Last weekend, I took of my mum badge for an entire 30 hours and went on a spa day.
It. Was. Incredible.
My husband took the toddler of terror off to his folks for the weekend leaving me, to… well… just be me again.
And in case you think I’m overselling this here as a seriously momentous occasion, I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I’ve had an entire night or day away from the baby since he was born.
That’s 21 months of pretty much solid mammying. 21 months of putting his needs ahead of mine. 21 months of having a sore back from carrying him. 21 months of barely having time for a couple of showers a week. 21 months of cold cups of coffee. 21 months of letting myself basically go to seed. 21 months of changing nappies, dealing with tantrums, scrubbing excrement off my hands. 21 months of being the primary carer and having all the responsibility for another little life sit squarely on my shoulder. 21 months of not being able to switch off.
Needless to say, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, the night before I went to the spa. I sat on the couch with my husband looking around, trying to get my head around the fact that in 24 hours I would be sitting there by myself. No hubby, no toddler asleep upstairs. I could turn the TV up all the way to 11! Flush the toilet after 9pm without fear of waking him up! No creeping up the stairs. No keeping an ear out. No monitor by my side.
Just me. Well me and two snoring cavaliers.
And so I woke up on the Saturday morning, still not really taking the moment in as I fused around making sure I’d packed everything the hubby and toddler could possibly need for their overnight with the folks.
And then in a haze of goodbyes they were gone. On autopilot, I got in the car and high tailed it to the spa, where very soon I found myself in a dressing gown and slippers, eating a spa lunch in total peace and harmony.
I went to sauna, the steam rooms. I lay in the relaxation rooms, listening to music and podcasts. Things I NEVER get to do at home. And for the first time in months. I switched off. I mean I really switched off.
I lay on the treatment bed as the therapist massaged me into oblivion and I realised I wasn’t thinking about my son. I wasn’t stressing about what he’d eat that day for dinner. About whether he was on target in terms of his speech for his age. About how he was settling in playschool. About the new shoes I have to buy him. About the activities he had on for the week. About playschool drop offs, tackling tantrums, how to cut down on his screen time or all the little ways I could be doing better as a mum.
Nothing. No worrying. No responsibility constantly tapping me on the shoulders. No dreadful guilt, drilling into my brain.
It was just me and I’d left the huge bag of heavy bricks I normally carry around and parked it at the door. Instead, I felt lighter. I felt like a human being again, like a woman, not just a mum who is at the beck and call of another 24/7.
I didn’t let myself feel guilty about it either, because while in the past, pre-kid me may not have deserved a treat like this and in fact she may have felt quite self-entitled on such a day out, the Niamh of today, the person and mother I’ve become, abso-fuckin-loutley deserved every single moment of it!
And so do you mammies. It doesn’t have to be a fancy spa day either. For me, that had been last year’s Christmas present, sitting on the shelf collecting dust, before I finally decided to use it. But it could have been anything. A day away shopping. A girlie night out with your friends. A walk. A meal out. A movie. A cycle. A yoga class. Something as simple as a bath. Anything where you can get some solid hours away from your mum badge. Anything that lets you remember that you’re also a woman, a person in her own right who needs some self-care.
Yes. I said it. Self-care.
It might be an annoying buzz word du jour, but beneath the spin, at the heart of it, lies a very real truth. You cannot exist on coffee fumes and broken sleep forever. You’ve got to take care of yourself mammies. Do whatever it takes to find some time, even once a week to do something that’s JUST for you and no-one else.