I recently asked a group of mom friends: what do you for "me time"? The answers varied. I like to read, I like to run, I like to get a pedicure, I go to Target by myself, I go to the bathroom by myself. One friend scoffed and said "me time? what's that?" A wide variety of answers for sure. For a wide variety of moms with different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds.
My own perspective on "me time" is that in the busy juggle that is mom-life, where we're constantly taking care of other people's needs, there needs to be even a tiny sliver of time focused solely on me.
Not only is this definition different for every person, but it's different in different seasons of life.
When I was a new mom, my definition of “me time” would have been an entire day to myself to do whatever I wanted. At that time, that’s what I felt that I needed to feel refreshed and decompress from the stresses of motherhood, life and keeping it all together.
Now, over 11 years later, while I wouldn’t mind an occasional day to myself, I don’t feel like I NEED that in order to deal with my life. I have found a good balance most of the time and that is because I consciously set aside a few minutes every day to take care of myself and address my own needs.That's all well and good, and yay for me for figuring that out, blah blah blah. But let's address the obstacle. The guilt. The mama guilt. It's a reality of mommyhood. We are so used to taking care of everyone else that we tend to neglect ourselves (and sometimes don't even realize it! ) and when we DO realize it, we feel guilty spending any time or energy on ourselves. Somehow, through taking any time for ourselves, we feel like we're somehow depriving our babies. And this can be a powerful feeling even if we KNOW it's not logical.
Do you experience this? Again, as a logical, rational person you know that you're not ACTUALLY hurting your kids by doing something for you. But you still have that little twinge of guilt and that can turn into frustration. You're trying to pee in peace - y'know like with the door closed - and your toddler is throwing a fit on the other side of the door because he can't see your face for the 7 seconds it takes you to do your business. You start to think "This is impossible! I can't even pee by myself, how can I do anything else for me?"
THIS can lead to giving up. Thinking that once the kids get older, then I will have time for myself. Until then, it's all about them with no tiny sliver of light in the day for anything for myself. It may even seem noble and unselfish to have the "there's no such thing as me-time" attitude.
Feeling this guilt and having these feelings is understandable and quite common, just ask any mom!
However, if you're not creating space for yourself in your routine, you're telling yourself that you're not worth your own time.
Let that one sink in for a minute.
Far and away the biggest objection that moms have when committing to a wellness plan or routine is "I don't have time". It can feel like spending any time on ourselves or focusing on our own wellness is just another "to do" on your already crowded list. There are only so many hours in the day and once everything is done for work, the kids, the house, you're exhausted and there's not time or attention left for yourself. Sound familiar?
We attach guilt to me time because we ASSUME that it means A LOT of time that would otherwise be focused on our families and we don't want to deprive them.
Okay, so what can we do about that?
Consider that even a small amount of time focused solely on YOU can be beneficial, not only to you but to your whole family. Do you ever notice when you do have a little bit of time to yourself, you come back to your kids feeling refreshed (even just a little)? Think of it as recess for your mommy brain!
Small things make a big difference. Taking a walk by yourself, painting your toenails uninterrupted, reading a book before you fall asleep, watching a non-kid friendly TV show once a week. All small things. All for no other reason than being nice to yourself.
Think about the time and attention that you give yourself on a weekly basis. In what ways are you neglecting yourself? Is that how you'd like to be treated by another person?
Is there ever a scenario that arises that you would say "I don't have time to take care of my kids, I am too busy?" No, of course not. Because taking care of your kids isn't an item on your to do list, it's a million little things that you do every day. Taking care of you is the same way. It's not a spa weekend. It's a long shower and shaving your legs without feeling bad about it.
STILL, though. As self-aware as we are, that guilt monster STILL comes creeping back in because we have that maternal instinct where we're constantly aware of what our kids need and that takes up so much of the brain power. Mama guilt is always going to be there a little bit, no matter how old the kids are. Here's what we can do.
Recognize it. The guilt isn't bad. The guilt is normal. Letting the guilt dictate your actions and neglect yourself isn't helpful. Know that the guilt is there and it's normal. You're not doing it wrong. You're a normal mom. When you feel the guilt creep up, recognize what it is.
Confront it. Let me be clear, we make decisions for the good of our family all the time. Sometimes we put our own needs on the back burner for a more immediate need of a family member. This doesn't mean that you're letting the guilt run the show or that you're weak and giving in. This means that you're a good mom and you're making a call on the given situation. However, if the mama guilt is consistently making you neglect self care, that needs to be examined. When a situation arises, stop and notice what your motives are. Call it what it is and don't let it stop you.
Realize it's not always going to be easy, and be okay with that. If you're operating a guilt-driven system, you're not going to reboot overnight. There will still be times when you'll fall into the old.
Remind yourself of these things:
I am worth my own time and energy.
Taking care of myself is GOOD for my family who needs me to be strong and healthy.
It is not selfish for me to want good things for myself and to go after them.
I love my family and I am an important part of that family.
- Rachel Rader
Rachel Aldrich Rader is a Wellness Specialist for busy moms, a Fitness Professional and, as a mom of three boys (ages 11, 8 and 3) she is a Mommyhood Reality Expert! Rachel teaches moms how to balance their own wellness with the reality of their family's busy lifestyle.
Where you can find her:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/rachelaldrichradercoaching/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/769605853168252/
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Soul Mama Blog
Blog to help mamas, on their journey: with the various parts of motherhood and life.