When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves...
I have a friend, we’ll call her Sharon.
Sharon has a daughter, a teenager. Several years ago, when said daughter turned fifteen, my friend Sharon bought her Beyoncé tickets for her birthday. They would go together, a mother-daughter outing. It would be amazing; bonding, life-affirming, and also serving to confirm in her daughter’s mind that Sharon really was quite a cool mom.
Related: I'm learning new ways to manage my stress
Except that on receiving the tickets, the ingrate decided that instead of taking her mother, giver of life and Beyoncé tickets, she was taking a friend. In fact, devastatingly for Sharon, taking her mother simply never occurred to her.
“You think they’re your best friend, and then they give someone else your Beyoncé ticket,” she wailed down the phone to me at the time, having stoically sucked it up in front of her daughter.
It became a joke between us, both mothers of daughters. “You think they’re your best friend and then they...” any number of things.
Now, if I tell Herself jokingly that she, my four-year-old, is my best friend, the statement will either be greeted kindly (if maybe a shade pityingly with “you’re mine too Mommy”), or, depending on the mood she’s in, with a curt, dismissive, “no mommy. Noa’s my best friend.”
Of course, we’re not best friends. I’m her mother.
In the same vein, neither will I ever delight in the unlikely event that someone thinks we’re sisters.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
But, in the name of this week being Self-Care Week, I will say that for me, time with my daughter is the ultimate form of self-care.
By which I mean self-care being things that restore a sense of peace, calm, and balance to your life.
Working in a newspaper office (as I did for many years), you come across books you would otherwise never have read. One such one was the workbook accompaniment to the original classic self-help book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
Related: It's okay to talk about the bad stuff
A 'practical tips' type of thing; one chapter outlined how a person could not expect their partner to fill up their well, the metaphor used to symbolise a person’s sense of wellbeing.
If feeling ground down by life, they had to do 90% of the work themselves, and then they could turn to a partner for the final 10% of well-filling. And there was a list, of 100 things to do to restore yourself to a sense of wellbeing.
I took the book home for the list alone – the contact high from reading through it was enough to engender a feeling of feel-good. Painting nails, coffee with friends, yoga, getting your hair done, cooking a meal, calling a friend, taking a walk, out three yearly crafting sessions at the dining room table. That sort of thing.
If I was writing that list now, time with Herself would be at the top of it.
Not the getting out the door to school in the morning, struggling with the car seat in the rain, too tired to begin the bedtime routine, putting on the TV so you can secretly look at your phone stuff of parenting.
But the times when work isn’t pressing, nothing else is to be done, you’re not exhausted and it’s just the two of you going at your own pace. Those times.
Walking through the park to go to our local library, coffee shop, gym or playground. Sitting on the couch colouring. Chatting while she has her bath. Hanging out upstairs, putting away laundry while she plays and potters. Our Saturdays in town where we do Milano, gallery, park.
This month was stressful for various reasons. And when that happens it is necessary to make things really simple. Pare life down so that the overwhelm threatening to engulf can be coped with. Go into a sort of hibernation.
Not a shutting out of life. More a whittling down to the bare-but-best essentials. Beyond what absolutely needs to be done, ditching everything for a week or so bar the people, and activities, that will not drain you. Your own personal restoratives.
Chief amongst them, Herself.