This week's post is our second column from the fabulous Robyn Wilder, who's a bit of a multitasking legend. As are all mums, I think. But this week she tells us how everyone needs a break, sometimes. And that's something we're totally on board with...
The Importance of a Day Off
I’m writing to you from the middle of a week gone awry. I am a stay-at-home mother to a toddler and a freelance journalist, and as a family we have a very specific routine that makes this setup work.
A nanny spends three mornings a week with my one-year-old son so I can write, and my husband (who also works from home) takes him for a couple of afternoons so I can edit, pitch, and do admin. When it works, it works well – I can live the dream of earning (almost) a living and (almost) keeping on top of the housework. But when it breaks – if another piece of work comes in, or I’m unwell, or even if an ill-placed phonecall goes on too long – it canbreak the entire week, with chores, deadlines, sleep, happiness and all the other essential bits of life all toppling each other over like haphazardly placed dominos.
This week, it broke.
This week, the nanny couldn’t come one day. Fine, I thought – I’ll work when the baby naps. But of course my son chose this particular day to rampage around the house instead of napping. When he finally did go down I felt the stirrings of a migraine start up its distant drums of doom, and had to abandon any sort of productivity for the only sort of rest you can enjoy when you have a toddler (listlessly parenting with CBeebies in the background).
The next day I was better, but beyond tense. I was rushing around trying to make up yesterday’s shortfall both at work and home. And, while I was begging editors for deadline extensions with one hand and sorting laundry with another, of course my son was banging a plastic dump truck against my shins because he, too, wanted to spend time with me.
To say I was stressed would be an understatement. I think at one point my ears actually started emitting steam. Especially as, mentally, I was cursing myself for “having a day off” yesterday.
But that’s when I pulled myself up. Because, hang on, I hadn’t had a day off. I’d been unwell. And now – I realised, as I took stock of the way my body was feeling, and how frazzled and short-circuity my brain was – I wasn’t actually 100% at this moment.
So I chucked it all in. I stopped trying. I put the laundry aside and sat down and played with my son. Then we decamped to my mother-in-law’s house and my son tried to count all the pebbles in her garden while I did some low-key work and told the rest of my editors that I was still unwell.
And then? Well, I took a day off.
Because one thing I’m really susceptible to – and I think a lot of new mothers are guilty of this – is the guilt that was should be doing it all, because we wanted to have it all. So if we are seen to be failing, somehow we are betraying ourselves.
However, I firmly believe that if you’re telling yourself off for not being more productive when you are physically trying your very best, it’s time to take a day off. As a family we’ve had to take some financial hits since we had a baby and a reduced income, but one day off won’t hurt me.
And on my day off? My son and I loitered in bed for ages, playing. Then we lingered over breakfast. Then we splashed in the bath, and went out and splashed in puddles in the park. We spent the afternoon napping and crawling around being silly in front of a Netflix box set, had a low-effort dinner and went to bed long before the sun went down.
And it was BRILLIANT. The next day I went back to work much calmer and with a brain that was no longer fizzing or clicking. Of course, the aim is not to get to a state where steam is actually coming out of my ears, so now I’m building in days off to my working routine, nominally to save my sanity but also because EVERYONE deserves a day off a week. Everyone.