MOTHERDOM’S DEPUTY EDITOR CLAIRE GILLESPIE will be entertaining us with this regular column.
Yesterday, I took a bath.
This is news, because I was in a house with six kids at the time, and when there are that many small, noisy, demanding people in the vicinity, the very notion of self-care falls into the category of Things Other People Do. Like wrapping Christmas presents in November, or completing the school Castles and Knights project more than ten minutes ahead of the deadline.
When you have six kids*, everything comes down to time, or the lack of it. But I try, and my husband helps me try. Or tries to help. (And yes, when you have six kids, a bath – alone, with the door locked – is self-care.)
My bath got off to a great start. Scented candles, the most relaxing Spotify playlist I could find, a generous dollop of sweet almond oil. I ignored the mountains of laundry, I ignored the voice telling me that 2.30pm was a strange time to take a bath, and I locked the door. I’d been trying to run that tap since 10am and it was going to happen. I knew if I waited any longer, we’d be into the pre-dinner danger zone, then I’d be pinned to the couch in the nightly nursing loop with the four-month-old. So a 2.30pm bath it was.
I learned five things.
If we ever move house, we won’t have the bathroom right next to the room with the Xbox a.k.a. the room of screeching, whooping, fighting children.
When the baby cries, the boobs leak, no matter where she is in the house, or even if I’m not quite sure it’s her or just some random infant on TV. I knew she was safe with her dad; try telling that to my milk ducts.
My next bath will be strictly a no-phone zone. During my window of relaxation, I received a text from the school reminding me that dress-down day was next Friday, followed by two urgent texts from my mum to confirm the birthday of one child and the T-shirt size of another.
Setting the scene is crucial. In my haste to get into the bath before the water got cold (my tea was always cold; I’d be damned if my 2.30pm bath water was going to be cold too), I’d failed to carry out a quick sweep of the surrounding area. I ended up sharing my bath with a truckload of Lego and four rubber ducks. The first rubber duck made me smile. The second, third and fourth didn’t.
A locked door means nothing to a five-year-old. They’ll carry on trying to hammer down that door, even as you yell, “I’m in here!” on repeat. They won’t believe you’re in there until they see it with their own eyes.
At 3.08pm, I pulled the plug, telling myself that at least I had clean hair.
I know I’m speaking for all parents when I say self-care is hard to find time for. Even when it’s just the baby and I, it can be midday before I realise I haven’t brushed my hair. And while I welcome a wide definition of self-care, it can’t be that wide. So let’s make an effort to grab those precious pockets of “me time” whenever we can, whatever time of day.
*Disclaimer: We don’t have six kids all the time; we both came to this thing with ready-made families. But the emotional labour of six kids and everything that co-parenting entails is a 24/7 commitment.