Balancing act

All people, parents and non-parents, are performing a balancing act in one way or another. The balancing act varies from person to person, but my personal juggle currently includes two kids, husband, family, friends, tidying, cleaning, cooking, preschool run, clothes washing, life admin, blogging. This isn’t a complaint. These days everyone is busy. Everyone’s “to do” list is different. No-one’s “to do” list is more important than another’s. This just happens to be mine.

Sometimes it is impossible to keep everything balanced and things end up a bit off kilter. For me, the things that fall by the wayside are the cleaning (just because it’s endless and I hate it so much), and spending time on myself. I know I am not alone in this. I know very few families where when asked where a sacrifice is made in their house, it’s not one of the parents letting something of theirs fall by the wayside. Whether that’s having to miss football practice, a friends birthday drinks or the office Christmas party. It’s just one of those things.

I probably don’t need both hands to count how many times I’ve gone out childless in the last 2 years but on Saturday I went into Oxford, without the kids, to meet a friend.  I took the bus in and for the 45 minute journey I just sat and looked out of the window. I responded to a couple of messages but that was it. Just that quiet 45minute bus journey with no-one asking for a snack, asking how far away were we, or declaring that they needed a wee NOW, felt like such a luxury.

My friend and I had a few hours of shopping, grabbed lunch at Dirty Bones, and a couple of cocktails at The Alchemist. Lunch was amazing and I would highly recommend, but I think I must have made poor cocktail choices. Maybe I need another visit to sample their other offerings? 

The Mac Daddy - burger and pulled beef, topped with mac and cheese. Amazing.

For the bus journey home I treated myself to a packet of Rolos and a magazine (woooo, I went crazy I know). There wasn't much choice at the shop by the bus stop but I made a decision, and swiftly remembered why I don’t buy women’s magazines anymore. It set me back £2.20 and I didn't enjoy any of the articles. It was a reminder of why I tend to read blogs of my choosing instead.

One article that did catch my attention was about the rise of the term “self-care”. Self-care is the idea that you take time out of your busy life - whether that’s looking after children, an elderly relative, working a 50 hour week, or something else entirely  - to do something for yourself. I completely agreed with the author that it is a term that crops up a lot at the moment particularly, as she said, on various “mummy-blogs” (gah, I hate that term) but that’s as far as my agreement went. She then went on to say how people who talk about needing to practice a little more self-care are whiners and need to just get on and book themselves a facial! I mean, most days I don’t manage to go for a wee by myself, never mind a facial. Most weekday mornings the youngest is either in the bathroom with me whilst I shower, or actually in the cubicle with me. A few weeks ago I had a 3 year old and an 18month old accompany me to a smear test for goodness sakes! This is not a moan about my life. I chose to have 2 children, knowing that I had no family locally to help with childcare (and even if they did live locally, why should they?). I am very grateful that I am able to be at home with my monkeys and I love them to pieces, but it does mean I don’t get much time to myself and I do miss that. Again, not a complaint, not me being all self-righteous and shouting about how selfless I am spending all my time looking after the kids, just a fact. 

It is excellent that the journalist in question clearly has a good work-life balance, and that she is in a position where she has the time and money to go off and treat herself if she should choose to do so, but so many people don’t. I feel that we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves these days to achieve so much. To have the perfect family, career, home and lifestyle. Is it any wonder that mental health problems are on the rise if we don’t take that time to just step back and take a breather? So, whilst I am very much on-board with the notion of making sure we are being kind to ourselves, surely we shouldn’t be scoffing at people who do find it difficult to do just that? What’s wrong with having a little empathy, realising that everyone’s lives are different, and everyone deals with different pressures life throws at us in different ways? A little kindness, compassion, and understanding goes a long way.