Alone Time & the Highly Sensitive Mother
School Holidays, don't you just love them? Lie-ins, leisurely breakfasts, lazy days full of laughter, fun & games & quality time with the children.
That's what I usually think in the run-up to any holidays. Having just come out of half-term week, the reality is quite different! In our family, at least. As much as I enjoy spending time with my children, I really do need some time alone each day to recharge my batteries, time I don't always get during the holidays. By the time school starts again, I'm breathing a sigh of relief as I look forward to a quiet house & a few precious hours to myself.
I used to feel guilty about putting the girls in holiday clubs or paying what seemed like vast amounts for them to do something they enjoyed for a few hours or even days - after all, shouldn't I be organising exciting days out for all of us, catching up with friends that we don't usually see?
Since finding out about the Highly Sensitive trait, I've stopped feeling guilty - well mostly anyway. I now recognise how important it is as a Highly Sensitive mother to have some time to myself to empty my bucket. (With thanks to Amanda van Mulligan for the lovely analogy - every interaction we have, whether positive or negative, goes into our bucket & if we don't do things to empty our bucket, it can overflow, often with corresponding emotional reactions from us).
My bucket gets filled during the course of everyday life - shopping for & preparing meals for the family, clearing up, cleaning the house, tackling the mountainous laundry pile, let alone having to provide holiday entertainment for the children when they reach the inevitable 'I'm bored' stage followed by conflict resolution when the bickering starts. Being a Mum as we all know, is hard work!
What I've come to realise over the past couple of years of learning about my needs as a Highly Sensitive Person, is that I have to have quiet time, time when I'm alone & can get lost in an activity I enjoy, like reading or gardening. Time when there aren't any distractions or demands on me, where I don't have to multi-task or respond to the needs of anyone apart from myself.
This 'alone' time helps me lower my cortisol levels, activate my parasympathetic nervous system & relaxation response & so stay sane & healthy. Without some alone time each day, I cease to function effectively. In short I turn into a stressed, exhausted & short-tempered Mum who snaps at her children & husband & is generally no fun to be around. If this carries on for a while, & I don't get the alone time I so crave, my body starts signalling me & I become run-down & eventually fall ill. Not a good scenario for anyone!
I'd like to be around for a long time to come, to be healthy & fit while watching my children & their children grow up. If being able to be there for them means remembering to take an hour each day of alone time to empty my bucket, it's well worth doing. I sometimes need to remind myself that I'm not being indulgent or lazy or selfish when I do it, that it's not the end of the world if the laundry isn't folded or the washing up has to wait. Just as we all need to drink water each day to stay hydrated, I'm a Highly Sensitive Mother & it's just something I need to do to prevent overwhelm.
Now, when it's coming up to school holiday time, I make a point of arranging at least a few hours of childcare, whether it's in the form of playdates or holiday clubs, just so I have some alone time. And I definitely don't use those precious few hours to catch up on housework!