Maximizing "me" time
Being a mom is a full-time job. And when you have the luxury of a break, do you make the most of it? Our tips will help you maximize precious "me" time.
With the demands of family, work, and everyday life, many mothers find it difficult to make time for themselves. So what happens when we manage to wrangle a few extra hours—do we seize the moment or spend time updating our status on Facebook? A little thought and planning can go a long way to maximize “me” time for mom.
We finally have two free hands, but our initial instinct is to grocery shop, clean the house, or run errands. In other words, do the tasks that feel impossible when we have little ones in tow. Although it may be a relief to get stuff done when the opportunity arises, doing tasks may not contribute to a greater feeling of well-being.
Christine Boyle and Olive Dempsey are facilitators with The Self Care Project, an organization designed to help reduce burnout and create healthier habits. They say that one of the main issues of inadequate self-care is that we always put others first and base our self-worth on how much stuff we get done. It’s part of a deeply rooted cultural belief that the harder we work, the better we are.
“Our culture has taught us to seek value outside of ourselves,” says Dempsey. “We tie our self-worth to our job, how we look, what our home looks like, and what we own.”
Instead of seeking activities that feed our souls and make us feel replenished—such as reading for pleasure, going for a stroll, or slowly sipping a mug of hot tea—we end up doing more work as a way to measure our success. Sure, a fresh batch of clean laundry feels good in the moment, but how long does that last? Probably as long as it takes our kids to dog pile the newly folded towels.
“In my coaching practice, clients [fill] a questionnaire asking what they want to bring to this life,” says Dempsey. “What continues to come up is a desire to help make the world a better place, have a deep connection to nature, to love and be loved—not wishing the house is always clean.”
So how do we break the cycle? Even the most organized of us can use a reminder from time to time that we don’t always need to be productive, especially when we’ve captured an extra hour in between preschool and soccer practice.
Create a list of ideas, or a vision board of activities to refer to whenever you find yourself with an open schedule.
Write down the top five things that really nourish your well-being rather than deferring to what seems easiest in the moment. Include things such as being outdoors, journalling in a café, having brunch with friends—go-to ideas that are doable, even in a small amount of time. This list can change on a whim, especially if something new strikes our interest. The idea is to always have a feel-good activity at our fingertips before defaulting to a task at hand.
“It’s easy to spend an hour on Facebook, but that may not be serving your needs,” says Boyle. “In fact, social media sites can often have the opposite effect, and cause feelings of not being enough if you compare [what] to what others are doing. And guess what? You are not a failing mom because you don’t make sandwiches in the shape of puppy dogs.”
Self-care is unique to each person—one person’s bubble bath is another’s mountain peak. It’s not the activity that matters but why it’s important to you.
7 ways to maximize the moment
Regardless of what it is we enjoy doing, Boyle and Dempsey have seven tricks to help us maximize our down time. (These tips apply to anyone with a hectic schedule, not just busy moms.)
1. Leave our inner critic at home. The little voice that says, “I should be doing,” has no place on our break. As soon as we hear it, we can visualize putting it in a box and locking it up. Instead, we can allow freedom and openness into our free time and see what happens.
2. Imagine our alone time is like eating a healthy meal. It’s meant to nourish us the way a big kale salad can revitalize the body; nonstructured time can do the same for our souls. So let’s fill our moments with activities that feed our soul. Take note: simply doing nothing can, in fact, be an activity.
3. Set an example for our family. Children learn from parents how to treat themselves. If we show a lack of self-compassion and run ourselves ragged with no break, our kids see that. By embracing the beauty of making time for ourselves, we teach our little ones to do the same.
4. Be in awe. Go for a walk, watch the wind in the trees, stare at a body of water, or sit on a bench and see what happens when things slow down—including us.
5. Do something physical. Stress affects the whole body and physical activity helps to release it—even if it’s a walk or stretch in the park. This is not about burning calories; it’s about getting out of the house and moving.
6. Give yourself a signal that you’re off duty. Wear a special piece of jewellery, a hat, or an outfit. These physical symbols say, “I’m done today.”
7. Accept help. Parents can feel very isolated. Reframing self-care as a community responsibility will allow people to help us in different ways—even if that means spending money on a care provider to allow us some time on our own. Embrace this as an opportunity, not a failure.