When people asked me what I did for my birthday last year, I told them I spent it alone. They were a bit taken aback and one or two even responded with “oh, shame”, their voices filled with pity and confusion.
On the surface, I guess my statement does sound a bit sad – I mean, who wants to spend their birthday on their own? Well, me. I did. My husband always asks how I’d like to spend my birthday and last year I told him “I’d absolutely love to grab my Oprah book, go to the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, and have a long massage and a delicious lunch – alone.”
My husband, ever the expert on his wife, grinned and said “okay’’. So, rewind to when people asked me how I spent my birthday and imagine me telling them that I spent it alone, but with excitement and relief in my voice. Because it was exactly what I wanted and needed.
It seems that almost every activity possible in the world is designed to have at least two people participating in it. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and asked for a table for one? Try it and notice how you’ll get at least one odd or confused look, either from staff or fellow customers – or both. Going to the movies and eating popcorn without a companion? I’ve done it several times and it’s refreshing being able to watch a movie that I really want to watch it on the big screen and not have to convince a friend (who doesn’t even enjoy the cinema) to come with me.
“We’re constantly told that being alone is weird, that it’s lonely. And while it can be lonely being alone, it wouldn’t be if that’s what you want and need at the time.”
We’re constantly told that being alone is weird, that it’s lonely. And while it can be lonely being alone, it wouldn’t be if that’s what you want and need at the time. As mothers, we have it the worst. Most of us can’t even go to the toilet on our own. And if we’re alone for a few minutes, we’re inevitably thinking about something we need to do for a family member. And, if you have a house like mine, which consists of a toddler, a couple of furbabies and a sometimes random husband, there are moments where you can’t even hear your own thoughts – literally. The movements and energy everyone else creates are enough for me to crave a few minutes (read: hours) of quiet.
But being left alone doesn’t mean not doing anything, so here are three of my favourite solo dates:
1. Treat yourself to a meal
If you always disagree with your partner over the type of food to eat, or whether to eat out at all, this is your chance. You can finally try out that restaurant your hubby isn’t too keen on. Your choice will also be broadened because you’re not restricted to a child-friendly venue.
If you don’t manage to sneak out for long enough to have a full meal, sometimes a coffee or tea will do. I have a friend who leaves her house of four kids and a husband to enjoy an hour or so treating herself to some breakfast and a good read of the latest gossip magazine. She returns to her busy household feeling recharged and ready to take it on. While you’re at it, why not get dressed up a little? It’s a date after all.
2. Indulge your interests with a trip to a museum or art gallery
This is a great choice depending on what tickles your fancy. As a creative, I love art and seeing other pieces of work inspires me in my own work. If I’m stressed and distracted with chores, it makes it really difficult for me to tune into my creativity. I need the quiet and the break from the everyday, and expose myself to other people and environments.
They are my best sources of inspiration. If you’re not a fan of art, then science or history may be more your cup of tea. When was the last time you went to a museum or an aquarium without it being a day out with the kids? Basically, this is your chance to indulge in an interest that’s completely yours. Go wild.
3. Spoil yourself with a spa treatment
I saved this one for last because it’s so cliché. But it’s cliché because it works. There are very few places or times where people’s sole job is to treat you like a queen. Being in a space where you’re the centre of attention and pampering is the perfect way to counteract the demands of motherhood and wifedom. You can go as simple as a quick facial or, time permitting, go all out and spend the whole day there. It’s very difficult to leave a spa feeling stressed or tired. Well, at least it’s a good tired.
If any of the above is asking too much of your wallet, you can always stay at home and treat yourself to some DIY pamper time. Put on your favourite show – Sex and the City always does wonders for my soul – paint your nails or put on a face mask. Call me weird, but sometimes I like going through my clothes and pre-selecting outfits for the week. I try different combinations of items out and look forward to wearing them later.
Normally, I can get really frustrated when I have somewhere to go and the outfit that I thought would look cute in my head makes me feel chunky and drab. So, knowing I have a couple of great options ready to go makes me feel better and prepared for the week. That way I have one less thing on my daily to-do list to worry about.
It’s not always easy getting time off being a mom. But it’s incredibly important for your health, well-being, patience and ability to be fully present when you do wear your mama hat. Please don’t feel guilty for it, as you’ll be a sharing a better version of yourself with your loved ones. After all, if mama is okay, then family will be okay.
Aisha O’Reilly is a young African woman who loves natural hair, beauty and being a new mommy, among other things. Her aim is to inspire and encourage fellow women by giving them a peek into her life, with all of its ups, downs, questions and adventures in her blog, Aisha and Life.