Thursday, December 2, 2010

Me time

For the past couple of weeks, my posts have been light on. Much of the reason for this has been a combination of workload and personal burnout. But the bigger, more important reason for this lack of www-time has been this...

Good old-fashioned attack of the guilts at some of the obvious things our little Lolly Gobble Bliss-Bomb (aka The LGBB) has been saying - imaginative, innocent and honest insights into her inner world - that have left my Maternal Radar in overdrive.

Exhibit A:
One morning last week, I was hastily patching together a section of my book which I had been working on before the house woke up at 7am. Not wanting to leave the train of thought hanging when Lolly had come up for cuddles and breakfast, I distractedly tended to her and made a dive back to the laptop before I lost my place in the story. She found her way to her Etch-A-Sketch on the rug near my feet and was happily lost in her drawing for a time, before I asked her, "Whatcha drawin', Lollypop?" I only had half an ear out for her reply, as I was still steeped in what I was doing.

"A baby dragon," she replied, not looking up.

"A what?!" I asked, incredulous and not sure I'd heard correctly. Lolly has no interest in dragons and doesn't speak of them. She repeated herself and had, indeed, been drawing a baby dragon.

"What's the baby dragon doing?" I asked, stopping my work and giving full attention this time to my daughter, who had still not looked up.

"She's curled up, reaching out for her mummy," she said, more just out-loud to the room than to me in particular.

"And... what's her mummy doing?" I hardly wanted to know her answer.

"She's working."

It's all I needed to hear. I dropped the lappy like a hot potato and made a casual dash (you know those ones, where you don't want them to know how eager you are to capture a moment?) for the camera, asking if I could take a photo of her baby dragon. She obliged politely by saying I could. The dragon was, indeed, reaching a 'paw' in the direction I had been sitting.

After an intensely trying weekend, in which everything basically piled in on top of me while I was down a pit, I surfaced to face a new week only to find that my daughter was deeply affected by my exhaustion. She has always mirrored me in this way. Even as a young, young baby, the LGBB would preempt me getting run-down or sick by going under herself. As she became older, she had spells that would force her to sleep for a day or two at a time - following the pattern for the past four years (and she has mostly grown out of these 'moments' now), they seemed to coincide with me being called in to be of energetic service to someone, somewhere in the world. Odd. Fascinating. Just The Way We Are. She is a sensitive, deeply intuitive little kid and I always, always seem to forget. I STILL smack the back of my own hand sometimes when, in hindsight, it always seems so clear.

And this time, there is a direct correlation between all this happening and all of my spare energy and time being frittered away on the strain that is sharing the house for this extended time with my parents inlaw. "Fourteen more sleeps," Steve tried to console me tonight. Dear oh dear. And it's not anything necessarily awful, it's just simply that feeling of not being able to completely relax in your own home - I hadn't quite realised how much it got to me, but my little sponge-child has shown me just how deeply it is affecting us all.

As her mother, part of my duty is to guide my child and help her to both embrace her gifts and abilities (as any mother would with her child and his/her own unique strengths and talents), to normalise what it is she feels, at the same time as helping her see herself as a special gift to the world, as much as she is a gift graced to her father and me.

I can't give her my undivided attention all the time - a difficult thing for an only child (for in essence that is how she is being raised) to understand because there is nobody else vying for my attention - but I can see by these utterings lately, as evidenced by her baby dragon drawing, that my balance of work-Lolly-me time is sorely out of whack lately.

On Monday afternoon, after four hours at occasional care (the only day she goes now), I knew exactly what she needed. I had told my mother inlaw in the morning that I would organise dinner. By 4pm pickup time, it was quite clear I was needed as a mummy first. I spent thirty minutes at the park pushing Lol on swings, riding on giant bendy-"necked" animals, applauding at slide dismounts and generally just hung out with my daughter. Then, as we made our way home, I phoned Steve and told him that he and I could grab dinner later and if his parents could please get theirs, as there had been a change of plans. As it stands, I'm still not quite sure they understand why I reneged on the dinner-cooking I had promised (for my mother inlaw had offered but, honestly, I was too tired to even do the "are you sure, it's no problem for me to do it... now, what do you want, where is everything, what does Lolly not eat..." caper that it seemed easier for me to just handle it myself). But I don't really care. My little girl went to bed that night much happier, having been absolutely soaked in an afternoon of my undivided, uncomputerised attention. We read stories, did Christmas jigsaw puzzles, had a bubble bath... reconnected.

It is difficult, I would gather, for all parents to get that balance "right" - and that is a rather dicey word to use here, but for want of another I'll leave it in - between attending to all of their children, if they are blessed with more than one, juggling work commitments, holding extended family at arms' length when needs of any of their children dictate it, and of course spend that all-important alone time together. Let's not even touch on how messy my house is right now, either. I can't do it all, I see that. We went to the library for two hours today and returned to the house exactly as it was at 10am when we left this morning before dropping in on friends prior to getting to the library. I despise a messy, unclean house. BUT...... I'm more concerned with a child who has begun to act out her need to see more of me via her pictures and toys.

This "me time" I keep hearing getting bandied about, I had let it go to my head. A reflection on myself only, which I am doing here "out loud" for the sake of reminding myself down the track if it ever happens again, I see now that I had begun to act out against all these demands placed on me as the family Maypole. Desperately clinging to whatever "me time" I perceived I had to fight for, I was missing the one obvious thing. This very blog, and the collective blogosphere (and ... er, Twitterdom, shall we call it?), this is my "me time" and I have previously been getting scads of it. I have simply allowed myself to incorporate "blog time" in "work time" and it's simply not the case.

Rather like a budget, where Groceries allowance can be separated into household items, nappies, cleaning products and the likes, so that your actual food allowance is much more healthy-looking, I need to make clearer boundaries in the way I am conducting my free time. My "me time". It's not entirely accurate of me to say I get next to none of it. In my own feeble defense, I recognise it's because my entire work life is also spent at the computer - the book and my paid work all cause me to be chained to this thing I'm sitting in front of at this very moment - but it's time I started clock start/stopping so that I can get a more accurate Time Budget going here. And if my computer time has crept into this so-called "me time", then I need to seriously ask myself if I am cutting my nose of to spite my face if I "just quickly check this blog to see if she's updated her comments" or "hop into Echofon to see who's on Twitter" because in my mind, I'm here working already and a brief drop-in on a site won't make much difference at all.....

But it does make a difference. A huge difference. I need to spend time to make time, this distance I have placed between me and other blogs (and my own) this past fortnight has really helped me see that. I'm thinking a whole lot more internet surfing and blogpost writing is going to be happening after a certain little someone's bedtime in future. And then, I will be choosing between sacrificing couple-time (which I will be answerable for to my patient, tolerant - up to a point - partner) in favour of "me time" and I will be forced to see that THIS, what I'm doing right now, counts as that "me time".

Confused?  I'm not!

And I'm raring to go with it, for I see that my work life is not about to change anytime soon. So the balance has to be redressed by me and me alone. I have to stop whining about what I don't get and don't have to myself and start looking out for those moments where I can make some more of this happen:

Ultimately, that toothy wide-mouthed, all-over-face grin is the reason I still live and breathe.

This post is also part of Naomi's Mother Heart linky - every Thursday at Seven Cherubs.

Now... let's go flogging on this fine Friday!

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