In the space of a week I’ve had three conversations with three different mothers (coachees) whose shoulders I could almost hear dropping from ear-hunched positions to relaxed relief when I suggested or endorsed the idea of organising a bit of regular childcare before they go back to work.
Childcare isn’t just for those of us who have another job to go to – it’s respite care for overstretched mothers everywhere. Is it really taboo to say we need time apart from our kids? Is it really that odd to say we need time out during the working week when there’s no partner around (because he’s almost certainly working or knackered himself) to give us relief? Crikey, I remember several midweek episodes of crying down the phone to my husband claiming I couldn’t hack it with a newborn and a full-on toddler and that was WITH 10 hours childcare a week for the latter.
Whether back at work or on maternity leave, whether one child or four the message from my clients is clear: they need time out. Do you and are you getting it? If you don’t need it please check out my Mother the Mother campaign and help someone out who does.
So obvious is the need for a mother to have space and time to herself, even a man has documented it. In Mothers Work! I open chapter four with a quote from Edgar Howe (American journalist writing early 1900s) who says
“If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.”
Thank goodness for gym crèches, care in the community and Mumsnet moan forums to save any of us from being carted off before we have the time or money to set up a bit of regular childcare. I hope you see that you’re not an awful mother for wanting this time out; you’re in the majority. Here are a few ideas on how to get the time out you may be craving:
How to get rest with a baby
Reserve the first part of your baby’s nap time for you to rest – just 10 mins flaking on the floor can make you feel replenished. Ideally you’ll spend the next 20-30 minutes doing something you derive pleasure from that you can’t focus on when you’re in the mummy zone (reading adult fiction, undivided attention on a podcast, talking to a friend). After that you’ll zip through the chores more efficiently than usual because you’ve filled yourself up first.
How to get rest with non-napping children
As your toddler’s desire for daytime sleep dwindles you’ve probably acquired some other techniques for getting a break. Many of us pop our poppets in front of the TV. Alternatively it’s possible to encourage children to have downtime too or at least to play quietly whilst you have a little shuteye or do something not centred around them (my first child was full-on-I-want-people-stimulation-all-day-long so I feel if I could achieve this, you can. I used to put The English Patient or Pride & Prejudice soundtrack on, lie on the floor and cloudwatch out the living room window and he’d come and lie with me. When he got bored he’d turn to the Duplo beside us and crack on by himself).
How to find the money for childcare
If you haven’t got a written forecast of your monthly income and outgoings, do consider putting one together so you can look at if/how you can afford half a day’s childcare a week to get some space to yourself. Perhaps you could reduce grocery bills by £20/week to pay for three hours childminding? A client’s recently begun using a drop-in playgroup for her two children on a Friday afternoon (they play, she goes away) which she says refreshes her for the weekend. The knock on effect is feeling she has more to give the whole family at the weekend, including her husband.
How to organise care on zero budget
If you’re a ‘have not’ of the parenting world (that is, no local grandparental support to speak of) think about whose child you’d be happy to look after in return for them having yours once a week. I know several women who’ve sorted themselves out on this rota basis from their children being really quite young (under one).
Jessica Chivers is the managing director of The Talent Keeper Specialists (www.talentkeepers.co.uk) and author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House, 2011).