When was the last time it was quiet in your head? Not in your house, well that too, but in your mind? Because since I became a dad I find there’s a constant noise, and I want it to shut up for, oh maybe ten minutes.
What is this noise? Well some of it is the actual physical noise of my boys from 6am until 8pm shouting demands for toast, milk, juice, “push me iiiin”, potty, “pull my pants doooowwwwn”, “pull my pants uuuuup”, make a car/train/garage/hospital/cafe/shop out of the sofa and some cushions, where is my lego/car/tractor/toolbox/all manner of made-up objects, “I’m tired/not tired”, “I want to watch Chuggington/I don’t want to watch Chuggingtoooon!!!”, and wailing about the other one taking a toy, getting in the way, or simply existing.
OK so Frankie is actually pretty quiet and he can’t speak yet. It’s mainly Billy, sorry son.
The other noise is the constant internal nagging voice about everything that needs to get done and hasn’t been:
- The pile of washing (no, piles of washing) that is either on the way to be cleaned, or is clean and not dry, or is dry and needs to be put away (but actually just gets worn again from the washing pile).
- Ditto dishes by the sink/dishwasher.
- The kitchen floor that is covered in food and dirt as soon as it’s been hoovered and mopped.
- The toys. Everyfuckingwhere.
- I think I recall my mother once doing something called dusting? Nah. Dreamt that.
- Life admin e.g all the paperwork that’s sitting on the dining table like an uneaten and ever rising soufflé.
- The job hunting I am meant to be doing so we can pay for childcare so I can work so we can spend it on childcare.
- The garden. Ha bloody ha. That can wait till the boys are grown up.
- Writing shit like this and wondering what the point is (well it makes me feel better).
And then there’s the stuff I actually enjoy and hardly ever do anymore; reading a book, watching a film, going for a country walk, thinking about things.
Parents Need Time Out
Do you miss thinking? Not the harried thoughts that wake you up in a panic every morning. The quiet thoughts that you used to have in the days before children, when you’d sit in the garden at the weekend and simply be.
This is called mindfulness isn’t it. Even saying the word irritates me. But it’s true, whatever you want to call it we all need – actually really need, like we need food and air and water – time to stand and stare (or have a nice sit down and a cup of tea).
In the early months of having a baby there will be no time and that’s ok, you accept it and get stuck in. You imagine in hazy 3am moments that one day this will pass. Well it will, but it will be replaced with another kind of mayhem as the baby turns into a toddler and then a pre-schooler.
I am three and a bit years in to my life as a dad to two boys. Do you have those conversations where you wonder if it will be easier when they’re older and then reprimand yourself for ‘wishing the time away’ and not ‘being in the moment’?
I think all that is needed is an occasional hour or even a morning or afternoon to recharge. I don’t mean physically, although more sleep always helps. I’m talking about switching off.
Not using the time when they are at nursery or with the grandparents to rush headlong into a massive list of things that need doing.
Do some of the list if it’s making you feel panicked not doing it, by all means. But then force yourself to go out somewhere neutral that doesn’t remind you of home and mess and kids or work.
A Quiet Mind Is A Healthy Mind
So much of our life is spent on rails moving through the same patterns each day. Go somewhere different. Near or far, however you get there, go somewhere that catches your mind out and puts a stop to the noise in your head because it’s distracted by new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures.
- Stroll through a park or the countryside and stop now and then to listen to the ambient noise (you know, birds and that).
- Sit at a cafe and watch life pass by – be happy you’re not one of the busy people.
- Run. Cycle. Play sport. If you like that sort of thing.
- Or walk. Somewhere new. Turn down a street you never go down. Pick a random point on a map and go there, see what you discover on the way.
- Plant some flowers. If you don’t have a garden or balcony try guerrilla gardening.
Giving your head time off is just as important, maybe more, than resting your body. If your back was really sore from carrying your children you’d ask for help or go and see your GP. But we all know that too often people whose minds are aching ignore it or believe they should be able to cope. Well coping isn’t living, it’s a temporary sticking plaster at best. You can’t cope indefinitely. One day things will start to fall apart.
Mental health has a high profile these days. But that doesn’t mean lots of people still ignore their own needs. So don’t wait until you’re suffering or on the edge. Taking care of your mind might be the difference that stops a small noise becoming a terrifying cacophony. Go on. Give yourself a break, you deserve it.
Have A (Child-free) Break
Here’s one way to find some peace and quiet – this week we’ve decided to have a holiday at home. We’re on holiday. But we aren’t GOING on holiday.
We’ve finally learned from our vacation mistakes and instead of packing up and going miles from home to be stressed by the kids in a different place we’ve paid for extra childcare. We had a brilliant day out with the boys yesterday and now we’ve got three whole days on our own.
It’s the longest time we’ve spent without looking after our children since Billy was born in 2014.
So after I’ve posted this I am going to sit in our garden for half an hour and do absolutely nothing. My head will be quiet.
And at some point I’ll start to miss the noise and watch a video of Billy singing Jingle Bells to his brother naked in the paddling pool. Obvs.
How do you find ways to grab a shot of zen in the parenthood storm? Do you encourage your kids to switch off too?
Here are some useful links:
Headspace (free starter exercises)
For your kids: Childline – mental health
Categories: Big Issues