• An Ordinary Mother

Needing a Break

I remember when my son was born and the realisation that parenthood was inescapable hit me hard. My friend described it as waiting for someone to tap you out - nothing is as permanent as being a parent, but you can’t truly grasp that until you are in it, because whilst you might focus on ‘not being able to just go out for dinner without a babysitter’, it’s actually the lack of headspace in those earlier days for anything other than parenting.

If you wake up tired and are exhausted at the thought of parenting that day, it's very unlikely you can choose to opt-out of all responsibility for a day and have a real rest, doing exactly what you want when you want it. And even when you do get the opportunity to take some time away, you feel terrible for taking it.

I don’t mean to ever sound ungrateful; I had a miscarriage before my son so he is very much wanted and appreciated. Acutely aware that I work full time, I try so hard to be present at weekends and the evenings, but I also feel desperate for some real down time. When I do take time for a bath, or to do my nails, I try to time it for when he’s in bed so that I don’t miss out on time with him. However, there are some days (like today) when I just don’t want to be a cat; I don’t want to play ghosts under a blanket; and I don’t want to clean up continually from the various crafts.

I am so lucky to have a partner who takes a very active role as a parent, and he never begrudges me going to the gym or seeing my friends. But I still have that nagging mum guilt, especially because he doesn’t ever ask to do much more than watch the odd bit of sport. It makes you feel worse in a way that they seem to have that endless patience when you feel exasperated. And then in lockdown it feels weird to just ask to be alone away from your child for no particular purpose other than wanting to... breathe.

I guess it’s the same as this pressure in lockdown to be productive and use the time ‘wisely’. You want to feel like every moment is precious, but the reality is that sometimes it’s just a lot of effort and energy, and your tank is running on empty.

I dread to think how hard things must be for those doing this alone, or with partners who do not or cannot take an active role. Whilst you can do it alone, and may be much happier to do so, I don’t doubt that it must really take its toll.

So whatever your situation as a parent, I just want to say you are doing an amazing job, and I really hope you are finding your way through this particularly difficult time and that when you can, you get that well-deserved break - and that you leave the mum guilt behind.

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