To all dads – why mums having Me Time is good for YOU
I don’t normally write blog posts for dads; I write them for mums, I write them for kids, I write them for my family, but never for dads. But this is such an important one and I think it’s time for all dads to understand why it benefits them when us mums have Me Time.
I have a huge amount of mum friends across the world, with the majority being in the UK, France and Mauritius. These mums are of all nationalities, ages and walks of life. They are working mums, stay at home mums and work at home mums. But they all have one thing in common: they crave Me Time like an addict needs a fix.
Don’t get me wrong, these incredible ladies all love being mums, but even when you do your dream job you still want a break from it at times.
Why is this blog post for dads? Because whether they’re going out to a job or are at home full-time, these mums take on the lion share of the family and home jobs, responsibilities and chores.
This isn’t necessarily a complaint, as I know a lot of these mums want to be doing these tasks. BUT they do need a break from it too.
I speak from experience. Ben brought the idea of Me Time to our family nearly 10 years ago when Léna was still a baby, and it really shocked me at first, but it has kept our marriage on track and kept us sane, and (mostly) happy parents. Let me explain why…
You can’t give from an empty cup
Have you ever noticed how grouchy, irritable and downright negative your partner can be when she’s tired and weighed down with things to do? It makes it very hard for her to be loving and fun to be with, for you and your kids when she’s like that. In the same way you might go for drinks with the lads, or for a round of golf, or to go and watch a football match, to release stress, to let off steam and to feel human again, your partner needs that Me Time too. Well possibly not doing exactly the same activities as you. But she wants, needs, and deserves, that same break. Think about how much better you feel when you’ve had that time out. For your partner it’s likely to be 100 times that, if not more, because sometimes just a 5 minute break from a toddler’s tantrums or a teething baby’s crying can feel like a holiday.
What we want more than diamond rings and Mulberry bags
Whilst most women are unlikely to turn down diamond rings and Mulberry bags if you were to offer them, I’m willing to bet that most mums, given the choice, would take one day a month of you dealing with the kids and the house over these luxury items. Nearly every mums Facebook group and online forum shares mums saying they don’t want flowers for Mothers’ Day, instead they want a lie-in, breakfast in bed, someone to break up the sibling fights and basically a day off from the constant mum job.
Don’t get me wrong – not one of the mums I know regrets having her kids, and not one of them wants to be separated from them. But what we all want is some Me Time to be us again. To be the woman you fell in love with. To be the person who has hopes, dreams and hobbies she’d like to pursue. Whilst we all love being mothers, we don’t necessarily love it 24/7.
What’s in it for you?
This is the great bit. When we get time to do what we want to do – whether that is going for a run, having a spa day, going shopping, having an all day drinking session in the pub, knitting a blanket, reading a book from cover to cover or lying down in a darkened room all day – we come back rejuvenated. Literally made young again. Ben and I have been doing this Me Time thing for nearly 10 years now, and the difference is incredible. On the eve of my me day quite often I’m snapping, biting Ben’s and the kids’ heads off over nothing. Then I take my day off – either Ben takes the girls out leaving me in a quiet house (usually with a book in my hand), or I go out and meet up with friends, and the difference that evening when we’re back together again is just incredible. I’m so excited to see our girls again, but I’m equally excited to see Ben too. We chatter excitedly about what we’ve done that day, there is laughter, hugs and kisses all round as there is this fresh energy and love in the house. The kids pick up on it and are better behaved as the way they act mirrors the vibes we’re giving off, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Once the kids are in bed – and they tend to go down more contentedly, having had a fun day with Papa – Ben and I will often curl up and chat on the sofa, like in the early days of our relationship. Not only do I consciously appreciate this precious time that he has given me, but subconsciously it feels like I’ve had a fortnight’s holiday (pre-kids, i.e. a real, actual holiday), and I feel light, happy, relaxed and loving…. (I’ll let you read into that what you will!)
What if you can’t handle the kids on your own?
In order to give the mother of your children some Me Time you need to take the kids off her hands for at least a few hours, but preferably for the whole day. So what happens if you really don’t feel capable of looking after the kids on your own? Maybe you’ve got a toddler, a baby and a tearaway 6 year old and the thought of having them all alone makes you want to start drinking already! Here are some tips:
- Don’t try and take them out of the house at first and start off with a few hours – plan what you’ll do with them in the same way you might plan a business meeting. For example the baby can go from activity mat, to rocker, to arms, to cot and repeat. The toddler can go from play kitchen, to toy garage, to a run in the back garden, to some TV time and repeat. The 6 year old can go from jigsaw puzzles, to drawing, to a run in the back garden with his/her sibling, to some TV time and repeat. Make sure food is planned in advance – do not attempt to cook whilst solo parenting the kids the first few times.
- Buddy up: suggest to another dad friend that you parent both sets of kids together at one house or the other. This gives you some much-needed adult chat and the kids play together – everyone’s a winner. It also means you can go for a wee on your own and without the fear of the kids killing each other.
- If you don’t have a dad buddy around, how about asking your mum, brother / sister, best friend or someone else close who would enjoy time with your kids too?
- Remember it does get easier over time, and it will get to the stage that you will actually look forward to this time with your kids, where no one is breathing down your neck telling you you’re doing it wrong! (Yes, we know we do this, and we know we shouldn’t, because you are mostly doing a good job, but we can’t help it, sorry! It’s a bit like you struggling to put the toilet seat down – it’s inbuilt.)
Ben and I had our first child just before we both turned 31. Ben had had little to no experience with babies, toddlers and kids up to that point, and certainly not with girls (we have two daughters). I had more experience, but none of the 24/7 kind so parenting was a bit of a shock to both of us (as it is to most people). I remember one night when Léna, our eldest, was about 6 months old and had woken up crying for about the 6th time that night, Ben turned to me and said “what’s wrong with her?” to which I retorted “I don’t know, I don’t have the f*cking manual!”. This pretty much sums up parenting I think. We’re all just trying to figure it out without much of a manual. Adopting me days was a huge turning point for us, because it gave us both that well-needed break from having to figure out what to do, and from the relentless hamster wheel of parenting.
First of all Ben would look after Léna at home and I would just watch box sets on TV with headphones on, as we were both too exhausted to manage anything else, but even that made such a difference. As time went by Ben got more adventurous and would take Léna out by himself, first of all for just a few hours and then for a whole day at a time. Then Clémence, our second daughter, came along when Léna was 6 years old and Ben would arrange days out with both of them – I remember him taking a 6 year old Léna, a 9 month old Clémence, a buggy, baby bottles and various food for this weaning baby out to Richmond Park for the day, navigating a couple of buses into the process (we didn’t have a car when we lived in London).
Now whilst I wouldn’t recommend that to start off with, it just goes to show what can be done.
And you know what?
Our girls have the most incredible relationship with their dad, which I am sure is 99% down to this frequent one-on-one time they have had with them since they were babies. Our eldest might be 10 later this year and our youngest 4 shortly before but neither of them is a daddy’s girl nor a mummy’s girl which has always been my aim, and I’m sure it’s mostly down to the fact they’ve had this quality time with their parents equally.
Dads of the world – I tell you, you can only win here. Me Time for mums is the way forwards. You get quality time with your kids as they grow up – and you won’t get that back once they’ve flown the nest. You get to develop a close relationship with your children whether they are sons or daughters. On top of that you get to keep the woman you fell in love with, the one who makes you laugh, the one who is chilled out and loves life. That woman doesn’t disappear into some stressed out mother, who spends all her time running around after the kids and the house, and who ends up seeing you as just another kid to nag.
So, my advice to you is to give it a whirl. Start this weekend. Let your partner know you’ll get up to the kids in the morning, that she can stay in bed, that you’ll get them breakfast and even bring her breakfast in bed. Offer to make lunch. Suggest to her that you’ll entertain the kids while she has a long soak in the bath. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed by the changes in your relationship and in your family life 🙂
P.S. If you are already one of the fab dads who does these things for your partner, pass this on to another dad whose life, and whose family’s life, it might change!
P.P.S. Ben also gets Me Time too – it goes both ways 🙂