The Myth of Me Time

Extract from the Aargh to Zzzz of Parenting by Jay Curtis and Joanna Simmons, Published by Square Peg 2010

Before you have children, ‘me time’ is just plain old time. Having a bath? Reading a book? Nibbling on a bar of Green & Blacks whilst watching ER? Sleeping? These ‘leisure’ activities don’t happen in specially designated and labelled contexts. Just bog standard real time. The concept of ‘me time’ does not exist. Because you are me. All the time. (No, not me me, but you me.) If you see what I mean. Yeah, maybe you have a partner, but he/she isn’t so demanding of your time that you need to aggressively annex some of it for yourself like Her Majesty’s Imperial Army marching into Bechuanaland. They are quite happy to be ignored for two hours while you read the Sunday papers and don’t persistently hammer on the bathroom door demanding you assemble their Scalextric track when you are busy enjoying yourself with some bath oils and a loofah.

Post children, it seems that the concept of special ‘me time’ begins to materialise. Indeed, as a parent of small children, you devote so much time to them that time spent on your own or pleasing yourself is as elusive and fleeting as a sunny day at Wimbledon. You are constantly on the go, ‘doing’ for other people. You can guarantee that your child will urgently need the toilet as soon as you’ve lathered up in the shower and will be incapable of thinking of any game to play with their playdate that doesn’t involve you crawling about on all fours or blowing up 18 balloons. You are so busy being a parent that it feels like you have very little time to just be you. And so the time you do have is precious and important. This I understand. But why does this have to be called me time?

Because of the appropriation of these parental moments of personal leisure and relaxation by cynical fat cat ad execs with a new angle on shifting some aspirational toiletries or chocolate bars. Everyone knows that father’s day is a commercial construct. But what about ‘me time’? I mean, when else would you use a £35 scented candle? Obviously it would be no good for a hurried five-minute shower on a normal-time school morning. But it would be ideal to accompany a 45-minute relaxing soak away from the demands of your family and the world, in the exotic spa that is your mouldy bathroom, during the magical time that is called me. And a Galaxy isn’t just a quick sugar hit with a coffee when you didn’t have time for lunch. Oh no. It’s a half-hour semi-erotic private experience to be savoured whenever your child goes next door to play. Got some time to yourself? Then consume!

But it is just time to ourselves, isn’t it? Time when we could read a book, sleep, count buttons, pick our noses or stare into space. A basic human right. Not some material prize for martyring ourselves on the altar of parenthood for which we should be eternally grateful. Not time that should have to be negotiated or earned. I don’t want to be made to feel thankful for being bought a bath bomb and being allowed an hour of a Saturday morning to use it. I’d be spending half of my allotted ‘me time’ fishing wet petals out of the plug-hole for starters.

No — you can keep your me time, or your you time. Whatever it is. But I’m definitely up for that Sunday walk and pub lunch. Without the kids of course. Just me and some old friends. Three hours of quality time. Yes that’ll do me fine. And what’s more, I’ll do five consecutive early mornings and a trip to the in-laws to get it.

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