Ooohh even writing ‘The Right to be Decadent’ makes me feel light-headed and anxious. But that’s what I’ve been today. Decadent. I’ve gone for an eye test to check if my eyes are okay for laser surgery (they are) it took most of the morning and meant that I couldn’t drive the whole afternoon. So no lift scheme, and my dear, sweet mother in law (yes such a mother in law does exist) had to drive me to pick up Prince No. 1 and do errands. (A mother who doesn’t drive is like an octopus without limbs. I think you’re disqualified actually. Just kidding.)
But driving is another topic. We’re talking decadence, we’re talking self-indulgence, we’re talking having your husband pick you up from Northcliff and take you out for lunch, as mine did today, as totally, obscenely decadent. And how does it feel?
On one hand it feels wonderful – like having blurry eyes for a day (just half a day no more than that am I willing to put up with) is a blessing in disguise.
On the other hand and this is an important point. When I am decadent – you know, having a pedicure, getting my hair done, reading a book in the middle of the day. Going for coffee and not writing etc, etc. I feel guilty. GUILTY like a black masked ghost that overcomes me, takes me over no matter how much I say to myself, ‘But I deserve it.’
The saddest thing of all is that when I feel guilty and I’m sure it’s this way with everyone – the pleasure is discounted. It’s a drag to go for a coffee with a friend. The guilt makes what is wonderful, heavy. It tells us off with a ‘should of’ and all sorts of mind talk that destroys us. Like,
‘So you’re leaving your children to go to yoga. What kind of mother are you? They’re neglected.’
‘But I want to go,’ you whine back.
‘Go then,’ our inner critic says. ‘But you’re not a good mother.’
‘Fine I’m not a good mother, but I’m burnt out and need to go.’
And so you go. Stomping off instead of floating.
How much better would it feel without that conversation. How much more would we enjoy our ‘time off’. I would. And the saddest thing is that I think we want those guilty conversations to take place, we like the shadow.
Why? Because in a funny way we feel better. Yes we’re taking time out but look I’m not going to enjoy it to my fullest so I’m not so bad. I feel guilty, so I’m a good mother.
This all can happen quite subconsciously. And I know it happens with me. Like when I’ve had a whole morning to myself. A morning of having my nails done, coffeeing and having a lovely time. Why then when I come back to my kids within the first hour I feel like I’m going mad. I feel stuck and exhausted. Why, why, why? I’ve just had a beautiful morning to myself?
I think it’s because of that black shadow of guilt that hangs around my neck like a noose. I’ve done lovely things but haven’t really allowed myself to be fully present.
Yes it’s subtle, yes it’s not normal. (But oh for that major philosophical question – are any of us normal?) But it happens.
So what to do? Well firstly we mothers need to let go of the guilt. We need to tell ourselves, ‘Go and enjoy yourself darling’. Just like the idealic, fantasy mother that most of us don’t have would say. (Because heavens no one else will say it to us. Sad but true.)
So here’s what I’m going to do. When I’m doing something lovely for myself – do it and savour it for the blessed time it is. When I’m doing something for my kids and being the usual, giving, loving (well I try) mother – do it fully. Like now I’m meant to be giving the 2 Princes a bath (the 2 year old vandaliser is sleeping because he’s a bit sick. It does make my job a bit easier with bathing. The fact is 2 is easier than 3.) So I’m going to go and leave this lovely white page of possibility and go bath them, be with them and not dream of my next quiet moment to myself. (Although they’ve already bathed themselves and are out of the bath. Oops! As I said the advantage of having a sleeping 2-year-old at bath time.)