The concept of ‘me time’ is one of the most strongly emphasised important needs of a person and never more so than after you become a parent. I honestly don’t think at this point that I could accurately describe what me time was to me before I had Baby B. I suppose if I allow myself to be completely biased by parenthood I’d say all my time before baby was me time but that probably isn’t fair. My best effort would be to say that it was a luxury I never thought twice about and there were many things about it that I never realized I might miss. Most of all, it was something I never felt guilty about.
I would have called me time something out of the ordinary, like going for a massage or beauty treatment. Even then I might sometimes have been naive enough to call a facial necessary maintenance rather than a relaxation experience.
The sharpest change happens immediately after childbirth. I went on maternity leave 5 weeks before B was born. At the time I was uncomfortable, 30kg heavier, and with rampant nesting completed well before my due date and a baby who was 2 weeks late to the party, I had very little to do. As a rule I went out at least once a day but otherwise it was tv, comfort food, YouTube makeup tutorials and online shopping – More me time then I’d ever had before. Problem is, I went from a huge positive me time balance to the biggest deficit you can have when they cut me open and pulled a baby out. Suddenly not only does a new mother need me time, she needs to recover and then there is this newborn and he needs everything she’s got and more.
Suddenly me time became being able to take a shower, or getting more than 45 minutes of sleep in a row. Actually let me take that back because taking a shower although essential, was a horrendous experience. Blood flowing like a massacre, cracked and raw nipples being hit by jets of hot water… the luxury there wasn’t the shower it was simply being clean.
After the first week, me time became more like 30 minutes between feeds to go for a coffee or go shopping. I would spend much longer than I needed to planning the outing and then I would spend the whole time away in something akin to a cold sweat worrying about Baby B and convinced that he must be wailing in desperation for a feed in my absence only to get home breathless and find that he was still asleep as I’d left him.
3 months later me time had become a massage from my amazing mummy dearest – one of the best massage therapists I know. B would be in the next room with his dad and I’d be happy knowing that as long as he was quiet he was happy.
By 6 months it became being able to organize with the husband or my mother in law to get things done. I could pump a feed and leave him with the Husband while I went to the library and studied. I’d eat lunch on the terrace while I read or typed notes and felt a semblance of what life was like when I only had to worry about myself.
At 7 months we left on our European adventure. Around this time Baby B’s sleep left the building and me time became an extra 30-90 minutes of sleep achieved at the expense of the Husband ever getting a sleep-in. Every time I felt guilty and half the time I just couldn’t get back to sleep. One golden day I treated myself to a 2 Michelin star lunch at the Connaught in Mayfair. I spent a ridiculous amount of money but I don’t regret a cent as I’ve never gone to more effort to make myself feel special and as it turns out that can be just as successful as when someone else does it for you -sometimes more so. In my case incredible gastronomy followed by (window) shopping at Roland Mouret.
By the time B was heading towards 10 months I’d finally rebuilt myself enough to discover a new form of ‘me time’. This involved discovering, exploring and enjoying me, the member of my new little family. I was so lucky this was while we were in Paris. The Husband and I lunched our way around Paris with Baby B and started to really find our feet as a family.
At 14 months I returned to work. Work became a wonderful form of me time. A time I could focus on building me, building my career, building relationships with my co-workers and having lunch with friends. Work was an absolute holiday from the intensity of home life.
Returning to work also taught me that Baby B was definitely able to happily go without me for a full day. Also that I could live without him if I knew he was well taken care of and in good hands.
The main barrier for me has been Baby B’s sleep. I’ve taken whatever time I could to sleep and that’s been a real challenge to me. Particularly in terms of taking fun ‘me time’ like shopping, haircuts, manicures or fun with friends without feeling intense quilt because I’ve already used up my time sleeping and don’t deserve more time.
Now that B’s sleep is getting better I’m contemplating what the difference between’me time’ before Baby, ‘me time’ with a teeny baby and ‘me time’ with a child is. I think what the first and third have that the middle one doesn’t have, is a sense of security around being able to repeat the experience. There’s a lot to be said for sitting down to a movie and believing that you have a really good chance (like at least 60%) of being able to watch the whole thing without having to go resettle the baby. It’s going to bed and feeling like there’s more chance of getting several hours rest than being woken in 30 mins time (and every 30 after that).
In any case what it is now isn’t what it will be in another few months and one day when B has moved out I’ll have the ability to experience me time like a pre-baby person once again. However I already know that I’d never give up a second of cuddle time with Baby B for all the ‘me time’ in the world. – a minute of chasing him away from the oven? That’s another matter entirely.
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