I spend all my time at my desk. I drop the kids off at school, flirt with the idea of going for a run, think better of it, and start work. I plan to run before lunch, then take a panic shower every day when I realise I have five minutes until the school run and I’ve been sitting there all day with nothing more and coffee and toast to break my focus. I’m a good mum; I switch off my laptop when the kids get home, and spend some time with them, cook for them, ferry them to their various extra-curricular activities. Then, as soon as they’re in bed, I’m back on my laptop.
It’s kind of a needs must. I need to work; I love to work; I do well at work. I get a sense of achievement and satisfaction out of what I produce at my desk every day. And yet I finish each day fed up with myself, frustrated about the things I haven’t done, rather than proud of the things I have.
Years ago I used to sing in a choir. It was just an hour and a half a week, but it gave me such a change of scenery from my normal routine that I came home buzzing with energy, able to achieve twice as much as I had the day before. I gave that up when my daughter was diagnosed with an incredibly time-consuming medical condition. I have since run half marathons instead, and learned enough information for a first class degree in diabetes management; but I still feel frustrated with my own achievements. It’s nonsense really. I achieve an immense amount, and I should learn to congratulate myself on everything that I do.
The reason for my self-deprecation is the lack of personal benefit I get from my time. Sure, I earn money; I give my kids everything they need, physically and emotionally – I am ‘the best mum in the world, ever,’ did you know?; and my daughter has the best possible chance of a long and healthy life because of what I do for her now. But it’s not enough. It doesn’t suffice to be a really good mum, to be really good at my job. I do nothing for me.
David Lloyd Me Time
We’ve recently been invited to review a membership at David Lloyd. The team there asked me to spend a month getting to know the club, and then to set myself some objectives for the next 5 months. I imagine they had in mind weight loss, or fitness, strength and achievement barriers smashed. I’ll admit to you now that I haven’t yet set foot on a treadmill, or entered a studio (other than to photograph my daughter spinning the heck out of a bike). I have swum 12 lengths, and spent 35 minutes in the hot tub. I’m not winning any fitness challenges any time soon!
But here’s what I have figured out.
If I take my kids to the club after school on a sunny day, they will spend an hour playing happily in the outdoor pool. They will laugh, and chat, and invent games with each other, with not a hint of bickering, and only a smattering of dive dude rivalry. They will set each other challenges, and help each other achieve them. Then they will emerge, breathless, to flop on a sun lounger with a Coke, to continue the conversation, and giggle at musical.ly together.
And I will read a book.
If I book my daughter into a teen gym session, she will meet me downstairs in the club bar exhilarated at what she has achieved on the gym equipment, and excited about her new workout gear. Whilst my son hones his football skills, I will have a sauna and a decent swim, then catch up on the newspapers over a glass of wine. They will use the Macs while we wait for their dinner to be made, and I will sit in an armchair instead of hurriedly throwing food at the table and piling dishes into the machine, whilst answering emails and fielding work tasks. I will go home relaxed and ready for an evening with my husband.
At the weekends we will all learn to play tennis together, or swim together and cheer the Bug as he beats his father in a breaststroke race. We will hang out in the pool, pushing each other off raft floats, doing handstands in the water, and setting up diving competitions. Then we’ll have a chilled out lunch together, and I will go home feeling in control, not up against the relentless conveyor belt of parenting that reigns when you have school-age children. I will relax, and enjoy my family.
And when the kids are back at school I will put on my gym gear, or a swimsuit, and head to the club. Who knows? I might even do some exercise. Then again, I might just order a latte in the adults lounge, and sink into a sofa with my laptop, where I can work without the laundry and the dishwasher nagging me for attention.
I’ll let you know how I get on.