Not having to do anything brings inspiration. On Monday I didn’t have to think about anything. People came and told me when my treatments were starting, when my lunch was served, when it was time to go home. I didn’t have a school pick-up enforced deadline that I was counting down to. I could relax, knowing that I had time.
I never have that sort of time as a working mum. I remember a counsellor once who seemed a little incredulous that, although I wanted to be a writer, I hadn’t written anything more than an email in months. It would be good for me to do it on a regular basis, he said. And surely just sitting down and writing was a simple thing. Anyone could find time for 10 minutes? But – although I’m not one for broad sexist statements – that’s such a male thing to say. To write anything of meaning, quality, substance, I need to know that I’m not going to be interrupted. By physical things like the boy needing his bottom wiped, or the phone ringing. By mental traffic, such as the constant list of chores and things to remember running through my brain. Or if I have put out the washing yet, or made tea, or renewed the car insurance, or bought cards and presents for whoever has their birthday this week. Then I can’t relax into that place where my creativity resides. And if I have a day without the boy, I am still “on call” almost. In case something unexpected happens, or with the constant countdown to pick-up time.
So that day – in the middle of a rare 4 days child-free – has been a revelation. Everything else can be put on hold because I cant go anywhere. I am sat in this spa for 8 hours.
It felt selfish when I suggested it. I came very close to not booking it at all. I always feel selfish taking any time for myself. It’s taken 9 years to feel ok with my hourly workouts. It’s so easy to think that every moment has to be productive – ideally for someone else’s benefit. But without space for yourself, what makes you “you” gets swamped by shopping lists and ironing piles, and household minutiae. I hate to think of the millions of individual contributions to society we’ve lost because the house needed hoovering and the baby needed feeding and tea needed making and Auntie Jane needed flowers ordering for her birthday.
I know a spa day is a luxury. But I know too many mums who have never spent a day or a night away from their children. When we become parents we still remain people in our own right. We need to invest in ourselves and our wellbeing. The whole “an empty cup can’t pour into others” thing has become cliched; but it’s true. And there is much value in modelling a healthy sense of self to our children.
Book a babysitter. Take an afternoon. Or an hour. Go for a walk. Sit on a bench. People watch in a café. Or even lock yourself in your bedroom. And just have some time.
And take a notepad – you never know what might result.