Me time makes me nicer

Sometimes I love doing mum stuff. Playing with kinetic sand, facilitating the baking of misshapen biscuits, preparing healthy meals for Maya to ignore and watching my girl develop remarkable new skills and personality. It all feels nourishing, joyful and right.

From this place of beauty I produce masterpieces at the drop of a hat:

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Creative stuff goes down:

Fun times roll:

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But sometimes the opposite is true. The tedium drags me under and life feels like a grey and predictable treadmill on which I never get to shine.

I want to change jobs but I’m stuck. The weekend’s finished and the productive me time never happened. I go back to work a seething ball of fury and resentment that I’m not making use of my skills. I struggle to connect with the things I love, the passions and interests that make me feel like me.

A strong coffee can lift me for a while but the window of opportunity it affords for social interaction is two hours at best. I’m prone to blueness but practiced at faking and the faking drains me further.

At such times, my effectiveness as a mother is woefully lacking. I’m short with Maya. I snap at James. I feel heavy and humourless.

However.

Lately I’ve found that a simple bit of me time has the power to turn things around.

As long as I use it wisely.

Wisely doesn’t mean hoovering. It doesn’t mean scrubbing frenziedly at soap scum. Wisely does not mean sorting through the decorative bowls of miscellaneous crap on the side in the kitchen. Nor reuniting plastic currency that has squirrelled itself away within the folds of the sofa and deep in the corners of a crumb-filled backpack.

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Crap
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More crap

Wisely means doing the things I love, even if I can’t be arsed and have forgotten how good it feels. It means trusting that the buzz will come back if I focus and plan and do.

I had four days at home with no Maya last week. I love love love her but it was flipping incredible.

I sacked off all of the domestic chores. No priming a door or getting the car fixed or tidying up a disgrace of a cupboard. Three weeks later, the door would only be scratched again, the car freshly broken and the cupboard a lucky dip once more: open, grab, slam! (possibly onto a finger). Returning chaos to order is great but it doesn’t rebalance my chakras, man. I needed to produce stuff.

So I ring-fenced my week for creative pursuits. I painted some pictures for the first time in ages. I wrote some posts and ideas started to bloom. The colour came back to my cheeks.

I played and experimented with words and paint and it felt insanely fricking remarkable. I was as if baptised in a pool of creativity and emerged at 5 o’clock each day with a wholly renewed sense of fun and a real desire to cook fishfingers and steam the bejesus out of some broccoli.

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Okay, let’s go!

The creative fix worked its magic, heightening my senses, refilling my tank of goodwill and I think, just maybe, saving my soul. Even the mundane felt delightful once I’d recharged. I cleaned and folded and sauteed with zest, while planning my next artistic flurry. And I treated my family humanely.

It’s so easy to feel knackered and just want to flop with a book or the telly. Sometimes life tramples all over my will to do fun stuff. But I’ve come to realise that I need some creative free time to give me back my spark. Without it I am an ineffective and moody misery-guts. It is crucial and vital and makes the rest seem so easy. It is not to be relinquished in favour of fishing out stale biscuits and magnetic letters from under a disgusterous fridge.

Maya loves pretending to write. She fills books with extremely neat squiggles. But now I’ve reclaimed painting as a thing that I do, she’s started to love that as well.

I’ve bought her a tin of watercolour half-pans that looks a bit like mine. She loves mixing colours in her little palette. She even – and I’ll keep my voice down or she will hear me and never do it again – she even abandoned Paw Patrol earlier to paint all the letters of the alphabet. She’s mimicking my self-talk too…… ‘Now, this isn’t the best painting I’ve ever done, but I’ll just keep trying and maybe one day…’

Maybe one day, my gorgeous.

So from now on, creative me time is happening in our house. I’m gonna shoehorn it in once a week. I don’t care what the laundry thinks. And if someone spends a bit more time with Netflix as a result, so be it. She’ll have a happier mum for the rest of the week.

Is there something you love that you don’t do enough of? Something your soul needs in order to thrive? Surfing, photography or playing the sousaphone, perhaps? Camping? Geocaching? Fashioning armadillos from old crisp packets? Do you find time to do it? What happens to you if you don’t?

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