Both Noel and I do a lot with our children, to the point where we sometimes wonder 'do we do too much with them?' I do think there's a difference between doing things WITH them and doing things FOR them, and neither of us want to look back and think 'I wish I'd spent more time with them and done more with them.'
We are both really keen to have the energy to keep up with Cherry and Violet, to have fun with them and enjoy these precious short years while they think their parents are the centre of the universe and want nothing more than to be with us.
I think I really take it for granted that I will always be healthy, energetic fit and strong. That I will always be able to get up and go for a run before spending a full and active day with my children, cooking every meal from scratch and keeping on top of the housework, then putting them to bed and doing 90 minutes of yoga.
Both Noel and I look after our health. We eat healthily, exercise a lot and I in particular spend as much time outside as possible. We also try and get enough sleep, difficult with a constantly-waking two-and-a-half year old and a four-year-old who considers 5am an acceptable rising time, but we get round this by going to bed early and taking it in shifts. I do the night wakeups, Noel does the early mornings. It's always worked for us.
But since the start of this year we have both been constantly ill. I've had a cold, then a stomach bug, straight into another cold, then sinusitis which is still lingering. In fact today I've finally resigned myself to going to the doctors for antibiotics. I haven't taken medication in years - including during childbirth - and I am very careful about what I put into my body, even OTC remedies like paracetamol.
I have the greatest respect for modern medicine, but I also think we turn to it far too quickly as a society because we don't have time to be ill, and wherever possible I prefer to use natural remedies.
Unfortunately, I don't have time to be ill. I have two exceptionally energetic children at home with me and after weeks and weeks of doing everything I can to get enough rest and recover, I've accepted I am going to need some medical help.
This bout of illness is the worst I've ever had in my life, and that's not an exaggeration. I have never been ill for longer than a week, two at the most, and other than chicken pox and whooping cough as a child I have never had anything more serious than a common cold. It could just be bad luck but I have taken it as a wakeup call to look at my lifestyle and make some changes.
On an average day, I basically don't stop. I will usually run before Noel leaves for work at 7.15am then straight into 12 hours of parenting. If Cherry is at preschool Violet and I will be off to playgroup or out heron-spotting or visiting friends, and afternoons are usually busy with playdates, art activities or outdoor adventures. Neither of them nap any more so there is no let-up at all throughout the day, and we have chosen to really limit screen time.
Cherry and Violet do spend a lot of time in free play, but I always use this time to cook and tidy up. I do bedtime by myself every night, and try to tidy up and cook dinner before Noel gets home. I often don't manage this and as soon as he gets in, he will tidy up and cook.
And at weekends I feel too guilty to take time for myself. At the end of last year I did take a few days here and there and promised myself I would do it more. But this year Noel has been super-busy at work, putting in really long hours and he's also been poorly. Even though he is always encouraging me to go and take some time I feel I can't, he needs some time to rest too.
It would appear my body has decided this is unsustainable.
So I have to persuade my mind to catch up! I have to work on shaking those feelings of guilt if I take even a second to myself. Today Violet eagerly asked if we would be going to playgroup after we dropped Cherry off. When I told her no, we'd be coming home as Mummy is poorly and needs to rest, she burst into noisy tears. I felt AWFUL.
But not as awful as the thought of charging about all morning followed picking up Cherry and a full afternoon of bouncing, excited, rampagingly energetic children. We came home and she pottered while I cooked, then we sat on the sofa and watched Nemo.
I can't deny I do feel bad about it. I feel like I have to do something extra exciting this afternoon to make up for it, or something super wholesome and outdoorsy to make up for the screen time.
I have a long way to go before I can truly put my needs into the mix!
Most significantly I have found a childminder for Violet and she will go for two mornings a week. This feels like the biggest thing I have done for myself and a really big step in putting my needs first. I don't work enough to 'justify' childcare and while she is a highly sociable little girl, I'm sure given the choice Violet would prefer to be at home with me than anywhere else, so it genuinely is a decision made purely for my quality of life.
All I have to do now is make sure I don't pack those hours full of work to make myself feel less guilty! I am keen to take on some work, because I have also identified it would be nice to have something in my life other than my children.
But I want to be very, very careful I don't gobble up those free hours working and find myself in six months time just as tired and run-down because I've taken on too much.
Ah, the endless work-life balance! Does anybody get it right? Is it even possible?! Answers on a postcard please. (Or the comments below!)