The guilt-inducing indulgence of me time

Kylie Orr
Kylie Orr 

"Me time" is a fairly recent phenomenon, I am led to believe. My mother's generation was reared with significantly fewer options than we have today. The simple life plan was to work, get married, have children (with whom they stayed at home until those children grew up) and then perhaps return to the workforce. The expectation was that the role of mother and wife was part of life rather than a choice made.

This is not to say they felt ecstatic about their roles 100% of the time but maybe they were just more accepting? "Me time" probably would have been well and truly embraced by them, had they seen it as an option but with restricted discussion about the daily frustrations of raising a family, and certainly no internet sites to vent on, there were limited outlets for the topic to be raised.

Popping out for a coffee with a friend (and no children) seems like a fairly common outing these days. My mum assures me she had no idea what a "cappuccino" was when we were young so going out for a coffee with a friend wasn't something she ever did, pre- or post-children. Now swigging out of the vodka bottle in the linen cupboard, that was a whole other thing...

I hear the catch phrase "Me time" quite often. I was recently asked what I would do with an entire day a week if I had no children to look after and no job obligations. I couldn't answer.

Actually I could answer- I could answer it with two options - but neither sat well with me, or the person who asked. I could:

I have so little child-free time that when I do have it, I don't know how to use it effectively. Or without guilt.

1.  Stay at home and tackle Mt Washing that's slowly threatening to close off the airvents to the rest of the house; I could scrub kitchen cupboards and clean out and refold all the contents of the linen press; I could call the bank to sort out a 3 month old issue, the insurance company to compare quotes and the energy supplier to find out about green energy options once and for all, without constant interruptions from the treasures who like to hang off my legs as soon as I pick up the phone.

Maybe I'd finish a cup of tea, while it was still hot, and flick through a magazine. I may even take my time in the toilet instead of doing up my buttons on the run to attend to a screaming child.  

Or if I was going to be completely self-indulgent:

2.  I would sleep in (remember that?), have a cooked breakfast in my PJ's while reading the paper. I would have a 20 minute shower and burst all water restriction guidelines without a moment of guilt. I would style my hair. I would have lunch with a friend and gasbag over a couple of glasses of mid afternoon wine.

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Next would be a facial and a massage followed by an afternoon kip. I may do a bit of window shopping and possibly purchase an unneeded bag, or pair of shoes. On credit.

So, these are extreme examples. One is based upon obligation, one is a dream of pure self indulgence. I wouldn't be keen to do either, to be honest.

I would feel great satisfaction and a sense of achievement from option one, as mundane and menial as the tasks are. I would feel refreshed and rejuvenated and entirely indulged and completely and utterly racked with guilt by the second.  

Why? I'm not really sure. I guess my husband doesn't have a day a week all to himself so why should I? He does escape the house and make phone calls without interruption, listen to whatever radio station he likes in the car and not answer 45 questions in a 5km radius.

Does this count as his "Me time"?  I can't even say that his day ends when he leaves the office as he runs his own business which comes with plenty of stresses of its own.

I have two hours a week to myself. I have to go to a personal trainer to get it, so I wouldn't say it is an ideal time of indulgence. If you knew me well, you'd know how desperate I must be for some time to myself to go and thrash about in a gym.

My husband is very laid back and a great supporter of any time I take to myself. It is me who is the time police. I have so little child-free time that when I do have it, I don't know how to use it effectively. Or without guilt.

"Me time" is a completely reasonable concept. I had it when I worked full time. I didn't have to answer to anyone if I wanted to do a spate of shopping or catch up for a leisurely weekend lunch with friends.

Now I have children, there are others relying on me, 24 hours a day. One voice in my head says get over yourself and accept this is all part of family life. The other voice screams "LADY! TAKE A BREAK!" The other voices all fight in the background and ask the same question over and over and then get sent to time out for interrupting.

I'm not sure it's necessarily "Me time" I need, it is personal space. I never quite anticipated how much this would be invaded once I had children. To be loved and adored and touched and hugged and kissed is a beautiful thing but I could never have expected that you could overdose on it.

Having your head climbed on by a three-year-old while you breastfeed a baby; or the leg of your pants tugged upon while you are trying to have a conversation with another adult; getting barged in on whilst on the toilet so you could answer the all-important question "how are clouds made" - they are all lovely in their own way but a constant invasion of personal space.

Head space is the other thing I could do with a little more of. I'm not being greedy, I'd just like to have some time where I didn't have to remember that Thursday is show and tell day, under the bed is where Child #2 left his shoe, I must  get the baby's 6 month immunisation done, and we need milk.

I'd like to have a moment in time where I was not required to undergo the Spanish Inquisition about what my favourite game was as a child, and did they have Ben10 when I was a girl and why is the moon in the sky when it's daytime and how come the baby gets to spit food on the floor but I can't? And when can I go to Dylan P's house for a play?

Everyone needs time to themselves. To reflect, refresh and remember who they are. What is reasonable "Me time" and how it is spent is for individual assessment.  Some people don't require much time alone, others crave more. All I know is that to give to everyone else 100% of the time, eventually depletes you.

I am not disciplined enough at assigning time to myself, I'm always saying "I'll take the baby" or "I'll be back by feral hour".  Who does this benefit in the end? Is this complete giving of myself going to end in a frazzled state of burn out all too soon? Will the mental meltdowns now be my territory rather than my three-year-olds?

Maybe it's time to sit down  on the toilet with a book and some earplugs and get a deadlock for the door. Would it be wrong to take in a glass of wine? "Me time", here I come!

Do you take "me time"? Does your partner? How much and what do you do with yourselves? Is it guilt-free? Comment on Kylie Orr's blog here..