Don’t get my wrong, I love the companionship of my two little tots and my new life as a SAHM, but this year when my husband asked me what I would like for my birthday, I said that I’d quite like a night in a hotel – alone. Initially he thought I was joking, and to be honest, so did I, but the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like the most thoughtful and considerate birthday present he could gift me this year, and at a time I needed it most.
It’s no secret that I’ve found it a struggle to adjust to the leap from one child to two so close in age, and a bit of time-out would enable me to return to family life with fuel in the tanks. The idea of twenty-four hours to think about no-one else’s needs but my own was positively heavenly, and it didn’t take long to start daydreaming about what I’d do with such an indulgent chunk of free-time. Some might call it selfish, but I call it self-care, and self-care as a parent is imperative but all too often overlooked.
I am lucky enough to be married to a very understanding, supportive husband, so a week later he booked me into our usual hotel in Melbourne CBD complete with gym, pool, spa, and a surprise upgrade to include city views and late check-out; chosen primarily on the basis that it has very comfy beds that would guarantee a long, good night’s sleep. We chose a weeknight to make it more affordable. Needless to say, I could hardly wait!
So, what did I do with my time? I enjoyed a leisurely morning with my husband and children, then after I put my toddler down for his nap I packed my overnight bag and wheeled it to the local train station, where I spent the hour’s journey reading Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips. This is not my usual genre but my mum recommended it to me and it’s a very informative, hilariously written book that captures many of humanity’s failings as a species and explains how we’ve basically managed to ruin the world we live in in countless different ways over the centuries. It was great to read more than a couple of pages at a time uninterrupted.
I was running late, as we mums usually are, so I checked in to my hotel room an hour late. I grabbed a latte from the coffee shop next door, put the TV on, admired the beautiful top-floor city views over the Yarra River (see above), then got out my laptop and began a blog post on Sleep School which we’d attended with our baby daughter earlier that week. Before I knew it, it was dinner time. I walked along Southbank riverside in search of food, but after soaking up the bustling post-5pm atmosphere of the city beneath a cloak of trees and twinkling fairy lights I ended up returning to the hotel to order that night’s tandoori chicken special that had caught my eye before I’d left, alongside a glass of red.
I had intended to make use of the hotel’s facilities that afternoon but it was already getting late so I resolved to put it off until morning. I put House Rules on the TV and caught up on what I’d missed from seeing to the kids’ bedtime routines – I love interior design and it’s a great show for inspiring new ideas. After that I ran myself a hot bath then went to bed like the true Brit I am with a cup of tea, a handful of dunking biscuits, and a book; and had a fantastic, long night’s sleep. Total bliss.
In the morning I made use of the pool and spa, before finally getting ready and checking out. I headed to Degraves Street laneway where I had coffee and one of the yummiest brunches ever. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten the name of the café, but it basically had a little row of perches rather than seats, which meant I had to forego finishing off my blog post because there was barely room for me and my luggage let alone my laptop! It was worth it for the food though, as you can see below (roasted cauliflower and chickpeas on pumpkin-smash sourdough toast, with pomegranate and poached egg – the perfect fuel for a chilly winter’s day!).
And then it was time to catch the train and make my way home, because I had tickets to take my toddler to see The Wiggles Live that afternoon which had been a present for his 2nd birthday.
When I walked in the door, my husband had achieved the miracle of getting both children to nap at the same time, so we were able to reconnect before resuming family life after a blissful, indulgent 24-hours of me-time. Even though I’d spent a large part of my time away texting my husband to see how things were going and demanding pics of the kids because I missed them so much – and there’s something slightly lonely about doing something by yourself that you’d usually do as a couple or as a family – overall it was a really lovely time and a great opportunity to put my own needs, which are often neglected out of necessity, first for a little while.
Though some might think there’s more I could have done with my time away – like shopping for instance (a visit to H&M would’ve been the icing on the cake), or dinner out with a friend, or a trip to the cinema or a wine or two at Crown Casino – I was actually pretty unwell with a nasty cold so all I wanted to do was to stay warm and cosy and do the things that I usually don’t have enough time for at home – things that are perfect for me. So perfect in fact, that I wouldn’t mind making it a thing! And next year, I will be sure to get to H&M.
If your tanks are running a little low, here’s hoping that you’re able to make way for some unapologetic me-time soon, with an opportunity to pursue some of those other things that define you outside of your mothering role.
How do you make time for and practice self-care as a mum? And what would your ideal birthday present be this year?