Rather than another list of self-care tips that revolve around day spas and days off, here we talk to a Mama who has committed herself to finding real ways to bring me time into her life…
‘Me Time’ is a term I really struggle with.
First of all, it sounds selfish, and us mamas do not need any more reason to feel guilty about taking time for ourselves, without making it worse with a little hashtag like #metime attached.
Second, I think it brings up a lot of stereotypical images that are unhelpful for a stressed out mama. When we started the Happy Mama Magazine and Movement, we promised ourselves we would not tell the stories of women whose reality was so far removed from our readers, it just made us feel worse. I don’t want to read about someone’s nanny juggling the kids for them so they can run another million dollar business. And I don’t want to look at pictures of the perfect home while reading about de-cluttering. Let’s get real here: that’s not helpful.
And I certainly don’t want to publish another list of ‘top five tips’ that no-one actually follows.
So let’s rethink me time, mamas. Let’s throw out the assumption that it involves hot wax or nail polish or a cocktail in one hand and a magazine in the other. Instead, let’s look at what ‘me time’ really means and why, despite the name issues, it is in fact an absolute necessity to be a Happy Mama.
Prue Henschke is a mama on a very similar mission.
Before becoming a mama, Prue was the usual modern woman: burning the candle at both ends, and rarely bothering with something like self-care. In her legal career, she says she “frequently worked long hours, under stressful conditions.” In hindsight, she’s grateful that her lifestyle didn’t manifest anything more serious, like so many of us, but she certainly found herself “overwhelmed, over-stressed, unhappy, tired and basically burnt out.” But a trip to Bali in 2010 turned into her ‘sliding doors’ moment, and changed her health – and life – forever.
“I saw an article in the local paper about a retreat in Bali and something in me made me just sign up. It was there that I was introduced to yoga and meditation – both practices which I continued after the trip (and to this day) and have kept me sane through some of my toughest periods. We had delicious, nutritious food made with love each day, spent our days in the ocean (connecting with nature) and then went to bed early, nurtured our bodies with spa treatments and had meaningful conversations. I came back to Australia feeling nourished and rejuvenated. I felt revitalized and ready to face my life again. I had learnt how self care really mattered.”
And then, along come mamahood.
Prue now has two gorgeous sons, and admits that in adjusting to motherhood, she let the self care practices she had developed and cherished fall by the wayside – putting the needs of her babies first, like so many of us do. She found herself with niggling health issues, feeling tired and irritable – those little red flags signalling that life is out of balance again. And so, Mama’s Me Time was born.
Here, she shares her real and practical ways for us to reconnect to ourselves a little more – without the guilt (which doesn’t involve a day spa).
- I don’t have time.
I recently saw Danielle La Porte speak. She shared one of her pet peeves – which is people saying they are too busy. She elaborated by saying whatever is on your plate got there because you said yes to it. Using her analogy it might be time to start scraping some things off your plate and saying no to more, so you can say yes to yourself.
In a similar vein, Dr Libby Weaver encourages us to be mindful of our language. She says if you tend to say to yourself that you ‘don’t have time’, try changing that phrase to ‘this is just not a priority for me right now’ and see how that feels. This can be quite a confronting exercise but an effective one in helping you prioritise what’s important.
Amongst the many mamas who have shared their advice on the blog, the most common theme is that 5-10 minutes daily can have a huge impact on your wellbeing. Some ways to take care of yourself which take next to no time are drinking a hot cup of tea, reading few pages of a good book, or doing some stretches.
I also like the idea of incidental me-time – which I do daily. Look for opportunities to build me-time into your day. How about listening to an inspiring podcast or eBook while driving, putting on an aromatherapy burner while cleaning up around the house, putting on a face mask while bathing the children (this is my most recent ritual on a Friday night – the boys get a kick out of being bathed by a monster), doing some stretches at the playground or leaving a good book in your car to read while waiting at school pick up.
- I can’t afford it.
While I’d be the last person to turn down a luxury spa treatment, most families, post babies, are not in the financial position they once were. To my mind, me-time is anything that makes your heart sing. And, as the saying goes, the best things in life are free. Being in nature, breathing exercises, meditating, yoga, swimming at the beach are all completely free and, in my opinion, are all effective ways to refresh and reset.
- I don’t feel comfortable asking for help
This is a block faced by many mamas in trying to have time alone. The first important point to make is that trying to do everything is the fastest way to become exhausted, burnt out and resentful. The second point is that if you don’t ask you will never know how your request will be received. We may believe that it will be seen as an imposition to ask for help, when in fact it may be received openly, by family who would love to spend time with your children, help you and benefit from you being your best self.
If asking for help from your partner is difficult, one idea might be to plan out your me-time a considerable period in advance, so that it is a conversation that only happens once in a while. Taking this a step further you may want to think about committing to certain me-time activities and pre-booking or paying for them. That way you will feel more obliged to go.
Another possibility is having a regular arrangement, so that asking isn’t required. In my case, my husband goes to the gym every Saturday morning and I go to yoga every Sunday morning. Some of the mamas I have interviewed take turns with their partner having a “night off” a week – to go to the movies, catch up with friends or play a sport on their own.
- I feel guilty/ selfish/ my family won’t cope if I take time away
Mummy guilt. I’m not going to sugar coat this one. It’s very real and not simple to overcome. That said, a happy mama makes for a happy family. Do whatever it takes to get out the door (I have had many times with two crying children begging I stay), you will be all the better for it, as will your whole family.
- I am a single mama/ my partner works long hours, so the children are always with me
The quote “Create things you wish existed” rings true for a number of businesses who now specifically cater to mums wanting to take some time for themselves, but with children in tow. Mums and bubs movie session, yoga classes, exercise classes and dance parties (Mother Funkers in Melbourne being one example) are common in most cities. Other businesses like Melbourne based, Still Beauty, offer a mobile massage service, so you can enjoy a massage with your baby nearby. The business Motherground runs retreats throughout Australia and internationally for mamas, where babies (under 18 months) are welcome and nannies are on hand (Amy Taylor-Kabbaz is a guest speaker at their first couples and babies retreat to be held in Byron Bay in April). And Sydney based The Mother’s Den run brunches with inspiring speakers, again with child care on site.
- I don’t have family/ partner who can help and I can’t afford babysitters
I was recently invited to a “Mother’s retreat” organised by a mama friend I originally met through a Facebook parenting group. She generously opened up her family holiday home to mamas in the group for a few nights with the premise you could come for a few hours or a few days to enjoy some me-time, while the village would care for your children. I went for a few hours and had a massage (with the mobile service she had arranged) while my boys were cared for by the mamas in the house. Meals were communal and everyone helped out to make sure others had some me-time. It was the most beautiful idea and was so well received, another is in the calendar. It is an idea any mother’s group or small group of mamas could adopt. And if that’s not possible, you could try arranging with a mama friend or neighbour to take turns caring for each other’s children – even for 30 minutes to free up some me-time.
- I’m too tired
As a mama who hasn’t had a solid 8 hours sleep in 3 odd years, I know that sometimes me-time just feels like another thing on the list. I love the quote “Sleep doesn’t help if your soul is tired”. While it is important to listen to your body (and if you are tired – rest!), at the same time, we have all had the experience where if you do something that truly lights you up, no matter how tired you are, you feel better for it. And feeling better is what we must all start to prioritise.
Prue Henschke is a mama to two beautiful boys and shares her own exploration of self-care as a mama, as well as feature mama’s all over the world, at Mama’s Me Time.