This weekend, for the first time in a long time, I’m going away on a ‘girls weekend’ in London for three glorious days.
Shopping, eating out, cocktails and catching up with an old friend over from New Zealand that I’ve not seen for two years.
My first thought when invited was 'How can I leave them? What if something bad happens? What if my children fall ill and need me?’ But then my sensible head snapped into place and I reminded myself how it's important to take some time for myself to recharge.
I will of course miss my little ones, but I will also love every minute of being away with only myself to think of. My ‘mum hat’ hung neatly by the front door - I shall leave and enjoy my time as ‘Fi’ and not ‘Mummy’ for a couple of days. Why? Because I will come back happier, refreshed and ready to face all the challenges that parenting throws my way because I’ve had that all important ‘time off’ for myself.
Finding the right balance
I, like most mums, juggle family and working life daily. I work from home, look after my children, volunteer for the school PTFA and try my best to keep the house and laundry tidy and clean, but I am not a Mombot. In the words of the rag and bone man ‘I’m only human after all’ so I need time for me. I need to recharge and become a stronger, happier, and a better mother for my children.
Find the time - make the time! It’s easy to say ‘I don't have time’ but we all have someone we can lean on a little. A parent, friend, partner can help - or even when your little one takes a nap or is at nursery. Take a pinch of that time to yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.
Having time away from your children is essential. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them if you want some time to yourself. It doesn’t mean you are vain or selfish if you take time to get your hair or nails done. Go to the gym, or do something you love - ditching the guilt is the first step towards becoming a better parent.
Mum of two, Charlotte Roberts tells me she used to feel guilty taking time for herself, but as her children grew older, she learned that she needed to take time for herself. “I heard the saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty kettle’ - you need to take time to look after yourself. You’re no good to anybody if you can’t function properly!”
“I heard the saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty kettle’ - you need to take time to look after yourself."
I totally agree with Charlotte, time out is important. As my children have grown older and moved away from the ‘cling-on’ years, I’m realising that actually, they do survive without me for a day or two - the world doesn’t fall down, and their daddy does a fantastic job and they hardly notice me gone. Sure they all miss me - but the break does us all good!
Coronation star Cath Tyldesley tells me she always suffers with mum guilt too, but has realised that time for herself is incredibly important.
‘I didn't think I'd feel guilty about getting my nails done once every two weeks. Or nipping to be gym for an hour. Or going for dinner with a friend. Or indeed - working 14 hour days sometimes. But I do. MUM GUILT!'
From the day my child arrived guilt overwhelmed me. Feeling of a split personality - one half of me ruthlessly ambitious with a million dreams and ambitions buzzing around my head- the other half just wanted to stay at home for the rest of Alfie's childhood - baking cakes, reading stories, colouring in; Surely I'd loose a huge part of who I am by doing that?
Would I be as happy? Would Alfie grow up living with a repressed, bitter actor pushing him on to the nearest stage at any given opportunity? Do I live my dreams through him now? NO. I am ME. Actor, wife AND mother.
The saying ‘a happy mother = a happy home’ couldn't be more true. Yes I'm a mum. Does this mean I no longer care about my own health and fitness levels? Or God forbid I want to look good?!
Don't loose your identity. I strike a balance. I involve Alfie as much as I can - taking him for countryside hikes - keeping fit as a family, bringing him to set to see where mummy works. But If I want to do a gym session or get my nails done, I think I should do it.
It makes me happy and I think it's so important to still have 'me' time. I'm extremely hands on - sometimes nipping home in my lunch hour just to get a ten minute cuddle. I'm including Alfie in all aspects of my life. I can only do my best - and that's what I aim for each day.’
Ditch the mum guilt!
It is completely natural to feel guilty - but it doesn’t mean you should act on those feelings. Taking time for yourself is incredibly important.
Say goodbye to the mum guilt and start loving life’s little luxuries! Book yourself that babysitter and hair appointment, go take an hours uninterrupted bath, go for a child-free swim or long walk listening to music, or go super crazy like me - and book a girly weekend away to recharge those batteries!
You’ll feel refreshed and ready to take whatever parenting adventure is waiting for you next.