I’ve been wrestling with something recently. By which I mean, I’ve been wrestling with a concept, not a child, although obviously I’ve been wrestling with my fair share of those, too (wriggly little fuckers they are, as well). I’ve been wrestling – metaphorically – with the concept of “me time”.
Hear me out here. I’m a mother, right? But I’m a lowercase mother. I’m not a Capital-M Mother. By which I mean, I’m not defined by motherhood. A spangled-celebrity-with-a-book-to-sell once levelled a barbed attack in my direction, accusing me of being a Capital-M Mother, who had no identity outside of my children. Not only that, but she suggested that I thought badly of mothers (lower-case) who weren’t defined by motherhood. You know, the mothers who do loads of things other than mothering. She thought I was AGAINST those mothers, when in fact I AM one of those mothers. Not only that, but I feel passionately about our need to be lower-case mothers. DO ALL THE SHIT! And don’t feel bad about it, okay?
I’ve lost you, haven’t I? Understandable; I’m talking a spectacular amount of ranty nonsense, right here.
To recap: I am a mother who does lots of different things other than mothering. I don’t feel guilty about doing lots of different things other than mothering. I am possibly what is referred to as a “selfish mother”, a tag I’ll wear with pride, because – yes – I look after myself first and everyone else can form an orderly queue.
It doesn’t feel like that at times. There are days that are so consumed with school drop-offs and clean uniforms and packed lunches and lost reading books and supermarket tantrums and forgotten birthday party invitations and missed cross-country carnivals and school pick-ups and plummeting blood sugar levels and ALL THE OTHER KID SHIT, that I forget about me.
But then I go for a run, or watch Come Dine with Me, or have a glass of wine out the front, or write this silly blog, or stare blankly at Facebook for an hour, and I’m back to my old self. Hello! I’m still here! I exist!
There is a tendency – when we mothers take five minutes to collect ourselves and our thoughts – to refer to this as “me time”. You’ll have seen it on Facebook, I’m sure: mothers taking a picture of themselves at the hairdresser’s, saying something along the lines of, “having some well-deserved me time”, which is FINE, obviously, and hardly a hangable offence, but think about it for a second.
Before you had kids, did you “earn” a haircut? Did you need permission to go for a run? Did you need a note from your mum to go and get your legs waxed? Was it a guilty pleasure to grab a coffee when you should be doing a big shop? If you wanted to watch Judge Rinder and eat crisps in the middle of the day, were you required to obtain prior approval?
No, of course you fucking weren’t. You had to behave like a proper grown-up human, and do your job, and participate in civilised society, and not piss in plantpots, etc, but beyond that, your time was your own.
And yes, admittedly, you have a responsibility to other (smaller) humans now. That’s fine. That’s rewarding. That can even be fun. But as long as they’re LOVED and CARED FOR and FED and WASHED, then the rest of your time is your own. Go and get a fucking haircut! I mean, don’t leave the kids home alone with a box of matches and a scalpel, but beyond that, go get a trim! A perm, if you want to! And don’t you dare feel like this is a luxury, or a privilege, or something that you’re not deserving of. Mate, it’s a HAIRCUT. It’s a necessity! The same goes for all the other things that make you feel like yourself. You like exercise? Go nuts! Chuck those kids in the crèche and exercise yourself fucking senseless. Me? I love F45. My children are more often than not to be found on a cushion in the corner of the studio, in their pyjamas, on various electronic devices, while I work out. And you know what? They fucking love it! I fucking love it! We all fucking love it!
It helps to have a cool life-partner of course. My own personal life-partner never blinks in the face of my selfish pastimes. I have reason to believe that there are life-partners out there in the world who make their baby-mamas feel really guilty about doing their own thing. I have a message for those misguided humans: go fuck yourselves, please and thank you.
We’re humans first, and mothers second, maybe third, possibly fourth. We love our children deeply and profoundly, but we love ourselves, too, and if we want to spend half a day getting our underarms bedazzled, then so we bloody well will, because one day – a day that will come around quicker than we think – we’ll be lowercase mothers, whether we like it or not. Our kids will be up and gone, and while they’ll still love us, they won’t need us. If you’ve spent the last two decades doing nothing other than uppercase Mothering, this could come as a shock. Who even are you, without a child on your hip? Do you even Mother, mumma?
All I’m saying is, be you. Do you. Go you. The rest will follow.