The Bathroom Is My Tuscany

By Veronica

I have had a stressful day with meetings and whinings and the start of spring allergies, so here is a post from Toddled Dredge from 2006 – updated! I promise! It is still true, though my stamina for children has increased greatly since writing it.

When I was single and struggled with occasional bouts of depression (I still do), my father would remind me to always give myself something to look forward to. Each week I would pick something pleasant to anticipate. The first year of my doctoral program, I waited for Friday afternoon when the local public radio station played old sci-fi radio programs from the fifties. The creativity of the programs tickled me, and the antiquated notions about sex, race and the speed of scientific achievement added an anthropological interest.

The danger of pinning my emotional health on something to look forward to, of course, was that when something disrupted my plans and I missed the awaited pleasure, the disappointment was crushing. One of the reasons I decided to marry was the observation that while single, I pinned so much of my emotional health on the structure I established that I began to hate – real, deep-down hate – the people and things that disrupted that structure. I saw that character flaw in me and realized I needed the daily rasp and rub of a loving, disruptive person to add texture and flexibility to my life.

But now that we have children, those rubs and rasps can get a little too frequent, and I end up raw and in need of healing. I get a few precious hours away from the children each week, but a little more is necessary to care for them and enjoy them at the same time.

Nothing makes you appreciate a shower like having a baby. When the baby is tiny and wants to be with you all the time, waking you at random hours, bathing becomes a rare luxury. When every rare moment without the child becomes a choice between activity and sleep, most of us choose sleep. Most weeks I only get to shower once or twice, and when I am pregnant and my sense of smell is about three times as sensitive, that takes a crushing toll on my self-esteem.

But as showers become more infrequent, they become more luxurious. I am not a fussy gal; left to myself, I don’t bother much with creams and cosmetics and assorted vanity goops, but since having babies, my bath or shower has become a spa experience.

When my first baby was a few weeks old, my in-laws visited, and, with three adults to amuse her, I decided I would like to take a bath. I intended a real bath, a refuge from responsibilities, where I would not concern myself with what anybody else wanted. I asked everyone if they needed to use the bathroom and, when they declined, made sure I would not be in their way if I locked the door and took a bath.

Then I filled our roomy cast-iron tub with hot, bubbly water. I poured myself a cool glass of riesling. I found my favorite herbal soap, and some face cream. I got out a favorite novel and a tray that stretched across the tub to hold my book. I think I even lit a candle. And I soaked and drank and read and lathered and unwound for an hour.

When I finally got out, my mom-in-law said, in that tone of voice only possible for mothers-in-law, “That was a long bath.” My husband said, “I was afraid you’d fallen asleep.” I smiled seraphically and said, “No. I just took a bath.” They have never commented again. Now the family knows when I say a bath, I mean a bath.

The shock of suddenly having a tiny lifeform uttery dependent on me has worn off. Having four kids now does not feel as stressful as having one baby did. I get time to myself after they go to sleep, and I have much more realistic expectations about how much I can get done in a day.I no longer feel the same sense of panic and exhaustion.

But still, every once in awhile, after the kids are in bed, I draw that hot bath, find a good novel, and soak till my fingers are pruney.

What do you do to unwind on the hard days?

When Veronica is not pouring bubble bath, she blogs at Toddled Dredge.

9 Responses to The Bathroom Is My Tuscany
  1. Adventures In Babywearing
    March 10, 2009 | 10:13 am

    I am so much like this. I need something to look forward to (mine is more daily than weekly) so yesterday I looked forward to going to Target today. Sometimes it’s just the promise of a favorite drink late in the day or leafing through a magazine uninterrupted. I get it.


  2. Kelly
    March 10, 2009 | 11:06 am

    I try to have one thing each day that is a look-forward-to activity. Sometimes, it’s as simple as cooking a really good dinner, since I love to cook. Other times, it’s as comforting as a fresh cup of decaf in the afternoon.

    I think this is one of those small but vital things we can do as Moms to stay healthy.

  3. Mad
    March 10, 2009 | 2:06 pm

    It’s a bath for me too–with a good book and a cup of tea or sometimes a small dram of Scotch.

  4. Beck
    March 10, 2009 | 2:14 pm

    I have long hot boozy bubble baths with detective novels. LONG baths.

  5. Louise
    March 10, 2009 | 2:23 pm

    I’m going to have to start trying that bath with wine thing (after the baby comes, of course). My usual indulgence is just curling up on the couch with a good book after Bug goes to bed. Most nights that doesn’t quite cut it. I did bake myself a pan of brownies the other day and have been enjoying those when I start to get too stressed–chocolate always does wonders!

  6. Thea
    March 10, 2009 | 4:37 pm

    Oh, man, I do exactly that. Wine, book, bathtub. For the first three months after my daughter was born, we didn’t have a tub, and when we moved I listed it as my top criteria: no tub, no lease. We got a tub. I love it.

  7. Ally
    March 11, 2009 | 1:48 pm

    I confess to hiding in the bathroom from my two-month-old, when my husband is home. I can ask DH to take the little one so I can have a little time to myself, but invariably if I’m available he’s back with me in fifteen minutes with a problem only nursing can solve. So I shower until the hot water runs out, or sit on the toilet and read. And they seem to get on fine most of the time.

  8. Abra
    March 11, 2009 | 3:11 pm

    The bath is such a luxury when you have kids. I look forward to the weekends when my husband is home and I can take a shower without having a baby in the bathroom with me. Oh, and baths. Don’t get me started. Bubblebath-yes, please.

  9. lennot
    March 27, 2012 | 3:54 pm

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