Last week, I asked some parents to fill out a survey on “me time”. And I have to say, the results were a little heartbreaking! But then again, most of the answers were right along side what mine would have looked like, this time last year. However, last year me was burnt out. I was touched out. I was incredibly anxious and depressed and OVERWHELMED. But I had no idea why, why I couldn’t get out of my funk, or how to fix it. “Get some time to yourself!” was the biggest suggestion people would give me, and it would automatically illicit five thousand eye rolls in return.
HOW DO I GET ME TIME WHEN I CANT EVEN GET MY CHILDREN TO NAP?!
So here’s the deal. I decided to make “me time” a priority. I sat down with my husband, I told him I was at the end of my rope and NEEDED his help. I needed to feel like MY time was important, that MY needs were important, and that MY mental health was suffering. And you know what? He was incredibly supportive of that. Because we are a team, partners in parenting, I deserve time, just as he does, to GET OUT. And for those of you saying my husband is a magical unicorn husband… he is, and he isn’t. I walked around for so long, thinking I needed to carry the “burden” of all caregiving on my shoulders. Ask me how that went… multiple panic attacks a week, breaking down and crying at all random points of the day and night, and being in an incredibly low mental state.
I think as women, we put ourselves on this pedestal. We WANT to have it all, we NEED to have it all. But you know what? Since standing up for myself, since voicing my needs and my concerns to my husband and myself, I have found so much peace and SO much more balance.
I’m not going to lie to you. Getting things figured out at first was not easy. Especially considering right now is an incredibly busy time for my husband’s work. He literally is up working at 6am, and keeps working after the kids go to sleep. Plus, we are still not unpacked from our move 2 months ago, we have social lives and friends we try to see, and if you watch my Instagram stories you know I’m constantly drowning in laundry.
Making “me time” a priority
Step number one was to STOP PUTTING MYSELF LAST. Seriously. I would find myself, at 3:40 in the afternoon, STILL in my pajamas, STILL not having eaten. But you know what? The kids were dressed, they had breakfast, snack, lunch, and snack #786, and were well attended to. Laundry was being washed and folded, dishes were being cleaned, countertops were wiped down. BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?! Oh, right, I was a mess and a half, deep breathing in my pajamas and desperate for a shower, or some time alone.
I did three things: I told myself to cut this sh!t out and to stop making myself a martyr. I told my husband we were getting a babysitter. And I signed up for the gym.
ONE: Stop putting myself last
Martyrdom is a slippery slope. I love being a mom, I love my children, but I did not love what I was setting myself up for as a mom. I saw moms on Instagram and across the blogosphere, always tending to their child’s every need. I saw them with beautifully kept homes, always clean and pristine. And I thought that had to be me, too. BUT IT DOESN’T. And honestly, their lives are almost 100% not like that in real life. I promise. By making myself lower than the lowest notch on the proverbial stick of importance, I was sacrificing so much of myself, and my priorities, just on principle. Because I thought I was supposed to sacrifice it all.
TWO: Hiring a babysitter
Getting a babysitter has been some of the best money I’ve ever spent. And I refuse to feel bad, as a stay at home mom, for outsourcing childcare. Because you know what? I CAN’T DO IT ALL. And that’s okay. Even Beyonce can’t do it all! So I went on Care.com, made a profile, and set up a new job listing. We interviewed a few applicants, hired the woman who we best felt would work with our family, and now she (and her 18 month old daughter) come to our house twice a week, for four hours a day. That means I get EIGHT glorious hours a week of SOLO time. I can work, I can clean, I can go to the gym, I can SHOWER BY MYSELF. Heck, I could even take a nap if I wanted to! Because that time is MINE.
I understand that getting a babysitter isn’t always the most accessible option. So here’s me being candid: we pay her $10 an hour, for a total of $80 a week. And you know what? That’s less than what 2, 1-hour therapy sessions a week would be with my insurance. If you have family in town, consider asking them for help! I know my parents love spending time with the boys, but I always feel bad asking if they can watch them. However, I am trying to be more open with my family about some of my mental struggles. Since starting that line of communication, my parents have been calling to check in and see if I need any help. And you know what?
IF SOMEONE OFFERS YOU HELP, PLEASE TAKE IT. I know what it’s like to feel like you want to be able to handle it all (see above, re: martyr), and I know how it can feel like admitting to failure if you accept help. But that’s not what you’re doing! It takes a village, I truly believe that, and some of us have to take that village in whatever form it comes. If you don’t have family in town, start looking for local caregiver facebook groups! There are always other moms and parents out there looking to meet new friends with kids the same age, and I bet she would love to trade off on babysitting so she can get some alone time, too!
THREE: Going to the gym
I know, I know. I hate working out. I hate exercising. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have anything to wear. I don’t have anyone to watch the kids. I HAVE USED EVERY SINGLE EXCUSE IN THE BOOK. But the $19.99 that I pay each month has been a godsend, for a few reasons. First off, hello – exercise. For the first time since BEFORE having kids or being pregnant, I am working out again. And you know what they say – exercise is not only good for the body, but for the mind as well. I am not a person who enjoys working out, like, at all. But afterwards? Man, there’s nothing like that feeling of being worn out and sweaty and knowing you just got to get your aggressions and stressors out.
I chose a gym that friends also belong to. Why? Because having not only one, but two accountability partners has actually made me GO to the gym, rather than just pay for something I won’t use. I also chose a gym that has childcare. I can pay $3 for TWO HOURS of solo time at the gym. Which means I can go to a class, then take my time afterwards – I can take a shower, I can sit in the sauna or steam room, I can order a smoothie and just sit and enjoy it ALL BY MY SELF. Ask around your Kid Care center at your gym, because I just found out I can pay $24.95 per month for unlimited drop-ins, so it’s an even better option!
I try to go to the gym during the day while H is at school, but sometimes that doesn’t always work out. So sometimes I miss bedtime, or sometimes it means I have to miss out on time with my husband. But something ALWAYS has to give. And my missing sporadic moments does NOT make me a bad mom, or any less of a mom. Again, my husband understands that getting out of the house for an hour class is crucial for my mental health, so his daily question to me is: are you going to the gym with ____ today? Okay, what time were you going to go?”. Because we are what? A TEAM.
The gym used to be a place that I dreaded and stayed away from. I am not fit. I am not muscle-y. I get really red and sweaty. But going 3-5 times a week has done WONDERS for me as a mom, as a wife, and as a person. So much more than just the physical benefits, I am calmer, I am more patient, I am less stressed, less anxious, and in fact since I started going around the New Year, I have only had one panic attack. ONE. Compared to the multiple times a week. One occurrence of anxiety and depression in about 7 weeks. No crying in the dark closet, no pacing the floors. I just… feel better.
Some of my favorite “just me” things that make me feel more human:
How do YOU make time for “me time” after becoming a parent?
I know I already talked about this above, but you guys broke my heart! So many of your answers were along the lines of “do nap times or showers count?”. I mean, I guess they kind of technically do, but I think there is a HUGE difference in quality me time. Yes, I’m “alone” after my kids go to sleep at night (for a little while at least, as we all know J is anti-sleep), but I can’t leave the house. And after my kids go to sleep, my husband and I usually spend our time cleaning the house up, then spending time with one another – which, to me, is JUST as important as “me time”.
I think my biggest struggle when my husband used to tell me to take time for myself was feeling selfish. It sounds so ridiculous when I type it out, or say it out loud. But it’s this crazy feeling that I think many of us as mothers and parents and caregivers can relate to. Reading through mom groups on Facebook, I see so many moms talking about how they don’t understand how their partner goes out and takes time for themselves. That they can’t do it, there’s too much to do at home, too much to do with the kids, they’re struggling in their relationships. Well you know what? Hi, my name is Shannon and that
is was me too. UNTIL I had enough.
Putting myself first does NOT make me a bad mom. I am not any less of a mother because I take an hour for myself most days a week. I am not failing my children by occasionally missing out on an hour of their lives. And in fact, I truly believe it makes me a BETTER mother. One that is modeling for my children that a happy healthy mom, a happy healthy body and mind are important!
Because let’s be honest, you can’t pour from an empty cup. And I was emptier than empty. My life was full, but I was empty. And that’s no way to live. I didn’t want my children to see my constant struggle with myself. So, I did something about it. And I REFUSE to feel guilty about that, and neither should you.
“Me time” survey results:
I promised these would all be anonymous, and they will be! But I wanted to share a few of the answers. I LOVED reading why “me time” was so important to you. They are exactly the reasons why I made myself a priority, and why my time away is so important to myself as well. And I want to share the other ways that people are taking “me time” so you can see how easily accessible “me time” can be! I am going to try to keep repetitive answers compiled into one, but I wanted to make sure everyone who so wonderfully participated is represented!
“What do you do during me time?”
Go to Target (you ladies are my spirit animals!)
Go grocery shopping alone!
Study (I LOVE hearing about parents in school / going back to school! That’s so awesome!)
Listen to music
“Why is “me time” important to you?”
The biggest response to this was that me time was crucial for so many of you, that some time on your own helped you relax and recharge. So you can be a better parent, a better partner, and a better friend. Yes, yes, yes. SO TRUE.
A chance to recharge
To keep my sanity!
Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who participated.
I was blown away by your responses and by all of your help! Congratulations to: Jahola18 <at> yahoo! Please be on the lookout for an email from me tonight 🙂