Switching off


When I was little, I always used to read before going to sleep. Right from the age of five or six, I’d have a book on the go beside my bed. That habit lasted throughout school and, later, university. In fact, it didn’t stop until around two years ago.

In 2012 I started a new job that involved working crazy hours. I would get up at 3.30 in the morning, commute to work, do a radio show and then have meetings before driving home to spend the afternoon with my toddler. In the evenings I would do my other work – my writing work. I would fall into bed at 11 o’clock, exhausted. I was too tired to read but too wired to sleep, so I’d take my phone to bed and scroll through Facebook and Twitter, or watch stupid stuff on YouTube.

Unsurprisingly, I felt like crap. 

Sleep deprivation is an evil, evil thing. There’s a reason they use it as a form of torture, you know. Sleep deprivation affects your mental and physical health. But so does never giving yourself any time out. In the last few months I’ve finally learned the benefits of switching off – properly switching off – so that I sleep better and generally feel less crap.

When you’re a parent it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting your own needs last. Why would you bother taking half an hour for a bath when you could have a shower in five minutes, and use the remaining 25 to do something productive? Why sit and read a book when there are work deadlines to be met? What’s the point of watching a film when there’s a rising pile of laundry waiting to be tackled?

Because if you don’t take the time to do some of these things – for yourself and no one else – then you will go slowly mad.

When Frog was a newborn, my midwife told me, “The most important thing for a happy baby is a happy mum!” I inwardly rolled my eyes, thinking yeah, right. But now I can see how taking time out for myself and allowing a bit of indulgence probably does make me a better mum.


When I’m not running empty on sleep, I feel less snappy. When I’ve had time to read a book, I feel fulfilled. And when I’ve gone all vain and done a face pack in the bath? Well I feel a bit less scary when I look in the mirror the following morning.

One thing I’ve found in my adventures of switching off though, is that the very worst way to relax, for me, is with social media. Perhaps it’s because I use it so much for work, or perhaps it’s just because it’s all a bit noisy, but if I really want to wind down, I have to turn my phone off and make sure the laptop is put away. The temptation is too strong to get involved otherwise.

I’m the worst at suffering in silence and then taking it out on those around me. This time last year I felt constantly resentful, taken for granted and under-appreciated. I’m sure some of that was to do with the lack of sleep and my work situation, but I have to own some responsibility and accept that if I’d taken the time to switch off and take control of my own hours, then I probably wouldn’t have felt so trodden on.

That’s why these days, I look at the odd evening off, early night or cheeky weekend afternoon reading session as a necessity. They make me a better wife, mum and all-round happier person.

It sounds like one of those cheesy life coaching mantras, but if don’t take the time to properly switch off, I can never fully switch on.

Do you find taking time out important?


  1. says

    I need to take this advice!! I try so hard to leave my phone downstairs when I go to bed, and to read a book when I have a bath/before bed. I don’t always succeed but I am going to make a concerted effort, as you are right, it makes such a difference. I also find exercising gives me thinking space and helps overall, so I need to get my ass down to the gym!

  2. Kate W says

    I absolutely do…..

    When my Molly was 15 mths old, I went to the Dr because I was convinced I was losing my marbles – turns out that attempting to do EVERTHING myself on virtually no sleep wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had and the Dr diagnosed delayed onset Post Natal Depression.
    She wanted to put me on to anti depressants, but I asked for a few days to get my head round it and look into possible “natural” alternatives – when I got home, I told Mr W what she’d said & he declared “Right! I am in charge tonight and for the rest of the week!” and he took over the whole palaver of bedtime and sent me upstairs for an hour to do WHATEVER I LIKED!!

    We did this for 3 weeks solid, and it turned out I didn’t need any tablets after all – now i take all the chances I can to get time to myself because I know it’s the only way I’ll continue to keep a firm grasp on my marbles!!

    • says

      That’s so interesting to hear. I think often as parents we try to just battle on and forget that we need to take care of ourselves too. Glad you had a supportive husband to help you work out what you needed! xx

  3. says

    I so need to take this advice.

    My phone is always on – I answer parenting emails at 3am to stressed parents.

    I scroll through my social media timelines and click on links to cool house stuff, nice shoes, silly videos. I don’t stop until I’m exhausted.

    I uses to read so many books.

    I used to take long baths and have pamper sessions in the bathroom.

    I used to buy trashy mags to read on the sofa when the kids had gone to bed.

    Thankyou for this. You’re my new ‘new me’ guru!

    • says

      And I’m sure it’s advice you would give to stressed parents yourself! I have been there scrolling my timeline at 3am because I’ve been panicking about work or couldn’t sleep – and the end result was exhaustion, irritability and generally being massively over-emotional. Not good – for anyone!

  4. says

    Totally with you there lovely and blogged quite a bit about my changes in work schedule and LIFE schedule since my creative and personal plan for 2014.

    I now have a day off midweek just for Oliver and I to spend alone time together and I’ve transformed my workload, upping fees, taking on fewer commissions-saying NO to things (why is no so hard) and heck ENJOYING life so much more…your midwife was totally right, mum needs to be happy first and somehow, I’m achieving balance (or getting there) and it feels good, oh so good!

    You enjoy that bubble bath, looks like bliss x

  5. says

    I worked til gone midnight last night and then foolishly we went to bed by the romantic light of two iPhones and before I knew it, it was 1am. Hideous. I am definitely trying to have more of a home/work life balance. When you are both self employed it’s hard mot to keep going and going but over Christmas I took a complete break from all work for a whole week – it felt heavenly. Pockets of nothing is the way forward for me and then full on again. I’m an all of nothing girl! Great post M xx

  6. says

    This post is so spot on – relieved to see I’m not the only one! Before I had Little Miss I used to love reading before bed. I still do but these days rarely seem to get round to it. Every night I mean to go to bed earlier than I have and I’ve never been a morning person so really struggle to get going first thing. Going to try even harder tonight! The phone is a big issue, like you I find it hard not to pick the damn thing up and start browsing – even if I’ve already spent much of the evening online! I did force myself to leave it alone last night and pick up the book instead, it was much more relaxing and I was asleep much earlier as a result.

  7. says

    Me time is so important! I have started making sure I read a bit of my book ever day or at night just before bed now or go the gym or for a swim. My hubby is really good at making me take time off to which is great I think as I used to feel guilty. He was like “what? you don’t trust me?” He hates when people talk about daddy’s doing the babysitting 🙂

  8. says

    I was terrible at genuinely taking time off everything and relaxing. Nearly 2 years on I do it regularly and without guilt and I think it’s made me a better parent – more patient, more engaged and less distracted. Even more so when you go though a bad sleeping patch, which is when I generally find my thoughts of having another put on hold when I remember just how knackering newborns are!

  9. says

    For me, the challenge is going to be not to spend time scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I’m waking up for night feeds in a few weeks’ time. It just made it that much harder to fall asleep and I’m going to need all the sleep I can get! I love your clock, by the way.

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