Until I had kids I was a very messy person. But when I began maternity leave after having Small, a miraculous change took place – I suddenly became a neat freak! I think it was partly me nesting like crazy, but it must have had something to do with the fact that I was now at home for most of the day. Suddenly our space mattered more – I was really living in it now, spending many hours in some rooms, going through the challenges of new parenthood and raising a new person.
I was constantly organising and reorganising, throwing things out (much to my husband’s surprise – I was such a hoarder before!) and adding little touches to make our rooms calm and comfortable. Nowadays, how tidy the house is can make a huge difference to my state of mind.
I realised recently that our home is a real haven for me when my health isn’t so good. When I’m well, I can just enjoy the space and find ways to make it even better for the family. But when I can’t do that, it is definitely the one place where I can just crash out. The colours, smells, sounds are all comforting and familiar. I can just ‘be’.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s so important to still get out and see people when I can. Seeing friends and experiencing new things does wonders for my state of mind. But when I’m exhausted and in pain, there is really only one place I want to be.
And for now, wherever I am inevitably includes my two-year-old Tiny. I have written before about worrying that my children miss out because of my health, and I have had a bout of guilt about that recently. While I have been tired and achey, Tiny has sometimes been getting bored and fidgety, which isn’t fun for either of us.
So I’ve been focusing on making our living room a nice space for her too. Here are some tweaks I’ve made to make life easier for both of us:
- Making things accessible. I’ve moved her puzzles so she can access them more easily and choose them for herself. And as a perk she’s getting much better at understanding verbal instructions – a benefit of me not just getting things out for her, but describing how she can do it for herself.
- Switching it up. I’ve also been swapping toys and books around so she can enjoy ones that have sat sad and forgotten at the back of the cupboard for months.
- Creating a soundtrack. Tiny has developed a love for any song written by Ringo Starr in recent weeks, so we’ve been playing lots of ‘Yellow Submarine’ as we hang out together. And when I can’t bear it anymore we default to some mellow Bach!
- Building in treats. This could be getting in some treaty snacks or playing with really special toys. We can look forward to these treats together and they provide a marker in what can be a very long morning or afternoon.
- Investing in a trampoline, which has been our best purchase this year! We’ve positioned a little sofa by the patio doors so I can watch her bounce while being comfortable and warm when I need to be. We also have other garden toys and safe tools she can play with that keep her occupied. Decent wellies and woollies mean she can be out at any time of year. When my joints are behaving, we love gardening together.
I’m still on the hunt for more interesting, messy things we can do together that won’t be too much effort to set up or clean up. Suggestions welcome!
Whether you have small children or not, creating a space where you can just ‘be’ is so important if you have a condition that knocks you out sometimes (or often). I’m not talking about major renovation – sometimes a few accessories, the right music and a scented candle are all that’s needed to make a little haven for yourself.