Why “me time” is a different thing when you have kids

Back when the concept of ‘me time’ originated – who knows when or how, but I’m sure there was an advert for camomile tea involved – I, being credulous and dim, thought I ought to be doing this thing. I thought I ought to be having some ‘me time’.

But this was before I had children, when basically all my time was ‘me time’. So I stopped trying to have ‘me time’, which seemed to be just about having a long bath (I hate having baths), or getting a pedicure or putting on a face mask or whatever. And I eventually saw the phrase ‘me time’ for what it was: just a stupid concept dreamed up by advertisers in order to sell you bubble bath, nail varnish and clay masks.

There is no ‘me’. You are not really a person any more, not in any way you recognise.

Then I had children and I got it. ‘Me time’ was an advertising or marketing whatsit directed at mums. Because after you have children, there is no ‘me time’.

There is no ‘me’. You are not really a person any more, not in any way you recognise.

You are not really even allowed to have thoughts. Where there used to be thoughts there are now just lists of things that need to be done and the constant, nagging feeling that you have forgotten something.

Especially when you have two children. When there is one child, you can manage to sit about and feel sorry for yourself quite a lot, which constitutes, as far as I’m concerned, ‘me time’. With your second child there isn’t even time to sit about feeling sorry for yourself. There are a few seconds sometimes to look at Twitter while on the loo, at the same time singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ to the eight-month-old at your feet who is whimpering and holding its chubby arms out to be picked up.

There is so much to do, not everything can get done, and so a lot of things slip down the list. And of all the people pestering you and nagging you, the person who is nagging you and hassling you the least is you, which means that you are the one who goes without breakfast, or lunch, or a shower, or a haircut, or a lie-in, or a read of the newspaper, or new clothes, or a chat with a friend on the phone, or a walk by yourself, or really anything that you took for granted before having children – but which now constitutes wild luxury.

Nothing was really luxurious to me before I had kids. I’m not really interested in luxurious things in the way that people think of them – you know, limousines and posh hotels and spas. I just found it all a bit blah – what did I have to relax from? My life was easy, really. What I liked doing most pre-children was travelling around London on the top deck of a bus with my headphones on and having a poke around the shops. Shops are so beautiful these days. I loved walking into Anthropologie on Regent Street and not really even buying anything, just looking about, like it was an art gallery.

A feeling of luxury to me, now, is the feeling I get at 7.30pm when my children are in bed asleep, my husband has gone out for the evening, the house is tidy, I’ve just had a shower and I’m just sitting down to a delicious dinner of smoked salmon and a salad (or a sprawling takeaway curry).

And what is another word for that luxurious feeling? ‘Me time’.

I know, it’s a detestable phrase, but there it is. Just you, alone. Having a thought. Maybe trimming your toenails in peace! PEACE AND QUIET!

No-one asking for a biscuit, or deciding that this episode of Peppa Pig is scary, or wanting to know if we definitely have a babysitter for next Wednesday and also by the way quickly tell me now if I’ve got all my stuff ready for my tax return? (the answer is always no), or wanting me to pass them a little car so that they can send it down a little chute, again and again and again.

  • This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s book Bad Mother. If you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here
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