I recently read this article where the author talks about how she pays for childcare but sometimes uses that time to do things for herself and not for work. It made me smile. You see, I take time off for me and I have been doing this for years.
I fully agree with her premise that it makes me a better mum, particularly now that I am homeschooling and what little time I have off, childfree, is very precious and rare.
When I first had my first child, I felt terribly guilty for taking any time away from her. A trip to the hairdresser was always loaded with thoughts of how she would be, would she be ok, would it be ok that I left her? Stupid really, because she was with her Dad, someone perfectly capable of looking after her, meeting her needs, and spending time with her. When I first went back to work, I struggled with a lot of guilt and anxiety, again with leaving her in childcare (and our childminder was amazing, and still is) or with my husband to work a night shift. It’s natural and instinctive to feel this way. I have talked many mums through that going back to work/guilt/worry thing.
I got over the guilt though.
But, as motherhood grew on me, and then I had another child, I realised that it wasn’t doing my kids any harm for me to leave them to go and get my hair done, go out for a meal, see friends, etc and every now and then, I would pay for a little extra childcare or use up some leave, and take time off, FOR ME. To go to an art gallery, have lunch with a child-free friend, go shopping, go and get things done (a visit to the dental hygienist is so much less stressful if you haven’t got a toddler climbing all over you and a small child asking questions or needing a wee mid-way through your teeth being cleaned) or to even just go home and catch up on some much needed sleep.
It did me the power of good and it still does.
You see, whilst I am mum, and my kids are my first priority, I still need to look after me, be me, and sometimes a few hours off is all I need. It’s a sanity saver and it makes me a better person and mum. I go to collect my kids and I feel happier and relaxed. I am thrilled to see them (until they start squabbling with each other, and I wonder if they really are the same children that my beloved childminder swears are positively angelic for her) and I feel like I can face mum life afresh.
I do work, so I am able to pay for some childcare. But when I wasn’t working, or when finances are tight, I try and arrange swaps with other mum friends. I have their kids (my theory that more kids are less work usually always works, they entertain each other much more readily and squabble less) for some time, and then we do a swap and they have mine. What I or they do with that time is entirely up to them.
I have even been known to take time off, arrange for the kids to be in childcare or with friends, and spend time with the husband. Also good for me, and very good for us and our marriage.
We currently don’t have grandparents who can step in and babysit for us, living nearby, so we aren’t lucky like some families who can prevail upon grandparents to help them, so paid childcare or friend swaps is what works for us.
I will admit that initially after I had children, the idea of sending them off so I could have time off seemed horrifying and selfish, but actually, I now know that it’s not. Mums need time off just as much as anyone else, we need to be able to look after ourselves. At some point, my children will slowly start to need me a lot less, and will eventually have lives of their own, and I am determined not to hit that stage having entirely lost myself. By looking after me now, and making sure I get some time for me, and making the most of my childfree time, I am doing myself a favour.
So yes, I pay for childcare sometimes and I use that time to do things just for me. I feel no guilt or shame. It makes me a better person and a much better mum.