Before I had a child, I truly had no appreciation for the beauty that is ‘free time’ and a comparably endless amount of it that I had to my disposal. I used to complain that I was tired after one night of stuttered sleep or one 5am wake up call, I used to treat myself to takeaways because I was busy and couldn’t be bothered to cook. I used to watch films and episode upon episode of rubbish on the TV, sometimes shows I had watched two or three times previously. It’s funny to me looking back, I don’t particularly have regrets about how I spent that time, I didn’t know better and I couldn’t have until Amelia blessed my life with her boundless energy. But I do, frequently wish that I had more of that time now.
At first motherhood was a black hole of nappies, exhaustion and above all, pure adoration that happily consumed every last second. I didn’t miss having free time, but had the least I had ever had. Doing everything by myself was tough, I barely had a minute away but I was so truly immersed in this new life I didn’t really consider the implications or that it would ever stop or certainly reduce. It has only been in the past year that I have started to notice Amelia’s independence blossoming, which is equally beautiful and agonising to watch because its replacing her dependence on me - what I have based my world upon for the past three years.
As she engages in games and independent play for longer and longer periods, focuses on films and television for a couple of creeping minutes longer a week until you can sit her in front of the TV for the whole hour to watch the Jungle Book uninterrupted. I find myself with these small snippets of time that I never envisioned having and am now tasked with filling. They are short; they are often plagued with unwelcome nagging chores that poke at my consciousness from the boring and practical side of my brain. But they now exist, which is a new and exciting concept. They generally happen at the worst times, when you are exhausted and have a million other things you should be doing but those monumental tasks seem so unthinkable at that particular moment.
But god are they good; surely the most valuable form of currency for any mother. I am utterly elated when one of these decreasingly rare moments present themselves and start to think of all the crazy things I could achieve. And as my journey of self love and appreciation for my mental wellbeing and above all happiness develops, I realise that having an immaculate house or extra money to buy that new rug I really want are truly quite vacuous and shallow pursuits, ones that won’t bring true contentment or any real value to my life. What I have begun to understand is that my ‘limits’ are purely a result of my perception, and I have surprised myself enough times now to know that my perception of myself is far from accurate. There are dreams and interests and passions I have never even explored because I thought I didn’t ‘have the time.’ But in fact, having less time has actually given me a new lease of life, the understanding that you’d better get cracking because you might not get these twenty minutes again for a couple of days, weeks, months. Life surges on and time dissolves effortlessly.
So now I find myself, listening to pod casts about terrorism and liberalism through headphones when I’m washing up and hoovering - I always thought I wasn’t smart enough to engage in such topics.
I find myself picking up my sketchpad and an old HB pencil and sitting down with a cup of tea to recreate a photograph I had taken that day. I always wished I were more creative and better at drawing.
I pick up my guitar for even just ten minutes in the evening once Mia’s tucked up in bed, I’m wishing I was in bed too but who knows when I’ll next get a chance to master that chord.
I find myself writing blog posts furiously with my phone cramped next to someone else’s armpit on the packed tube to work every morning.
I search for new artists to listen to and experience instead of putting on the same old thing. I take time to listen, REALLY listen to it and immerse myself in the freedom of doing so.
I empty out my wreck of a storage cupboard over the hall floor and pull it apart to throw away what I don’t need and organise the rest so that I’m not always wrestling the hoover out from behind piled up bags of useless paraphernalia.
And I do all of these willingly, with enthusiasm and the knowledge that these are meaningful gifts; little pockets of time that life sends me to remind me its possible to do anything, learn anything, be better and give myself the pleasure of improving day by day, slowly but surely. They are sacred, they have taught me to value time more than money, or success.
It’s easy to waste time, there is so much on Netflix and superficial celebrity drama to get caught up in. Sitting down in front of the TV and excusing yourself for cooking or cleaning or doing anything productive because your tired is easy, and certainly sometimes important and well deserved. But sometimes, push yourself to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do, or never want to do (like organise that cupboard full of absolute rubbish) and your belief in yourself and sense of achievement will truly make it worth it. Ignite your sense of wonder for the world again; we can learn so much our children and their endless energy, optimism and unwavering self-belief. Harness it, own it, learn and grow.
Motherhood and The Value of Time - by guest blogger - Jaya Chingen