Relax: The Importance of Me Time

Photography:Kantha Bae

By Emma Heaphy

As a full-time mum, it’s really important to find your five minutes of peace. 

Before Lottie, I was time rich. I took for granted the small things that made me feel good like getting my nails done without risk of baby smudging, having a nice shower or bath for longer than two minutes and reading a chapter of a book without interruption. 

The first few months of motherhood were a huge adjustment. Between changing nappies, cleaning the house when Lottie was sleeping, changing more nappies, mowing the lawns when Lottie was sleeping, changing more nappies, cooking meals when Lottie was sleeping, oh and how could I forget, renovating an entire house irrespective of whether or not Lottie was sleeping, finding time for myself was impossible. 

Adding to that were the responsibilities that come with being married.

At risk of sounding insensitive, I think we can all agree that at least (being the two key words in this sentence) for the first few months of becoming a new parent, any relationship you have with someone other than your child becomes secondary. Aside from the time spent quibbling over who was the last one to change Louis’ litter box or discussing what Lottie got up to that day as we cleaned up the house after she went to bed (what did we used to talk about?), time for just Mark and I didn’t happen. 

Putting yourself second seems to be one of the main expectations of parenting. That makes sense when you consider what is at stake: a baby human who doesn’t come with a manual yet needs to be taught how to contribute to society in a positive and meaningful way. No pressure!  

What doesn’t make sense is the pestering guilt that comes from using any down time you have to prioritise some time for yourself or your relationship over other mundane life activities, including but not limited to washing, cleaning, cooking, soaking clothes, hanging washing out, mopping floors, wiping benches, oh and did I mention washing and cleaning?

If, by some miracle, I found some spare quiet time when the house was in a livable condition (a state of disarray with the beds made being the only form of neat), I would find it mentally challenging to do anything for myself. My mind wanders to a place called Guilt Central, which is known for its mind-fucking theme parks featuring mental rides that make you feel bad about doing anything for yourself and good when you do things that won’t make much difference realistically anyway (i.e., putting the toys away that will be messy again within minutes of your baby waking, washing the high chair before what can only be described as the next feeding time at the zoo, or attempting to wash banana off any clothing item).  

What’s more, upon commencement of any sort of activity focused on self-care, I was on edge.

I was constantly looking at the clock wondering how much longer I had to finish the chapter of my book, my piece of cake, my hot cup of coffee or my alone time sitting on the toilet well after I was finished because, well, just because it was the only form of quiet serenity I had experienced all day. 

Two months ago, I read Lottie the Jill Murphy classic, ‘Five Minutes’ Peace’. This story was a childhood classic in our house growing up. As one of four children, I found it easy to relate to this family of six elephants.  

As I read out loud with conviction the famous line from Mrs Large (Elephant mum), “Because I want five minutes’ peace from you lot”, I had what felt like an epiphany. In addition to feeling like we should share the same last name (due to not enough self-care workouts), being a lover of all things baths since 1989 and having a child who wouldn’t leave me alone for five minutes, I was certain that I was now the real-life Mrs Large, less the three extra children and her trunk. 

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