You thought you knew what you were in for before you became a mom: diaper changing, finger painting, and lots of downtime spent snuggling with baby ... how hard could it be?
You didn’t have a clue. The errands. The housework. The job. The marriage. Oh, and the small matter of shaping the little life you created. You thought you’d flip through a magazine during nap time, but instead you plead with the Crib Gods for Please, five more minutes so I can finish folding the laundry. After bedtime, you collapse face-first on the pillow and dream of grocery lists and backyardigans. Forget a day at the spa; you can’t even go to the bathroom without an audience! And you love those little monkeys to death, but your kids suck more energy than a Hummer in a traffic jam.
A smart mom knows that she needs to take care of herself or the S.S. Family starts to sink. It’s just hard to make it happen, since she’s inclined to put everyone else’s needs before her own. But the more mom can stay disciplined about her self-care, the more her family will thrive. So here are a few tips that might help you add some more me time to your mommy life.
The Value of a Time-Out
Mom: “I have sooo much to do, I don’t have time for a break!” Resting seems counterproductive, right? True, watching Top Chef isn’t going to get your bills paid, but it might help you do it better and quicker. A study conducted by the Families and Work Institute found that a mom’s hectic lifestyle—moving quickly from task to task, working overtime, all the time—actually causes us to make more mistakes and spend our time less efficiently. This is because moms aren’t wired like the Energizer Bunny; we need to take restorative breaks to keep going (and going and going). When we allow ourselves some rest, the results are undeniable: we’re calmer, happier parents, we have more energy, and we’re more productive. Once you make the connection between self-care and heightened performance, you’ll never look at a TV break the same way again.
Me Time Is in the Eye of the Beholder
Mom: “Relaxing just bores me ... I like to get up and move!” When we think of Me-time, the usual clichés come to mind—the bath, the massage, the Ben and Jerry’s—but me time is as individual as the mom who needs it. The trick is to use your me time in whatever way energizes and restores you. For some moms it’s connecting with girlfriends; for others it’s kickboxing. Some volunteer, some continue their education, and some have dinner for one at their favorite restaurant. One mom’s passion is another mom’s drudgery, so find the thing that brings you the most joy in the moment (even if that thing is a nap!), and that’s your prescription for truly restorative me time.
Whose Separation Anxiety? (Hint: Not Your Kid’s)
Mom: “I can’t get away. My kids will miss me too much!” Nice try, mom, but it’s really you who has got a bad case of separation anxiety. You are so involved in every second of your child’s life that the very idea of time away makes you break out in hives! Your children need you of course, but not all of you, all the time.
Prolonged exposure to a mom who gives everything yields children who expect everything, and a life that doesn’t allow room for any of your needs. Instead, let your children know that you need time for the things that make you happy, just like they do. It may feel weird to leave, but while you’re away caring for yourself, your kids are learning important lessons like empathy (Mom needs a rest, so I’ll be quiet), respect (Mom goes to school, just like I do!), and boundaries (Mom doesn’t always want to be my jungle gym/punching bag).
Mini Me Time
Mom: “There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything and take care of myself!” Gain more time by recapturing the moments in between the moments—transitional times—which are great little opportunities for self-care. For instance, listening to an inspirational book on tape while you wait in the carpool line is a quick soul-lifter. Five deep breaths in the driveway before you enter your home is a great way to release work-related stress. Grab your iPod and rock out during a Costco run, or get a chair massage while the kids are at karate. Even a stroll to retrieve your morning latte provides a small moment where you can rest your mind and be good to yourself.
Mom: “Me time isn’t in the budget.” Fear not, frugal mom! There are many restorative things you can do that cost you absolutely nothing. Start simple: a five-minute meditation before the kids wake up in the morning. Just taking a few moments to breathe, setting an intention, and bringing yourself to present moment awareness is a powerful way to begin your day, and has amazing effects on your health and stress level. Taking a walk in the park, a swim in the local pool, or just carving out small blocks of time to read a good novel work wonders too. If you crave a night out and can’t hire a babysitter, find a neighbor or relative who might want to do a babysitting exchange.
Mom: “Isn’t the whole point of me time for me to get away?!” Not always! Me time isn’t always about the great escape; it can be a state of mind ... even when you’re with your family. Whether you’re alone or not, when you’re doing something relaxing or that brings you joy, you’ve hit the me time jackpot. Have a green thumb? Mommy and me gardening! Are you a spa junkie? Manicures with your teenage cousins! Even doing a Target run can count if you meet up with a girlfriend (you can catch up on each other’s lives while you squeeze the Charmin). You are truly a supermom if you can feed your own soul while tending to your children, because when you honor yourself, you model self-love for your kids. You’re the ultimate role model ... with great nails and fabulous flowerbeds!