“You are so lucky that you get time to yourself without judgement; that must be such a perk of co-parenting”
An innocent comment with no ill intention, that sparked a train of thought that extended beyond my own situation.
As much as I truly believe that solo parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world and there is not a lot I would classify as a perk; I do think that my situation forced me into a form of empowerment and for that at least, I am grateful.
Peyton’s father and I separated when she was eight months old and we came to our own custody agreement which consisted of her being with him every second weekend. At first this was terrifying; I had been the primary carer for her from day one and I wasn’t even sure if he had any idea how to care for her for more than a few hours, let alone a weekend! But this was now our position so I had no choice but to let go a little.
The first weekend was hit and miss. But as time went on his comfort and capability increased and I too began to flourish in the time that I had to myself. For the first time, in a long time, I had the opportunity to rediscover who I was and who I wanted to be; it was exactly what I needed.
For the everyday mother, taking a break from their child every second weekend isn’t realistic and I’ll be honest in saying that it isn’t my preference however taking regular time to yourself is.
We have a tendency to look at time alone as if it requires all the preparation in the world and that in doing so our child would be left shuddering alone in the cold. Or perhaps we see it as something that we need to save or build up to; as if it’s only valid for a special occasion. But it’s not.
It’s something we all need as mothers, so let’s stop overcomplicating it and start simplifying it!
Here are three key questions to sanity check your YOU time (please note “YOU” time does not include work – that’s not a luxury, you’re doing what you have to for your family so remove that guilt please!):
Number 1: Does my child need me in that moment?
This is one that you have to be realistic about. If you were to ask a child, I would suggest that in most instances they would say yes, of course they need you (bless) but this might be something good to take a step back and look at as an outsider to remove the emotion.
Will your child be in bed? (sleeping and having no knowledge of your whereabouts)
Will they themselves be enjoying an activity? (cue Grandma leading the cupcake expedition)
Are they sick or do they have a special occasion on that you’ll be missing? (this one is still not necessarily a dealbreaker, refer to questions two and three)
If the answer to the main question is NO, move to number 2.
Number 2: Is my child safe? Can that person adequately care for them?
Now if you get to this question and the answer is, “yes, it’s their Father/Mother”, then I would suggest 9/10 you should just go and do you. Seriously. I’m going to make a bold statement here but it took two parents to make said child/children and two parents are equally responsible for caring for them. (Mic Drop)
Will your child be at school or daycare? Ie. A fun and learning environment where they too get to socialise and be cared for by professionals
Will your child be with a family member, friend or babysitter whom they adore? Ie. It’s important for them to build relationships outside of you also
This may take a little preparation in explaining the routine or outlining the steps required for the time you’re away but who ever has agreed to care for your child wants to be there. They want to spend time with them. They wouldn’t have said yes if they didn’t.
Let that sink in.
If the answer to the main questions is YES, move to number 3.
Number 3: Is what I’m about to go and do reasonable?
This one is very subjective and I’m going to pre-position that the comfort in this decision lies solely with you (and potentially your partner). What Janice next door thinks about how you spend your time is not relevant. Even if she feels the need to voice it.
Are you going to exercise? (Healthy for the mind, body and soul)
Are you going to pamper yourself? (You deserve it mama)
Are you going on a date night? (Yes, yes, yes – investing in your relationship is crucial and there is nothing more rewarding than showing your child/ren a loving partnership)
Are you going out with the girls? (Remember that person you were before you had kids, she’s still in there and you need to let her out once and a while…so that she can cope with P&C meetings)
Are you going on a holiday without the kids? (Still reasonable, there will be times when you might have an opportunity to travel somewhere that’s not child friendly – if you and your family are comfortable with it, that is all that matters)
If your answer is YES, then do it.
Taking time for yourself is a great way to reconnect with who you are as a person and not just as a parent. You are allowed to invest in your own hopes and dreams without the burden of judgement from those around you. Becoming a parent does not mean your world has to stop so don’t let it.
Stop being so hard on yourself – you are a great mother.
So give yourself permission to take some time for you. It’s not selfish, it’s essential. xx
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