It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Knowing when to say ‘when’

me-timeI’d been dragging for a while. You know how it is: things take work, nothing is really interesting, everything — even things that normally make you grin — is work, or at least not particularly funny. You wake up knowing that you’ll get through the day all right, you’ll do what needs to be done, buuuuut… bleah.

Just, bleah.

I have a few tried-and-true responses to this, and they all circle around getting time alone.

It was my Wonderful Husband who put me on to this. After years of being a single parent (both with and without a husband), a home-schooling mother of three, and a devoted little hausfrau, I really didn’t think about alone-time much. I suppose I got it in the evenings when my kids were in bed (because at MaryP’s house, kids are in bed by 7:30 well into grade school!), but really, it had been years since I’d given myself time for myself. Years.

When Wonderful Husband came into my life, we had a blissful honeymoon period of probably a couple of years, both before and after he moved in. And then I started to wilt. Go a bit flat. Laugh a bit less. Snark a bit more. But mostly, just be tired. Uninterested in things. Bleah.

And he said, “You need to get out on your own.”

And I RESISTED the idea! But he persisted and I, tired and not up to much pushing back, agreed. Oh okay, then. I’ll try it, but I didn’t see how getting out and expending energy would help me when I was lacking energy… (Sometimes I can be stupid that way.)

Saturdays were to be mine. I could leave in the morning — morning person that I am, I was generally gone by nine — and get back whenever I felt like it. If I wasn’t going to be home by dinner, I could just give him a call.

I was dubious. He pretty much had to shove me out the door that first Saturday. “And don’t come back for AT LEAST four hours!”

Off I went, with no clear plan in my mind. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to walk downtown along the canal. The sun was shining, the water was sparkling. There were other people, and little kids, and the occasional dog. Birds were twittering, flowers blossoming…

And within ten minutes — TEN MINUTES! — I was grinning. At nothing in particular. I was just happy. In twenty minutes, I had the bounce back in my step.

And in 30 minutes, I knew I had the Best Man in the World.

I returned home six hours later, refreshed and ready for the rest of the weekend… the rest of the week. Those Saturday morning outings became my lifeline. They kept the whole rest of my week on an even kilter. They were my balance-point. Sometimes I’d arrange to have a coffee or a beer with a friend while I was out; most often, I’d just luxuriate in being On.My.Own. No one needing me, not having to accommodate anyone, just following my own nose and doing whatever the hell I felt like.

As my kids grew older and less demanding, as his kids did likewise, our routines changed. I didn’t need that regular an injection of alone-time. Thus, it’s been a while since I’ve had the routine Saturday outing. I might not be needing that six, eight, ten-hour stretch every single week, though, but I still need some.

But it’s such an easy thing to let slip, isn’t it?

And when I started feeling the drag, I knew the time had come. So last Friday, with one child away with her parents and two home sick, I decided I would call in sick for Friday. Saturday was not going to be enough, I knew. I needed one day to myself, entirely to myself. And this was the time to do it.

The two remaining children both have family in the city who are positively eager to see their grandchild/nephew/niece for a day here and there. (Sometimes these kids don’t come to me because Grampa or Auntie So-and-so wanted a day with them.) So I could do this with minimal guilt.

So I did. Now, I will call in “sick” like this maybe twice a year. Maybe. Probably twice in 18 months, more like. Usually when I do it, I sort of dread making the phone calls, and feel guilt when I hang up.

Friday? Friday I felt nothing but sweet relief. I was giving myself a day. A day totally to myself. And even as I contemplated it, I felt the energy surge. A day to MYSELF!

And, oh, how I used that day. I cleaned, I organized. Sounds dreary, I know, but it’s not. When the mood is upon me, I looove these tasks, and I fly through them, leaving sparkling surfaces and uncluttered rooms in my path. It’s wonderful. I sent emails to friends who probably were starting to worry that I had died and forgotten to tell them. My latest book and I shared a nice long bubblebath. I plotted out next week’s menu, with lots of new recipes I’m all gung-ho to try. I gave myself a pedicure.

No, I didn’t leave the house. Couldn’t, really. I was sick, remember, and most of my clients live locally…

But that didn’t matter. I totally luxuriated in the perfect mix of industry and pampering, in having rooms and room of quiet, in not tripping over small bodies at every doorway. And at the end of the day, my husband was greeted by a totally refreshed woman as I sipped wine on the porch.

And the energy continues! I painted the porch on Saturday. I put in a new border of bricks to our front garden and dropped a few more perennials and a bunch of annuals in there on Sunday.

And today? Today the tots and I will go to the park, we’ll chase bubbles, we’ll draw with chalk, we’ll eat and chat and squabble and hug and snooze and play…

And I will love every minute of it.


June 8, 2009 - Posted by | daycare, the dark side | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. This is completely besides the point here, but I wonder… How do you get bricks home form the store without a car to put them in?

    I told you it was besides the point.

    Your husband is wonderful to know just what you need. And then force you to take it.

    Answer: you prevail upon the generosity of neighbours with cars, and then reward them with alcohol. Works all round. Failing that, you call a cab.

    He is wonderful. My first marriage taught me it is far better to be single than with the wrong person, and I didn’t believe for a while that my “right” person existed. Then I found him. I am grateful.

    Comment by ktjrdn | June 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. It must be the season…I was “sick” last Tuesday, with exactly the same affliction. And yes, a day alone in my house was the perfect cure.

    So lovely. And smart of you. I was much further along my parenting path before I figured it out had it figured out for me!

    Comment by Tammy | June 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Mental health (alone time while not sick) days are great 🙂

    And also beside the point, what time did your kids wake up during their toddler/preschool days? I have one that sleep 8 to 8 and one that sleep 9:30 to 8. Once in a while (with the assistance of jetlag), I cave to the cult of 7:30 but then I find myself entertaining toddler at 6 am and I revert back to our standard times.

    I figure the minute toddler stops napping during the day, we’ll switch to 8 pm bedtimes (to I assume the huge relief of my extended family that apparently considers late bedtimes trashy :).

    Love your blog!

    My kids slept from 7:30 to 7:00, roughly. Since I am a morning person, up without an alarm by six, this was no hardship. Staying up till 9:30 before I could be child-free and go to bed? THAT would be a hardship!

    Comment by MB | June 8, 2009 | Reply

  4. My comment sounds kind of mean. This was not intended. Apologies- sincerely. I am actually counting the months until I can join the cult of 8pm bedtimes (but I’m not about to ask my family daycare to give up their 1.5 to 2 hours of downtime).

    Thanks for the clarification. I did wonder about that first one, just a bit!

    When a child gets to be 2.5 – 3, I will offer certain parents the option of giving up naptime. At that age, and certainly past three, they often wouldn’t need an afternoon nap if they were going to bed earlier in the evening. Though I make the offer, I find I rarely have to, (phew! 🙂 ) mostly because, given that the parents are not getting home till six or so, they want that extra hour or two to be with their child.

    (Why only “certain” parents, you ask? The ones who don’t get the offer are the parents of the child who comes to me chronically, always, every day sleep-deprived (and I’ll have one in every group, at least). In that case, it’s obviously not in the child’s best interests.)

    Comment by MB | June 8, 2009 | Reply

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