The benefits of a pyjama day
Although this blog is definitely meant to be about the joys of different experiences, they don’t all need to involve trying something new, booking something or going somewhere (though I hope many of them will!). I also want to take my own advice about finding joy by appreciating what's right in front of me.
And what’s right in front of me, a lot of the time, is the kids. As a single resident parent, I spend a lot of time at home with my children, whether I’m working or not. As a freelancer, work tends to follow the ‘feast and famine’ pattern of either full-on, full-time weeks complete with hellish commute, or no work on at all, meaning I can do every school run but am distracted by the fear of whether I’ve banked my last-ever pay cheque. But work is always juggled around the children.
And I don’t think it’s just me who sometimes finds time at home less relaxing than being at work, on deadline. Otherwise blogs like this and this (both firm favourites of mine among the Mummy-blog genre!) wouldn't exist.
One of the things I’ve had to learn due to my circumstances over the last few years is how to actually have a relaxing weekend with the children always in tow. How to be with them for so much time and not get bogged down in the relentlessness of somebody else’s needs always coming before mine; of not having someone to call on for backup, or coming home at some point to help out. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.
A solution that has gradually revealed itself to me over the last couple of transitional years is the pyjama day. I know it's nothing new, but it was anathema to me until I realised just how much damage the manic pace of our lives had done (more of that later). My three-year-old daughter has always mispronounced pyjamas as ‘jamamas’. It’s an expression I find heart-meltingly cute, and her big brother and I have adopted it too. So in our house a lazy day is a ‘jamama day’.
It’s not so much a plan – or even lack of a plan – as it is a perspective shift on my part. I definitely don’t manage it all the time, but when I consciously try to have a ‘jamama day,’ I slow down, tune into them and really try to be present. Instead of trying to do 5,347 other jobs at the same time as taking care of them, or distracting myself with the adult world I can access from my phone, I let them pull me into their world, whether it’s an intricate dissection of Spurs’ most recent performance or a word-perfect rendition of Baby Shark for the sixth time that morning. If I really listen and engage then I generally find I enjoy our time together much more. And the good thing about the weekend is that there’s no school run. If I’m not trying to get us somewhere by a deadline, then it’s good to use the chance to slow down to their pace.
So the first priority is play; not getting dressed, tidying up the kitchen, or planning anything else at all. We’ll get out every toy they want to and make a mess (but build in time later for them to help tidy them up too). We’ll cuddle up to enjoy a Disney film, and I'll do my best to actually sit with them and watch it rather than using the time that they’re otherwise engaged to get things done. I’ll try to let them linger and splash in the bath rather than rushing through the bedtime routine. Start earlier and build in enough time to fulfill all the story requests.
But having a slow ‘jamama day’ doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t get dressed at all. More often than not, we do, and we usually go somewhere, even if it’s just an hour or so at the local park for fresh air. But I try to hold onto the mentality that the priority is just being in the moment together, trying to embrace our downtime together rather than get through it.
This is definitely not our typical weekend, and it’s probably rare for me to manage a whole one without a sigh or muttered swear word. But some days, primarily when one (or more!) of us seems to need some downtime, I try to just… surrender. No sensory overload: no soft play, no supermarket (unless we’re out of food, of course!), no emails, no running around. Just the three of us, reconnecting. If I can find the patience to relish the time rather than wishing the hours away, then I’m more likely to find it restorative for me as well as for them.