I am now just over a half term into my year long sabbatical… a chance to reflect.
I have to say that I am loving life at the moment! I think I have always been someone who is quite good at managing stress and juggling; one friend regularly asks me if I have more hours in my day than everyone else (incidentally I do- our kids get up so early sometimes that I have achieved more by 7am than many people do all day!!) But sometimes I think you need to remove something and have chance to look at things objectively to realise just how thinly you were stretched. We were doing ok last year. We were getting by and keeping these little humans of ours alive and I was managing to function at work. But looking back with the benefit of head space, this feels so much better. I feel like we’re coping and living rather than surviving!
It’s an annoying modern, pschyo babble kind of word, but I feel so much more ‘present’. I used to have 2 days a week at home with Ted and Esme. I was always so grateful of those days off but they always felt a bit frantic; I put pressure on myself to enjoy my time with the kids and make every second count but also had to use that time to keep on top of everyday life. Having to break off from whatever we were playing to put a load of washing in or prepare dinner or reply to an email or sticking Esme on the iPad when Ted was asleep so I could catch up on some work that I just hadn’t been able to fit into my 3 days. Now when we’ve dropped the big two at school, I spend time with Ted. We go out and about and run errands or go to the park or meet friends, but I feel like my focus is all on him. I don’t feel like my mind is split in multiple different directions because I now have some spare time on my hands to do the other stuff. The balance of time is much more tipped in my favour.
I feel like our life is in a better routine. I don’t find myself waking up at 6 in the morning remembering that George has no clean jumpers for school and frantically wet wiping yesterday’s down! George has hit a bit of a sticky patch with reading at the minute, but because I am at home every morning instead of dashing out at 7.15 three mornings a week, we have found the time to sit and focus on his books instead of a half hearted attempt at 7.45pm when he’s far too tired and I’m wishing the time away because I still haven’t eaten and still have 3 hours of work to do! I can see a huge improvement in just two weeks. When the kids eat their dinner, I talk to them! Sounds like an obvious thing, but that was often 20 minutes where I would run around and do various jobs to try to get on top of things while they were occupied! Ditto with bath time. I haves time to be fun and silly! Ted and I play daft games where I pretend to be asleep and he creeps up on me to wake me up; we’ve just all finished dinner and had a mad half hour disco in the kitchen! The Hokey Cokey being the highlight! I can be fun mum because I’m happier and less stressed and not worrying about what comes next or what else I could be doing! (Although the last round of ‘wake up mummy’ involved being head butted in the lip and whacked on the funny bone with a plastic sword so it’s not all fun and games!) Half term feels more relaxed; maybe because I’m spending much more quality time with them during term time so I don’t feel the need to cramp hour upon hour of meaningful, action packed experiences into the holiday to ease my own guilt at not being there in the week.
We are wasting less food because I have time to check what we need from the supermarket and plan meals over the week, rather than dashing in on my way home from work, guessing what we already have and ending up with 6 punnets of mouldy strawberries at the end of the week! The house is tidy; cupboards that have needed clearing out for years are suddenly organised. Rooms that have needed decorating and rescuing from the builders Matt white paint that was slapped on our new build 5 years ago have finally been given a new lease of life! Our bedroom has been put off more times than I care to remember because there was always something else to fill the time with- we now have a pink and grey haven that is tidy and pretty and grown up- it makes me feel calm when I walk in there! (Although it’s probably only a matter of time before the kids replace the goose down grey paint with sticky fingerprints and slowly infiltrate our space with plastic crap!!!)
I think I always knew this about myself but I’m not very good at doing nothing! It seems that if I find myself with a slot of time, I find something to fill it! You know when people retire and they make comments about how they don’t know how they found time to work? I’m sort of in that phase! With Esme now at school, I just have the baby one at home with me and he still has a solid afternoon nap giving me two hours a day of uninterrupted time to myself! He also goes to nursery 2 mornings a week so all of a sudden I’m swimming in all this time but I am struggling to readjust my pace… I used to get short periods of time to myself so rarely that I used to go at everything at a million miles an hour and could be more productive in a hour than I used to be in a full week of the school holidays before I had kids! It’s hard to train my brain to understand that this time is not so sporadic and precious now and therefore doesn’t need to be so frantic. Last week I missed watching Bake off in the evening because Ted was a monkey at bedtime so I sat down on the sofa at 11am on a Wednesday morning with a warm cup of tea and watched a whole hour of TV on my own- it felt so decadent!!!! I felt like a naughty truant schoolgirl who was ‘wagging’ it; ‘it’ being the responsibility of life rather than double maths.
I have done things to fill my time. I am volunteering at the kids school; doing some Y6 maths groups and listening to readers in Georges class. I’m really enjoying a complete change of scene and its helping to remind me how to teach! Last year I volunteered to chair the PTA at the kids school (there was a really long and awkward silence in the meeting and I’m not good with those!) and there are always things that need organising or making or planning for that. In my teens I was really creative and did art at A’level but have done nothing like that since. Last week I signed up to a 5 week pottery course so will be getting my creative groove back on! I still haven’t found time for any exercise! I have lost weight, in part due to the fact that we’re better organised with mealtimes and not falling back on a pizza delivery at 9pm when we’ve both done a 10 hour day at work and have finally got the kids in bed. It turns out that ‘not having time’ was a very convenient excuse that masked ‘can’t be arsed and hate all exercise’ so I need to work on my motivation rather than time management now!
Any downsides? I’d never be as ungrateful to call them negatives when I’m in such a privileged position to just take a year off work, but there are a few things that I’m mindful of. I don’t miss the workload but I do miss my lovely friends and colleagues. I don’t feel starved of adult interactions- I’m out and about all the time and the school run is always a very sociable affair but I do miss the banter and fun that working with people you’ve known for a long time brings. Not earning any money is a strange feeling for me as well and I am conscious of that. We’ve always had a ‘chuck it all in one pot’ approach to finances and it works for us. The proportion of who contributes what has ebbed and flowed but it has always been both of us contributing. A change in our financial circumstances this year brought us the freedom to be able to do this but I’m very conscious that we’re taking money from our savings to cover some of our outgoings and I’m much less inclined to while away an hour on ASOS of an evening knowing that I’m not earning anything at the minute. But really, I don’t need that mustard coat or a new jumper- given the choice I’d rather be at home getting head butted in the lip and whacked on the funny bone! I have also noticed that Ted is more clingy with me than he has been- as 3rd born he has always been happy to go to anyone willing to show him any attention! (usually direct relatives or people we trust, not just random vagrants on the street! I know our standards with number 3 are low but not that low!!) Since he is now at home with me more regularly, he sometimes cries when I leave him at grandparents while I pop out or take the big two to gymnastics; this may just be a developmental thing but he’s definitely a mummy’s boy at the minute.
Plans for the rest of the year?? I actually googled ‘applying for The Great British Bake Off’ the other day! I love baking and almost applied last year but was still bitter about Mel, Sue and Mary Berry! I’m over it now and quite like Pru so maybe this is the year to try! I also sat in a cafe the other day with my IPad and and warm cup of tea and sketched out what my blogs (and some additions) would look like in some kind of book format… lots of people have encouraged me to do this and I have discovered a love of writing I never knew I had so even if it just ends up sitting on my ‘cloud’ forever more then its a pretty great record of life as a mummy and the kids growing up.
Not working hasn’t fixed the fact that the kids can be mental and mardy and mad!! I’m still knackered; me not going to work hasn’t stopped Ted sometimes waking at night or them waking up at ridiculously stupid o’clock on random mornings! (Teds record last week was 4.23am! That’s not morning!! It’s barely started being ‘today’! No thank you!!!!) But it has given me the headspace to deal with these and other issues better and given us a better balance as a family. And I’m even ‘almost’ on top of the washing pile!