One afternoon per week I get four hours 'off'. When you picture me saying the word 'off' you should see my hands doing air quotation marks with a sarcastic look on my face. My eldest would usually be in school and my youngest goes waddling off into the nursery classroom with a twinkle of destruction in his eyes.
I leave jubilant that I have four hours (well about 3.5 by the time I have got back home and taking off the time needed to get back over to pick him up but hey!) of non-children time. No singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm, no wiping running noses, no finding the juice cup that got lobbed half way to the shop, no need for the wet wipes to be on hand, no need to fret about where I have put my cup of coffee down or whether the stair gate is locked in place.
Being a person with a ridiculous need to have everything I ever need to do written down (or frankly I would forget to do it) I tend to write a list with all the things I would like to get done in the 4 (ish) hours and it generally looks something like this :
* Do 4 hours of cleaning
* Do 4 hours of ironing
* Do 4 hours of filing / home admin (which never gets done until I need to find something and then takes 4 hours to clear backlog)
* Get monster weekly shop
* Put away monster weekly shop
* Prepare dinner
* Sort wardrobes / drawers and generally have a good old tidy out (see note on filing / house admin item)
* [In a dream world] bake something (I love baking - I miss baking something other than a Rice Krispie Cake which in actual fact doesn't really require any baking...)
* Go for a run
* Sort photos
* Catch up on emails and generally just catch up with everyone
I will stop there as I would imagine you are getting the general gist but think I can safely assume that most parents have the same sort of list of things to do. Some items are what I call essential (cleaning etc) and some should be on a permanent wish-list (running / sorting photos / clearing out wardrobes).
So of course we all have the list that is as long as our arm, but can we identify something that is not on the list that really is essential?
TAKE A BREAK / HAVE A REST / WATCH HALF HOUR OF TV / READ A MAGAZINE - however you want to take it, just sit.
But it isn't on the list. And it will doubtful make the list because being a parent comes hand in hand with a bucketful of guilt! We decided to have the children and so we shouldn't expect to ever sit or take a break. Even if we are offered by others or pay for a break from physically looking after our kiddie-winks in the form of genius that is nursery or a child-minder, that time is not for relaxation. We must work, cook, clean, tidy, sort, never sit down soldier!
But who makes these rules by which we find ourselves trying to keep up with? We do. I do. It's not my husband telling me, it's not my parents telling me, it's not my friends telling me. I alone am the one who decides that I should not ever watch or follow a TV programme, too many other things need doing. I am the one who make a ridiculous list of 24 hours (at least) of work for the 4 hours I have 'off'. I think it was pre-conditioned into my brain while I was pregnant that if you aren't looking after the children then you should be doing something / anything productive, just because it's more difficult to do it with the kids around.
But sitting and reading a chapter of a book is difficult with the kids around, sitting for half hour drinking a cup of coffee (that, ohhhhhhhh squeal with excitement might still actually be warm when you drink it!) whilst gathering your thoughts is difficult with the kids around. Maybe they should start to make the list after all.
So next time you get those coverted minutes, or if your lucky hours, 'off' just think before you pick up that duster / wash basket / hoover. Perhaps you ARE entitled to flick the kettle on and watch that half hour of TV that you recorded 6 months ago. There is nothing wrong with that and if it makes you feel better make sure it is on the list of things to do - you'll feel great when you cross it off!
Alternatively of course, you could always spend that half hour writing a blog. Whatever tickles your fancy.