Originally posted at The Daily Blog
This weekend I had some time out, some glorious time out, from my wonderful children. They can be wonderful, and time away from them can be glorious and that’s not a contradiction at all.
When I returned to my job after nine months of maternity leave spent with my first child (who is soon to be six) I resolved not to feel guilty. I’ve largely pulled it off. Despite the inadvertent endeavours of others to induce thoughts of blame, I genuinely don’t feel bad to be apart from my kids to undertake paid employment, participate in voluntary causes I value, and have time for myself and others in my life. It makes me happier and it makes me a better parent to them too, because I am not stressed by a lack of self-care that links back to sacrifices made for my children.
Sacrifices are made, not least financial and sleep-related. I try to make them willingly, or at least not so grudgingly that it’s clear to the kids. More often than not it works out ok, I can’t think of any big regrets. Sure I’d love to eat out more and see movies at the actual cinema rather than by reading the synopsis on Wikipedia. The trade of terrible jokes* at the dinner table, cuddles at random moments, and “go way Mummy” gentle pushes, seems to leave me well ahead.
This weekend we went our separate ways; me away with my partner for a break in Warkworth, them to their paternal grandparents for a chance to play with different toys, eat lovingly mashed vegies, and, as it turned out, throw up all over Grandma’s car. We all had a blast (although possibly not the child who was throwing up, whilst throwing up). And since we’ve been reunited a few hours ago there have been extra cuddles and generally increased fondness towards each other.
Finding the balance between absence and presence in parenting is something I struggle with because of the somewhat intense and busy nature of my life. In the last year I’ve found that concentrated presence, particularly one on one with a child at a time, can pay big dividends for us. The elder child gets a special day with me each week in the school holidays, just us going for a special adventure, and we do Saturday public transport escapades from time to time. Once a fortnight the younger and I hang out for a day, although sometimes Nana needs to help out for a few hours if there’s something I can’t shift. We still get Sunday mornings to hang out most weeks anyway. I’ve given up on trying to get much of the rest of my life done on the days I’m with the kids, and I’m lucky I can do that because the other parent keeps the household running.
Time out is something I know I need. Sometimes it’s lazerstrike with old friends, other times it is a weekend away with my partner, more often it’s an early night with a good book. It shouldn’t need justification beyond the undeniable fact that time out is good for me. I wish everyone else could get the time out they need, and I hope that one day no one will feel guilty for getting it when they need it.
* “Why did the email beam into the chicken’s brain? Because the satellite dish sent it to the wrong place!”