It was early on a Saturday morning when I glimpsed the rare window of opportunity. Suddenly I felt the urge to do it for the first time in ages. The kids were eating bowls of cereal, their eyes glued to the telly, their ears strangely unable to hear me speak. My husband was still in bed so I raced upstairs. It felt thrilling as my pyjamas fell to the floor. The clock was already ticking and I knew at any minute I could be interrupted so I locked the door. I turned on the taps and let the hot water flow into the bath. Daring and decadent; this was my time, all mine.
Bathtime usually means something very different. The end of the day, sometime after 6 o’clock when everyone is over-tired and bedtime is so close yet still feels so far away. It starts with gentle requests, coaxing and cajoling my two daughters to please come up and get in the lovely, warm bath. It progresses to pleading before culminating in a loud, stern backwards count from 5 to 1.
Whichever child gets in first, the other always complains they wanted to win. If there is no rush and they could have a leisurely splash, they immediately demand the fastest dip ever with bottoms barely touching the bubbles. If a babysitter is coming and I need them to be in and out after a swift wash, they insist on a prolonged soak with no sense of urgency and a desire to play in the water for as long as possible.
I have rediscovered the power of the bath for a purpose other than cleaning my children. You may well have tried it but failed miserably so never bothered again. Perhaps the experience echoed the story of Mrs Large in Five Minutes’ Peace. I can definitely identify with her and not just because I feel a bit of an elephant when I take my kit off. Remember how she optimistically took in her cup of tea and newspaper? She was then rudely interrupted by each of her children taking turns to annoy her by playing the recorder and throwing toys in the bath.
How to have the best bath
The first rule is to somehow find a time when you won’t be disturbed, whether that’s when your other half takes the kids out, when everyone else is fast asleep or when you get back from the school run to an empty house. Make that moment happen without a shred of guilt.
You will have your own taste when it comes to temperature but for me a bath has to be hot, almost too hot when you first step in. Scalding your skin is never wise but there is something on that pleasure/pain spectrum about lowering your body into steaming water and letting out an audible sigh. It feels so far removed from bathing a baby when for some reason you stick an elbow in just to check it’s no more than lukewarm.
Next you need to set the scene, even if that just means closing your eyes and blocking out the state of the bathroom. Dim lighting or a couple of candles can work wonders as can an eye mask or just a facecloth. Put the plastic toys out of sight if you can. Your mindset has to change if it’s anything like mine which is programmed to nitpick, find fault and spot grime. I did briefly ponder how the grout looked like dried-up grey chewing gum then wondered why the shower curtain looked as if it had been dipped in baked beans. Somehow though I managed to switch off.
My phone is always in my hand or within reach but in the bath I couldn’t immediately go to my to do list or Amazon app and start typing ‘new shower curtain’. I am far too clumsy to have it anywhere near the water so instead my phone sat on the windowsill with a podcast playing. It felt refreshing to be removed from that constant need to stare at a screen, scrolling and searching. Instead I read a magazine, a treat usually reserved for the hairdresser’s chair.
Now for the lotions and potions to add a touch of luxury. A squirt of the kids’ strawberry-smelling bubble bath would have done the job but I sprinkled in some fancy bath salts. the kind you get as a present and would never dream of buying for yourself. The scent of rosemary filled the air and should have brought to mind fresh herbs in a garden but actually made me think of a roast dinner. My tummy rumbled. Snacks, that’s what was missing. Next time I will have to think of the best options to bring in. Mug of coffee and biscuits? Glass of wine and crisps?
I emerged from the bathroom, relaxed and rejuvenated, feeling like a new woman. My mood was less prickly and the same could be said for my legs.
As mums we spend so long doing so much for everyone else in the family that we can forget to carve out the briefest of breaks for ourselves. I have vowed to make this ritual a regular part of my routine.
Do yourself a favour, run a bath and take some time out.