Making time for yourself is absolutely imperative, especially if you’re raising tiny humans. Sadly, it’s often the case where we get so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves. I’ve discovered, and I’m sure you may have too, that I can’t give of myself fully, properly or happily when my cup isn’t full. So let’s talk about refilling that cup and, as always, this post may include some affiliate links so click ’em and buy some goodies. You deserve it…
Moms Are People Too!
I made a promise to myself a few months ago to spend more time purely in the moment with my babies, desperate to be more mindful and engaged in the special moments with them. I was missing out on so much because I’m often flitting from task to task in the house. I designate time with my children, of course, and spend a large chunk of the day outside of that playing with them. Admittedly though, in the midst of everything, I’m usually still running through the checklist of things I need to accomplish. I thought this was rare but, through discussions with other mothers, I realized this happens all too often. I didn’t want to lose out, nor did I want the children to, and decided to be more mentally and physically present. At the same time, this has cost household management time, my volunteering hours, blog work, all of my me time and has required some serious mental reconditioning.
As a busy mother, I know many of my needs in a day go unmet- whether that be food, water, a warm freakin’ cup of tea in the morning, intimacy with my partner or a social life. I know, a lot of the time, I’m skipping tasks that I shouldn’t be or I’ve neglected some time with the hubby and I get back into the swing of things. However, too often I’ve found myself frazzled and freaking because my need for solitude hasn’t sent out a strong enough signal, or it’s been too easy to ignore. Many times, I push it to the back burner for such long stretches that the pot’s boiled dry.
Research has shown that women today are far less happy and satisfied than we were at any point in the last 40 years- so what gives? There are varying conclusions but, in my opinion, it’s having proper me time. We’re working, helicopter parenting instead of letting the kids run around outside for the day, managing a home, we’re connected at all times due to cell phones or the net, and we’re trying to have it all by having no time for ourselves. When we can, we’re busy filling the schedule with impromptu errands, obligatory social gatherings, or vegging out on social media. Don’t lie, you do it. Proper relaxation can’t be sought, or obtained, on Twitter or Facebook though and I’ve learned to unplug before I come unglued.
Yep. Finally, I lost my shit.
I found out, via a fit that could rival that of my toddler daughter, that I can’t handle it all. I can’t run on empty, I can’t be happy for extended periods of time while living solely for everyone else and, to be entirely honest, I don’t enjoy wearing only the Mum hat all day, every damn day, with very short breaks for (disturbed) sleep. I love my babies with all my heart but needed a freakin’ break! You know- time to get a bath without a little leg coming over the side, time to enjoy a coffee on the porch uninterrupted, ten minutes to do a crossword over a cup of tea without someone crawling into my lap, spilling things, or me having to get up and meet demands, separate a fight, or prevent someone from killing themselves! It’s horrendous. Some days there is literally zero uninterrupted time to think, stop worrying, stop supervising or just be “off duty” and mothers are not given enough credit.
Me Time Matters
I hate to admit it but I flipped out on my husband about the luxuries of a commute to work, how he gets to poop by himself, how he doesn’t wake up to his boss overtop of him making demands as soon as he opens his eyes and that his time away from the job is completely away from the job. All of those things, more often than not, mothers don’t get. I made a list of demands and sought help. I started with a Google search for activities that I could do to improve my mood, as I didn’t really know where else to begin. I stumbled upon Happify, which I absolutely love by the way, and this little infographic.
Alright, so I knew it was a huge problem. I don’t know where women get 25hrs of leisure time in a week but those women are my role models here. In my effort to shape up, be happy again and improve my marriage, I took some steps towards unwinding. Along with my list of demands, I also made a list called how to make time for yourself and I thought it may be useful for Mamas in the same boat. If you’re on a similar journey, I have some suggestions for you;
How To Make Time For Yourself
- Make a schedule.
Figure out where your entire day sits and, if you don’t know it by heart, you could start a journal every day. Track it all, from sleep/wake times, bathing, meal prep, meal times, what you do with the children, play, chores, social outings (if any), errands, work, favours you do for people, PTA meetings, chauffeuring, necessary daily tasks and so forth. This is going to show where you’re wasting hours, which can actually be used for yourself.
If you’re up for it, maybe try a schedule for the house too. Let the kids know when it’s “Alone time” or when Dad’s on duty.
- Make a wish list.
What do you want out of this? Why are you learning how to make time for yourself? Do you want free up some space so to fulfill a life goal or, starting smaller, do you just want to pee in peace? Figure out everything you’d like to be able to do, that you’re not doing now. There are certain activities that make people happiest and feeling most fulfilled. I would suggest some deep digging, to figure yourself out and what your soul truly longs for. Jot it down! It will give you something to work towards, even if it’s not attainable just this second.
- Cut down your list (of wishes and of other obligations)
Be realistic. You probably won’t be able to fit in yoga, painting, attending night school, girls night, gardening, a cake decorating class, sewing, Pinterest crafts, wedding planning, reading, the gym and nap time into the window of time for yourself. At least I wasn’t able to. #realitycheck #momproblems
You may have to tackle one thing at a time, or even start smaller than that and work in snippets. Set your priorities and make concessions, as everyone else will need to if you’re going to check out for a length of time and switch up the household routine.
- Take your needs seriously and make sure others do as well- Return the love though.
My husband was great at saying that he would support me, stating that I deserve a break and that he’d make certain I got one. If he is exhausted and needs a nap, or just wants to be able to watch the game, I do everything in my power to make sure there are no disruptions. Somehow, I do not find this incredibly difficult because, let’s face it, he works his butt off and deserves time to chill out. Him doing the same for me, however, was another story and is still a work in progress. Often times, he thinks he’s helping out by emptying a dishwasher but, even while I’m working, I’ll have a child in need of my attention because he’s not the greatest multitasker. He also likes to fall asleep while on duty, no matter what time that is. He’s been tested for narcolepsy, depression and has had bloodwork done, all against his will because he is in perfect health, but it’s a genuine issue here so I wanted to make certain it was just douchebaggery and not medical. He’s perfectly fine, sleeps at least four hours more than I do nightly and it’s just a husband thing, apparently. My friend said this evening, “There’s no such thing as downtime around here. I want to poke my husband’s eyes out when he falls asleep on the couch”. Mother effing suffrage, I hear that! I keep mine with eyes unpoked because he really does mean well, we work through things, we’re actually a pretty great team and because he looks like this;
The other team member needs to be able to handle just as much as you normally do and, if you’re overwhelmed, they need to make certain you get the time for yourself that you were promised. No distractions, no falling off the wagon. Stay strong and make sure you get this.
- Learn to say no. DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!
If there is a missing sock fiasco, outsource it. If the husband decides he wants to fart around with something while you’re supposed to be having a break, break his face! Okay, maybe don’t do that but perhaps make him think you might if he doesn’t make sure you get your well-deserved timeout. Don’t let him slack off, ignore your needs or mess with your schedule. If someone wants to make an appointment during your break time, reschedule it. If the kids want to tell you all about the dream they had last night during your fifteen minutes of rainforest music, kiss them on the head and tell them that they’ll have to come back in the equivalent of one recess. This way they’re telling happy, relaxed Mum and not mildy-psychotic, half-in-and-out Mum. They’ll appreciate this later and you get everyone used to the fact that you’re not accessible 24/7. During an 8 hour shift, by law, a worker is entitled to two fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch. Why are you not entitled to the same? This is actually OKAY to expect. Seriously, do not feel guilty about this. You’re a better parent for it.
- Make a ritual.
Part of this is to get yourself, as well as everyone else, used to a routine. You’ll have something to look forward to during the more hectic days, or when one of the kids has been behaving like a hairy Caillou. Research has shown that having something to look forward to will improve your happiness, straight away, without you even having done it. Everyone else will also stop treating you as if you’re a butler they can ding a bell for (even they get breaks) and being concrete with at least a minimum required moment of time for yourself is going to ensure you don’t end up worn down.
- Revisit your routine.
I would suggest regularly checking in with yourself, and your family, to take stock of the pros and cons of the adjustment. If anyone in the home is suffering, make it a team effort to switch things up, compensate, rework ideas or schedule something different from your list. If you’re doing well and everyone else is too, perhaps you can extend your break and fit in something else on top of what you’re already doing. Nothing has to be concrete, except the fact that you are not always on the clock.
What To Do With Time For Yourself
If you’re anything like me, when you get a taste of actual freedom and complete alone time, you may not know what to do with the allotment. Or, you may have too many things that you want to do but can’t manage your time. Here are some suggestions;
If You Have 5-10 Minutes
- A warm beverage can work wonders. Make yourself a cup of tea, or a coffee, and enjoy some fresh air. If you can’t do that, crack a window and sit in the sun.
- Meditate. If you don’t know how, Deepak Chopra has free email courses upon the subject all the time. It could be a great way to start on your journey to Me-Time.
- Connect with nature. Grounding is a neat concept and I find it very relaxing. Stick your bare feet in the grass.
- Laugh, or make someone else do so. If you can call a friend, connect with someone emotionally or spread a bit of joy, that’s time well spent.
- Music. Dance or sing along with a favourite song. It can be a momentary break in the day but could help you recharge, if that’s your thing.
- Try yoga. A few poses can be accomplished in this length of time. It will calm your breathing, boost your health, help you physically and make you feel good because now you’ll have a valid reason to be wearing those yoga pants.
If You Have 15-30 Minutes
- Relax with paper; reading, writing, scrapbooking, doing puzzles, folding origami. Whatever floats your boat.
- Take a bath. Better yet, take a detox bath– You’ll feel amazing afterwards.
- Snuggle, if there’s someone around to do that with. Relax, take a break and release those feel-good endorphins.
- Watch a show, or a portion of one, that you’ve been wanting to check out.
- Get outside. Vitamin D is a mood booster and fresh air never hurt anyone. Go for a walk, feed some ducks, lay on a beach or eat lunch on a park bench.
If You Have 30-60 Minutes
- Take a class, just for fun. I’ve always wanted to learn to decorate cakes so, one day, this will be at the top of my list.
- Enjoy an afternoon with a friend; go for lunch, take a walk or just get together for coffee and gossip.
- Buy in bulk- do all of your shopping for birthdays in one go; Eliminate two birds with one stone and retail therapy is, for me at least, a surefire way to have a good day.
- Craft. Anything you want!
- Catch up on a TV show you want to watch but can’t do so while the kids are around.
If you have any more time for yourself than this, I have no suggestions for you because I’m too busy being jealous. In that case, do you have suggestions for others about how to make time for yourself? Did you ever find yourself on the opposite end of things?
So what’s your favourite way to spend your free time?