Why is it that we moms would give anything for our kids but neglect the one thing they need most in the world? We give them food when they’re hungry, clothes (designer ones at that – at least for my teenage daughter), shelter and unconditional love. And yet, after all this giving, we feel unappreciated and worn down. Like most things in life, the answer is so simple that we often miss it.
Whether you work outside the home or not, moms just don’t have enough down time or “me time,” as I like to call it. And if we do finally take an hour to get a much needed massage, new hairstyle, pedicure (or shower, for that matter!), we are overwhelmed with guilt.
As I am typing this, my eight-year-old is sitting here reading her book. For about ten seconds. Suddenly, it’s, “Mama, guess what?” as she regales me with the latest thing she just read or leaps off the bed to “exercise” on my elliptical.
Don’t get me wrong, I would give my life for my children. I have even been known to give them the last of my peanut M&M’s at times, but sometimes I just need a break from the prattling, tattling, yammering. The trick is to not feel bad about that. I am slowly in the process of learning that.
So, I get my hair cut and highlighted, and schedule mani/pedis and the occasional massage. I’m even taking a weeklong vacation without them this summer. It won’t be easy to relax and enjoy myself without constantly looking for souvenirs to bring home, but I will just have to suck it up and give it my best shot.
In a world that is so frenetic and fast-paced, we all need a breather. My kids go to their rooms to have “alone time” so, why shouldn’t I? That way, the time that we do spend together is more relaxed and not full of yelling, arguing, tattling or driving me insane.
So, give yourself a break – literally. If you don’t have a significant other or responsible teenager at home to help out, hire a neighborhood one for a few bucks. Go to a movie alone; go to the bookstore and just browse. Take a walk or go to the gym with your iPod. Sit by the window at Starbucks and and people-watch while you sip your well-deserved caramel macchiato.
Or, if you’re like me, and don’t necessarily want to do everything alone, grab a girlfriend (preferably another worn-out mom) and head out shopping, window shopping, or go to a museum and see an exhibit you’ve been dying to see but know that your kids wouldn’t be interested in.
These times with your friends can be priceless. You can talk to another adult without being constantly interrupted, for one thing, and you can just feel like a woman for a short time instead of a constant caregiver.
Think about it for a minute. We are in charge of housekeeping, laundry, cooking, shopping, teaching, discipline and, above all, keeping other humans alive every day. Those are some pretty heavy responsibilities! Even on family vacations we don’t often catch a break.
I call family vacations “just doing my job in an unfamiliar environment.” In fact, I feel less refreshed when we return than when we left! There are extra piles of laundry and more bills and excess mail to sort through when you get home, for starters.
I know that I probably don’t have to say this, but it is so important to take care of your own health first. It’s like when you are on an airplane and they tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you even put one on your child. That goes against every instinct in my body every time I hear it, but it makes perfect sense. If I am incapacitated, who will be there to be my kids’ mama?
So, think of these small breaks and treats as using that oxygen mask on the plane. You need oxygen. You need a breather. It is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. No matter how much society has programmed us, we are not superwomen. We are fallible human beings who need our sleep, fresh air, healthy food and exercise to enjoy our lives to the fullest.
I’ve said it before, but take care of yourself first! No guilt, no shame, just the knowledge that you are doing the best that you can for your family.