Before I was a mum I never had ‘me time’. I simply had time. And life was busy. And I didn’t have time for everything I wanted to do. But I owned my time. I could spend it any way I wanted to. No one told me that once I had kids my time would no longer belong to me.
As soon as I became a mum I started hearing about ‘me time’. It was popping up in blogs and magazines I was reading, and in conversations with friends. You know why? Because all mums struggle with this. Stay at home mums, working mums, single mums, mums with very involved partners, mums with kids at daycare. All mums need time without their kids. For some of us it is key to our mental health (that’s me), for some it is to get things done (also me), for some it is to remember that they are a person outside of their kids and home (also me).
My definition of ‘me time’ is time that you can spend any way you want. It is time that recharges you and makes you feel good about you. And you deserve it, whatever it looks like for you. It may be having your own ambitions and goals. It may be exercising. It may be a creative project. It may be reading a book. It may be a hobby. Whatever it is, we all need to replenish ourselves, so we can continue to give.
Two years in to motherhood, here’s what I’ve learnt about recharging ourselves as mums:
Know yourself and what replenishes you
The key is knowing what makes you feel rejuvenated, what makes you feel more like you. Find something that is meaningful to you. Schedule it in and guard it. Replenishing yourself should never stress you out because it is taking too much time, sacrificing your sleep or costing too much.
Acknowledge what you need
I’ve read experts quoting how much ‘me time’ we need each day or week. But surely everyone has different needs and it changes over time. If you are introverted, and get your energy from being alone, you may need more time (I do). And that is perfectly ok. It just means you need to be proactive in putting measures in place to get it. Know what you need and take responsibility to get it.
Don’t expect others to look after you
Parenting is a 24/7, 365 days a year job. In order for you to have a break someone else has to step in. It is likely that no one will realise that you need time out. You have to take responsibility for yourself. Sit down with you partner and schedule time for you. Put your child/ren in daycare if you have to. Join a baby sitting club. Look for gyms with a free crèche. And don’t feel guilty. You don’t need to justify it. As mums, it is our job to look after our kids, and it’s also our job to look after ourselves.
Find ways to recharge yourself while you are with your kids
I have two very small children. So while I do need time away from them for me, I also need to structure my days so that I get something out of them too. So that I’m not running on empty all the time, so I am not at breaking point desperately waiting for someone to relieve me of my parenting duties. Recently for me this has been listening to podcasts while I take the girls for a walk in the pram. It is also my fortnightly MOPS (Mums of PreSchoolers) group where the kids are cared for while the mums do activities, it has been reading a book during naptime instead of doing chores. Look at ways to make day to day life drain less energy, so you don’t need to take so much time out.
Accept that life has seasons – it’s ok to have times when you spend more or less time alone
Like many mums I’ve given up a lot to spend these first precious years with my kids. I stopped studying halfway through my Masters, I’ve put my career on hold. And I don’t regret it, but I do miss it. In a conversation earlier this year a friend of mine said, ‘life is not about balance, it is about seasons’. And I realised it is ok for this season to be all about the kids. It is ok to lay down my life for a while. It’s ok to know that there will be a time when the kids wont need me so much and I’ll have time to do new things. Accepting this season for what it is has helped me embrace it. I wont be dancing to my daughters’ favourite song in the kitchen forever.
As mums, it takes more time and planning to do things we love for us. It doesn’t just happen. We need to write our own mental health plans, and if that includes having a life outside of your children, know that you deserve it. Your children need you to be ok.