There’s something I feel from time to time, but I’ve not said out loud, because it feels like a complete taboo, so I’m writing it instead. Some days, I don’t want to parent.
In my head this is controversial, but actually I’m fairly sure there will be lots of people out there who feel this. I remember reading something years ago on some online discussion; a comment that said if you don’t want to devote every waking second of your life to your children then you don’t deserve to be a parent. I mean, fuck! Harsh, completely wrong in my opinion, but still it stuck with me.
These kind of ‘one rule for everyone’ comments make your brain start to tick. Shouldn’t we want to be that committed to raising our children? Isn’t that what we are biologically programmed for? Evolution? Well, perhaps, but it’s 2018 now folks, and the world is very different. We have a lot to juggle and it’s bloody hard work, so surely it’s natural to want to take a break, right?
For me this comes under the heading of ‘self care’. There isn’t anything in a person’s life that they could do for every minute of every day. Sometimes you need to prioritise yourselves to reset, refresh and renew, so you can carry on with the energy you need. For some a night out is enough – adult conversation, a few drinks and a laugh (a bottle of prosecco works wonders), and for others they have outlets like exercise or a hobby. Writing does this a little for me, because it’s an activity I love and that I do solely for myself, but for the most part it’s space. Time spent by myself, choosing what I want to do, to eat, to watch. Just time where I can be quiet and alone. That makes me feel much more fresh, more happy, and able to appreciate the time I do spend with my daughter, but also with anyone.
Since giving birth to Millie in 2015 I find myself to be susceptible to stress in a different way. I used to say in job interviews that I thrive under pressure, and I would just keep going and going, which actually isn’t healthy, but the whole ‘growing a person’ process skewed something in my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just a pile a of mush now, but my coping mechanisms have shifted. When I get to the point of being overwhelmed, I’m forced to take a step back to regroup. Sometimes for just a minute or two, but sometimes I need hours.
Just a quick disclaimer in case my boss is reading this – Tom, I’m still actually pretty awesome under pressure, and crisis comms is still definitely my skill, I’m talking more about life overall. Promise. 🤦🏻♀️
So anyway, alone time at home is good – we’ve all got a to do list that it’s helpful to blast through – but alone time out is better. Walking the dog, sitting with a book or my laptop in a cafe, or whatever. As long as I’m alone and don’t have to take care of anyone, I’m loving it.
Time alone is literally like a spa for my brain. It arrives very tired, soft and squidgy, with hairs all out of place, and emerges a while later bright, firm, firing all over the place and ready to go. That’s a weird analogy.
There is a lot of pressure generally on mums to keep things going; be a good parent, cherish every moment of being a parent, go back to work and cope, stay at home and cope, be on social media and look like you’re coping. A lot of this, however, is perceived pressure, that we put on ourselves. You see women everywhere totally bossing motherhood (or appearing to), and then you look at yourself in your pyjamas at 4pm, milk vomit in your hair, third day without a shower and a screaming newborn and you feel like you’re failing.
This is the kind of thing we need to speak up about. I’m putting my hand up and saying that sometimes I put myself first over my own daughter. That I choose to be away from her. Without that she’d lose out overall, because I’d be a miserable cowbag.
A couple of months ago my sister had a baby, and I’d had a really tough few days, at home and at work when he was born. I was withdrawn, grumpy and tough to engage. I went straight from the office to visit my new little nephew and I stayed until Millie was in bed, and it was bliss. My own little bubble away from real life, where I could focus on my sister and cuddling her tiny son, a million miles away from my own responsibilities.
Maybe you don’t feel it, and there’s nothing here you can relate to, which is ok, but equally it’s ok if you do. You can be a bloody awesome parent and still want something for yourself now and again – that makes you human, and also sets an excellent example for your kids. It makes you a more rounded person and a more effective person.
Another disclaimer: I love being a parent, it’s all the wonderful mushy things people tell you it will be. I felt the need to confirm that because this reads a little like I’m not bothered. But a mum is not all I am, or an employee, dog owner, friend, wife etc. Now and again I like to just be me, so I can do all the other things well. Maybe it’s selfish, but I don’t care.
So there you go. Some days I don’t want to parent. And being able to say that actually makes me a really good parent. I might just reward myself. Any excuse!