Modern life is fast and furious. We are overcommitted, overscheduled and over-connected. Most of us are working long hours, managing a family and social obligations, and trying to fit in exercise, errands, and all the other activities of modern life.
The majority of parents feel like they don’t have enough time for themselves, but mothers are especially burdened by this feeling. Whether you are working inside or outside the home, being a mother means making adjustments, compromises and sacrifices every day. Often, “me time” is made up of what scraps are leftover at the end of the day. I wrote this article recently about being in a state of mothering burnout. It resonated with so many women, partly because we women tend to overlook their own needs.
Taking time out for yourself is not indulgent; it is critical, but it doesn’t come easily. The good news,as I have discovered, is it gets easier with practice. Here are four tips to help you get some of the often elusive, yet all-important, “me time.”
1. Give yourself permission to prioritise yourself
Motherhood is an extremely draining role so it’s crucial to engage in something that is just for you. No one else is going to do this for you so only you can make it happen. It’s not going to come from your 3-year-old or your teenager for that matter. If you’re lucky your partner will be on board but really the only person who can make this shift is you. Prioritising yourself will pay dividends for the whole family. It’s not selfish and it’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Being healthy and happy in yourself has direct benefits for your children and at work.
2. Schedule regular “me time”
No mother “finds” time for herself. She must make time for herself. Mothers excel at scheduling their children’s activities but often neglect their own. Just as you have to make plans to get your kids to kinder ballet, gymbaroo, or Auskick, you need to apply the same planning to your own needs. If it’s not planned for, and allocated a time slot, it will never happen. Mothers are quick to dismiss themselves, declaring, “there’s simply no time in the day.” While there may not be a lot of free time, there are always pockets of time you can create. It won’t just land in your lap; you need to priorities, plan and execute.
Once a week I drag my tired body out of bed and go for a run before my husband goes to work. And once a week he gets home early so I can do an evening yoga class. On weekends, we adopt the “divide and conquer” rule. While it’s lovely to spend time together on weekends, it’s often the only time when hubby can take the girls off for a couple of hours, allowing me essential replenishment time. I take it where and when I can get it!
3. Choose where you invest your energy wisely
It’s important to recognise the areas of your life zapping you of energy that could be better directed at yourself. We are all obligated to others – that comes with being a part of a family, community or school. But it’s essential to be involved in things that inflate us rather than deflate us. You will know if a particular commitment is becoming a burden. It’s the one that you dread attending and the one that gives little back. Listen to how you feel and protect your energy by saying no when you need to.
I find if I am over-committed it has knock-on effect in all areas of my life. I become unmotivated to write, and less motivated to parent. Instead, I need space from people and activities. It’s how I recharge. These quiet moments to re-energise are actually vital to my performance as a mother.
4. Connect/Reconnect with something you love
With so much time being invested into the family, mothers often find they no longer have any hobbies. This is certainly how I felt until I found a new hobby and reconnected with an old one. It’s easy to say, “I really enjoyed Pilates before having children”, or “I’d love to learn a new language,” but this is a defeatist attitude. While certain sacrifices are unavoidable when kids come along, it’s critical we don’t forsake everything. And “me time” becomes easy when you’re engaged in something you love.
“Me time” looks different for everyone. The beauty of me time is it can take on many forms. Perhaps it’s an afternoon of indulgence, a lazy brunch with girlfriends, or a book and a picnic rug in the park. Identify what makes you feel happy, and then make it happen. And most importantly, enjoy it. Guilt free.
Do you have regular “me time”? What is your ideal way to take time out from work & family commitments?