. My recovery time from a hangover was taking longer (I’d still feel hazy on a Monday morning after a big Saturday night). The hangovers were becoming much more painful, as though my body was trying to warn me to slow down. Of course, at the time I thought I was having the ‘time of my life’ and, don’t misunderstand me, I do look back on those years with fond recollection and without regret. I’m also glad that Dan and I have so many happy, self-indulgent, memories – which bring us much strength in our most trying moments of parenthood.
But, for ‘the now’, I am keenly aware that the time I have with my children, in these precious early years, will pass all too quickly and in a span of a life-time (hopefully a very, long one) I will look back on these years as some of my most tender and cherished ones. I am over the resentful feelings of never having a ‘lie in’ till the children are… goodness knows what age! I thank the children for opening my eyes to the sunrises I only ever saw on an ‘all nighter’ and for waking early enough to hear the ‘dawn chorus’ (thankfully, not every morning!). I love that when I fall asleep at night it is not in a drunken stupor, but in a completely exhausted mind/body surrender.
There is less of a yearning for ‘me time’ and more of a desire for ‘family time’. Weekends are cherished and celebrated in a way they never were before children. I love to hear Dan say to Charlotte on a Saturday morning, ‘Guess What? [Pause, BIG Smile from Charlotte in response] It’s… the… Weekend!’. We are often doing crazy things at 7am on a Saturday morning, which in the old days would only happen after much drinking, such as bouncing on the trampoline, singing with the birds and dancing around the room to Latin American music. We’ve been known to enjoy an 8am coffee, combined with a morning dip in the sea on a Saturday morning (before having children we didn’t know that ‘8 o’clock’ struck twice on a Saturday and Sunday).
My evenings are now full of all the activities I yearned to do, ‘If only I had more time…’ (which of course I did have, only the temptation of just a quick drink after work always led on a downward spiral). After the children are soundly asleep and the house-chores complete Dan and I make every precious minute count. We are so thankful for this time and no longer waste it with trivia. We feel so much more rounded and fulfilled. Intoxication is not a prerequisite to laughter. We love to spend summer evenings tending the garden and cultivating our herb and vegetable patch. We enjoy bringing fresh food from our garden to our table and scenting our rooms with freshly picked herbs.
Music fills our ears, instead of the brain-washing of regular television. When we do sit down to watch the television it is always a movie we’ve been yearning to see, or a prerecorded program (minus the adverts).
We read, we write (the Internet has replaced television hours for us!).
We dabble in painting projects and photography.
We grab moments to play the keyboard without a little one saying, “Me play the ‘Giant’ end, you play the ‘Fairy’ end,” [of the keyboard].
‘Me time’ has changed. It is now so much more focused and productive. It is cherished, not wasted. There is little time for vanity.
Of course there are many pursuits of old I wish to rekindle with the children when they are old enough – skiing, kayaking, tramping trips into the wilderness to name a few. But all of these activities will no doubt be richer still for having our children to share them with (that is if we can remain fit enough to keep up with them!).