Being a parent can be such an all-encompassing role that it’s hard, sometimes, to remember to enjoy the little things that make you feel like you still exist and are getting some enjoyment out of life. Perhaps this is different when your children are older and/or you’re able to escape to work for a bit of ‘grown up’ time, I wouldn’t know. But for those of you who, like me, sometimes feel subsumed by the daily grind of parenting, here are a few things I’ve found that really help. And if you’re not a parent, you might find some ideas here too, children create the need for, but are not essential to, the following suggestions!
1 – Have your cake and don’t just eat it…
Savour it. Even if you’re on your own get out your best wedding china that you only bring out when you have guests. Place a perfect slice of cake right in the middle of it. Garnish it with a dusting of icing sugar or a fresh flower, or just a clean, shiny fork. Sit down. Taste every mouthful. You deserve that cake – enjoy it! Don’t just scarf it down like a pig at a trough, make it an occasion.
If you don’t have any wedding china then pop out to a charity shop and pick up one of those sad, lonely little floral plates for 50p and keep it as your special cake plate. Sod it, while you’re at it buy a cup and saucer, too, and drink your tea out of it, or your gin if it’s been that kind of day.
2 – Cuddle up
It’s damn hard when you’re in the trenches with small children and I can’t imagine teenagers are any easier, but when you get a hug – whether it’s a “Cameron doesn’t want to play wiv me” hug or a “Can I have twenty quid to go out on Saturday” hug – close your eyes. Even if it’s the briefest of hugs it is your chance to reconnect, to smell their skin, to hold them and remember that they’re yours, however busy they may be. See if you can steal a kiss, too.
Or grab your spouse, parent, sibling or a good friend and enjoy their hug, too. Squeeze really tight and appreciate the fact that this is someone who is offering something to you rather than just, as your children are entitled to do, taking.
3 – Breathe in
When you step outside your front door in the morning take a deep breath and look around you. Yes, you may have just been screaming blue murder because nobody had their shoes and coats on, yes you may be running 7 minutes late and Mrs Doherty will give you that look when you drop little Jimmy off but just take a second for yourself to appreciate the fact that this is a fresh new day, that everywhere people are going about their business, that your problems, however big, are temporary and the world keeps on going. Maybe the sun is shining, which is nice, maybe it’s pissing it down in sheets of icy rain determined to penetrate the weak points of your waterproofs – either way today is a day all on its own and tomorrow it will be gone, so take a moment to notice that, even if you can’t really appreciate it right now.
4 – Dress up…
Just now and again, for no apparent reason. Make a special effort with your hair, wear the less practical shoes, forget that you’re going to be crawling round the floor picking up duplo and fragments of wax crayons and put on a skirt (unless you’re a dad… or wear one anyway and enjoy the sense of airy freedom and the funny looks at the school gate) . If you still own any makeup then slap a bit on (repeat dad proviso). Every time you look in a mirror you’ll be pleasantly surprised – and so will everybody who sees you who knows how you normally look.
Comments like “Are you going somewhere special?” and “You look nice – what’s the occasion?” aren’t slights, they’re compliments. Enjoy them.
5 – Take some time
Parenting is full on, whether you do it full time, or have to fit it around another full time job. Don’t spend all the peaceful moments catching up on chores and doing stuff for the family. Spending 5 minutes on yourself when the baby finally goes down for a nap will not cause the world to come to a crashing halt, even if the laundry basket is threatening a coup before the washing gets out and walks itself to the machine. I mean c’mon – how can you ever use your special cake (or nachos) plate if you never take the time to sit down and eat it.