Sunday, 13 November, 2011
Back in May (?) after going away on our first family holiday with Astrid, Ben and I sat down and blocked out a couple of weeks during the rest of the year when we could do something similar without going away—a staycation in which we would neglect the housework, use disposable nappies, go out for meals (or get takeaway), spend the days doing fun and slightly touristy things and generally take a break from everyday life. As I wrote in a previous post, holidaying with kids isn't the same as the way we used to holiday. I started to think that perhaps the way to actually get a decent break (the kind in which you feel recharged and regenerated) was to do something slightly different.
However, around the time that one of those blocked-out weeks came up, Ben had to take on work because he had been low on work in the months previous. At first we thought we could just change the week to another week (since it's all arbitrary, really). But then Ben decided to take on other work, and recently he's been working insane hours—six days a week plus evenings too for freelance stuff. This means we've been going and going for quite a long time now—almost six months without stopping—and at the moment, I'm not getting some of my normal non-Astrid periods. I'm starting to go a little nuts. Even if you're not doing a lot together, full-time childcare really takes its toll. I'm pretty much in mommy mode (um … you know what I mean) 10-11 hours a day seven days a week (six if I can wrangle a day off with Ben's agreement). It's exhausting. (And if you think I'm a wuss, I invite you to try it while your spouse works as much as Ben has been and feels as tired as he does.)
At first, I scheduled in another week during which I thought I could have a break, even if Ben couldn't. But then I realised that I needed to be more strategic about it. Hence the idea of the “Mommy Holiday”. (NB: The “Mommy” in “Mommy Holiday” is an oblique reference to Mommy Wars by Leslie Morgan Steiner, which is about stay-at-home mums and working mums and mums who do both. I haven't read it but I intend to. Okay, the connection probably only makes sense in my head. Anyway.) The idea behind the Mommy Holiday is to find ways to rest and recharge so that I can still continue the marathon of parenting. Here are my made-up rules:
- Minimise all housework: I normally do laundry on Mondays but I did it on Saturday so that it would be dry by Sunday so that I could put it away before our cleaning lady comes on Monday. I've also swapped cooking shifts with Ben so that I have one on a day that is less inconvenient for me.
- Use disposable nappies (and swallow that eco guilt): This means washing the cloth nappies that Astrid's already used before Mommy Holiday so that they don't sit around in the bucket all week getting smelly and awful.
- Call in babysitting favours: Along with family, I have friends who have offered to babysit in the past. Before Mommy Holiday, I mapped out the week and tried to schedule in sitters for particular times and days because it's easier to say to someone, “Could you come and look after Astrid on Wednesday afternoon between 12 and 5?” instead of “When can you babysit for me?”
- Plan to do something nice every day of Mommy Holiday: This is tricky because it also has to fit in around Astrid's needs. But I think that it can be managed according to timing (e.g. if she's tired from running around, she's more likely to be content sitting in a highchair in a café while I drink chai tea). That said, there are still evenings available for things like movies and catching up with friends.
- Don't feel guilty about leaving your baby: For the first time in her young life, Astrid is clingy, and I think it's because she's around me so much more than before. Babies don't seem to have very long memories: after a couple of weeks of Ben working full-time away from home and only seeing her briefly in the mornings and evenings, she would cry when he would pick her up or hold her, which wasn't very nice for him. (It's better now though.) In addition, now she cries hysterically when I leave without her, which is just heartbreaking. But I've been told by her sitters that she usually calms down pretty quickly and is happy afterwards, which makes me wonder why she cries so much when I'm going out the door. I think she needs to learn that her universe is not going to fall apart if she's not with me. In any case, I'm sure we get sick of each other after so much time together, and it's good for her to also hang out with other people.
- Make time for all aspects of rest—that is, sleep, exercise (so this week I'm planning on trying out aqua aerobics for the first time), leisure (for me: reading, movie-watching [at home and at the cinemas; I wonder if I should do a blog post on how to get cheap/cheaper movie tickets …], catching up with friends) and creative pursuits (for me: knitting, writing, perhaps some bookbinding, etc. Oh, and I'm going to a comics masterclass). My theory is that doing so will make the Mommy Holiday feel like it's been rich and varied, given that it's only going to be for a short period of time.
- Arrange for your spouse to do things to help you: For example, Ben has agreed to do breakfast for Astrid for two mornings this week before he goes to work so that I can sleep in.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Don't feel guilty about taking rest even if your spouse is not also resting. I planned this time so I'm going to take this time. It will be good for me. I feel like if I don't do this (and if I don't do this now), I'm going to burn out and run away screaming into the sunset. Okay, perhaps that was too much hyperbole, but I think you get what I mean.
Mommy Holiday starts tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.
/Karen/ had a thought at 11:43 PM
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