Two little words to set us free.
I don’t iron. I don’t cut my children’s school-lunch sandwiches into little hearts. I don’t throw lavish birthday parties with inflatable jumping castles. But, look, I do curl up in bed to read them a book, and I do embarrass them with my public dance moves on the regular.
Writing an ‘I Don’t’ list – sharing the things that we don’t do as busy women, against the tide of productivity-maximising “To Do” lists that are always unspooling in our minds is an uplifting, sisterly act of solidarity, making each of us feel better as we realise that we are not alone in our imperfection. We’re all just doing our best.
But since I Don’t lists have taken flight around the country, there is a question I’ve been asked, more than once.
So, What Do You Do?
The subtext is: If you don’t cook healthy meals every night, and answer emails at 10pm, conjugate French verbs in between maths tutoring sessions and make your own kefir, what are you even doing?
Plenty, friends. We’re all doing plenty. And never more than we’re doing between 5pm and 7.30pm, that wild time between leaving work and the kids going to bed. The slide towards that golden time when you can clock off, sit down, and maybe squeeze in a moment to yourself.
And in the interests of sharing, I’d like to present to you the list of things I do do between 5-7.30pm:
- I do try to leave the office on time. The kids aren’t wild about after-school care, and at 5.05pm, like an optimistic meerkat, my head’s popping above my cubicle, looking for a clear path to the exit so I can slip out the door unbothered.
- I do… almost make it. “Oh, have you just got five minutes?” Dammit, Karen, I didn’t see you lurking by the lift. Is this really going to take five minutes? I didn’t think so.
- I do… run for the bus. My cardio is now ticked off for the day.
- I do… live for that moment when the kids see me across the playground and hone in for a bear hug. But sometimes they’re so deep in a Pokémon transaction, I’m lucky to get a nod. Gangsters.
- I do… make small talk with the other parents at pick-up, and desperately try to remember their names and the names of their kids, as they’re trying to remember my name and the names of my kids. We should just make a pact to all refer to each other as Doris and all to the kids as Shane or Angel.
- I do… walk in the door to this morning’s leftover dishes from breakfast. Whoops! Thought this morning that was ‘future me’s problem. And here we are… in the future.
- I do… realise I have no idea what’s for dinner. Looked in cupboard, found tin of chickpeas and bag of pasta. Looked in fridge, found some shiny devon ham and some yellowing cheese. Mystery pasta salad it is, then.
- I do… manage to convince them this is a gourmet dinner and if we were all on MasterChef right now, they’d be proud to ‘plate it up’.
- I do… run the bath. Explain to kids, for the 20th time this year, why they have to have a bath. Convince them it’s much better not to smell than to smell. Tiny triumph.
- I do… still help them get dressed in their PJs. Definitely for speed, and not so I can get a lovely cuddly whiff of their hair. No, definitely not that.
- I do… read and sing and shush and check. It seems our bedtime routine is getting more complicated by the day.
- And repeat.
- I do… sneak back to the living room, excited at the idea of rewarding my smarts with a long call to my best girlfriend, with an icy treat in hand.
- I do… jump up when I hear the first, “Muuuuuuum!” and head back into their room for another round of goodnights.
And then, I do… clock off. Sit back with a chilled G&T, set up my Skype call and assume the position for a Netflix drop.
I do love the feeling of stopping after running all day long. I do adore the sight of my kids sleeping when I tip-toe back into their room to the sounds of their rhythmic breathing. And I do embrace any chance to lie down while I’m awake.
But there are still a few ‘I Don’ts’.
These days I’ve learned a very important lesson about the ‘I Don’t’ list that I’m living by. I don’t feel bad for giving myself a break and a little ‘me’ time (sometimes served in a glass with a slice of lemon).
I don’t think that a busy parent can run on empty for ever, I don’t want to miss a moment, I don’t need a fancy night out to recharge and I don’t believe in a world without special little moments to look forward to.
I just… don’t.
We all deserve the chance to clock off and thanks to Gordon’s Gin, you could win the ultimate holiday getaway to Hamilton Island for you and three friends. To enter, sign their “clock-off” pledge here.