Understanding Me Time & Taking Care of Myself
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New moms (and experienced moms, too) are often encouraged to make room for “me time,” something that can often be misunderstood. It’s not selfish, but its purpose is really important. You need to take care of yourself so you can better take care of others.
Yesterday I took my youngest daughter with me to my regular hair appointment. The long-hair-equals-constant-tangles had finally gotten the best of us. She brought some stuff to do while Melissa cut my hair and then we swapped places. Afterward we shared frosted lemonades and waffle fries.
It was a sweet afternoon, for which she thanked me multiple times. I felt happy and refreshed doing something fun together.
And then we battled traffic.Lots and lots of early Friday afternoon traffic. Traffic to the freeway, traffic to the grocery store, traffic back to the freeway again, and then traffic home. I came home with a bad case of road rage and found myself snipping at all my people. Most of whom hadn’t seen me in four hours and had done their chores in my absence.
I locked myself in my office for a good ten minutes so that I didn’t damage anyone.
Was I being irrational? Probably. Could I have bucked up and gotten over it? Sure. But, in that moment, I needed what some have called “me time.” A split-second to be me (in all my road rage angst) and not worry about being a kind wife and mom.
I was able to get it together for the time it took to make our regular Friday night pizza and enjoy it with my family, but I still felt on edge. I slipped out of our showing of Ferdinand to go take a hot bath.
Then after soaking in ginger bath salts and playing a few rounds of Boggle on my phone did I feel like I could be completely human.
(Mis)Understanding Me Time
When my first child was born, I heard from several different sources, “You have to make sure you take time for yourself.” I’ll admit this was hard for me to understand. This Me Time business sounded so selfish.
After all, I loved being with my little boy. Sure, the early baby days were crazy when I had not a clue what I was doing and there were exploding diapers everywhere I turned. But once I got a handle on basic baby care and routine, and he was able to babble and crawl and then talk and walk, well, he was my almost constant companion.
What I did, he did with me. When I scrapbooked, he learned to cut and paste. When I gardened, he came outside with me and dug in the dirt. When I went shopping, it was an adventure for the both of us.
I didn’t feel like I needed time alone. It was particularly difficult for me to hear other moms talking about how they couldn’t wait to “get away!” from their children.
Maybe I was a weirdo, but I didn’t want to get away. I loved being with him. He was a blessing, not a burden! Wasn’t it selfish to go do stuff for myself?
While I will admit that I am a total weirdo, I think the problem in this scenario was that I didn’t fully understand what “me time” was.
What is Me Time
Me time has been defined as, “time spent relaxing on one’s own as opposed to working or doing things for others, seen as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy.” [emphasis mine]
Once my second and third sons arrived, I had two in diapers and a kindergartner. We lived in a bigger home, so there was more to clean. I was homeschooling my oldest son, and my days were fuller. I was doing a lot of working and doing of things for others. And while I loved the privilege of staying home with my boys…there were moments when I thought I would go nuts.
That’s when I understood my need for “Me Time”.
“Me time” is not selfish if it helps you DO YOU BETTER.
There are seasons and situations when you really need to focus on caring for yourself, sifting the junk in your head, and to take a break from the give-athon known as motherhood.
(Don’t get me wrong it’s my joy to give to my family, but sometimes you need to fill up your tank. Am I right?)
I am so thankful that God gave me a wise husband. Since I tend to be an overachiever and think I can do all the things, it was my husband who had to encourage/cajole/convince me to leave my home without children and go do something on my own. At least those first few times.
Admittedly, it took awhile for me to drop the mom guilt and enjoy the opportunity to go shopping alone, to go out to eat with a friend, to take a few hours just for my own agenda every week. What a change!
Taking a few hours of the week gave me the much-needed chance to catch my breath, think a few coherent thoughts, and set my intentions to be a better woman, wife, and mom. It still does.
“Me time” has taken different forms over the years as our family has grown and changed. It’s not selfish, but neither is it extravagant.
I don’t think that “me time” needs to look the same for everyone. The women who advised me early in motherhood were going on vacations without their husbands and kids. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that; it’s just never been anything I’ve wanted to do.
If I’m going to spend that money, I want to be with my people!
I encourage you to find out what kind of “me time” best fits you, your marriage, and your family. Like I said, this changes with the seasons.
Here are some small, inexpensive things you can do to take time for yourself to relax and reenergize. And yes, you should work one into your day. Today.
What Me Time Can Look Like:
- Take a hot, relaxing bath. This milk bath recipe is fun to make and smells amazing.
- Have your hair styled. Don’t you love it when they wash your hair?!
- Enjoy your favorite dessert without sharing. It’s recommended that you do this off-site of children or locked in a room where they cannot see or smell you.
- Read a good book. I recommend these.
- Play dress up. Organize your closet, put together outfits, keep only the things you love.
- Journal. Write down all the things going on in your head, purge, sort, pray.
- Meet a friend. This can be for coffee, a meal, or just a walk around the block. It’s so good to know we’re not alone in this life.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more ways, just small tweaks you can make to your routine, to help you reenergize and take care of you so you can take better care of your peeps, and ultimately, DO YOU BETTER.
If this topic has struck a chord with you, then maybe it’s time for you to take things up a notch taking care of little ol’ you:
Summer Self-Care: a Planner to Help You Enjoy the Season and Take Better Care of You is packed with ideas for you to set up a plan for taking better care of YOU this summer.
I know, the summer is busy still, but it inherently carries with it a little “sit in the hammock” kind of vibe, a vibe I want to make the most of this year. Even with summer school and all the other things that happen when you’re momming, you can still take a deep breath, and make the most of the seasons you’re in. Right?
Get the planner now and catch your breath, rest your eyes, and DO YOU BETTER.
You can buy the planner here: https://fishmama.com/product/summer-self-care-planner/
More Self-Care Strategies
Originally published May 17, 2008. Updated April 21, 2018.
This is all so very true! My husband and I have eight children, five of whom were adopted from foster care and thus have some unique challenges. I am asked on a regular basis how I do it and the only things I can think to answer are “The grace of God” and “I tell myself every day that during the kids’ quiet time I can take a nap.” Note that I do not take a nap every day or anything near everyday but just telling myself that I can if I need to helps me get through many differing sorts of days.
Great strategies, Melissa. A lot of times our frustrations peak when we think we “can’t” do the thing we want.
Tiffany, that’s a great way to put it. Let yourself off the hook. That’s what my yesterday felt like. A little free to go with the flow.
I find sometimes just letting myself “off the hook” at home helps. Like today….my husband is working overtime….so I decided not to do any big cleaning or housework. I’m relaxing with my son..and while he napped I cross stitched. I just give myself permission to relax…and this helps me recharge in between the times I’m able to sneak out on my own.