It’s 5am and like a stealth ninja I pulled myself from a sleeping baby and slinked through the bedroom door. I walked past the toddlers room, held my breath and pulled his door until the moment before it clicked. I tip toed to the kitchen, boiled the kettle, plunged a strong coffee and risked the sound of pulling my favourite cup from the dishwasher. A moment of solitude is within my grasp and it deserves fine china.
I’m now sitting in my messy office, the window is open a cool breeze is coming in, the birds are singing and the trees are still*.
Everybody needs moments of peace. Moments of time alone, to sit and be or do things that make them feel alive and well. Motherhood and marriage are a grand joy but they are also a grand restriction. 95% of the time that restriction is fine. 5% of the time it is not. In my experience, the absence of the 5% can determine the mental health and well being of an entire family.
The reality is the 5% is easily pushed aside by the needs and demands of others and we allow it because they are LOUD, because it seems the easier thing to do. But it’s not sustainable and its damaging to all involved.
I am not motherhood. Motherhood is a role I play. Before motherhood I was spontaneous, I traveled, I played sport, I learnt new things, I studied things that interested me, I read books more than two pages at a time, I gave to my community, I cared for my friends, my family and I nurtured my relationship with my husband. Many of these things have been pressed out of my life, others I do haphazardly and poorly.
Here’s the rub, those passions never went away. They are still there. I have not changed. But my life has. And you know what? I grieve for my old self. I do. I grieve for the things that made me interesting, for the things my husband most likely fell in love with, the things that made me vibrant. I am a shadow of that self.
It goes without saying that my children bring me the greatest joy, I look at their faces and they make my heart sing. But as every mother will tell you they are demanding, constant, relentless and frustrating little feckers at times! They are 24 / 7. Sleep for me is broken an average of 7 times a night at present. So yeah, I mean 24 / 7. Which is fine, but give me 5%.
5% can mean a lot of things. 5% can mean a trip to the grocery store without children (equivalent to a tropical island retreat); 5% can mean time for a 30 minute walk; 5% can mean an occasional coffee at a coffee shop sans children; 5% can mean a 30 minute swim at the pool; 5% can mean participating in an organised sport; 5% can mean an opportunity to mow the lawn or potter in the garden uninterrupted or occasionally being taken out to do something nice without having to organise it yourself.
That 5% is something to hold on to, something to look forward to. It is allocated time to breath and remember who you are. That 5% is really not negotiable.
This week I claimed it. I did not ask permission. I took it. I went to my first dragon boat training session and I loved it. I planned my 5% and I got it and guess what? No one died, no one suffered much more than inconvenience and while the muscles in my back are now sore, my head is good. I once again feel I have something to give.
2015 will be the year of 5% for me. Because it has to be.
*My solitude ended at this point. I got 17 minutes. Not that I was counting.