As moms we are constantly being told how important it is to find time for yourself. Do what makes you happy. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to MAKE time. How in the actual fuck do you MAKE time?
For the last 20 years there has been a child under the age of 5 in our home. Yes, I know how this happens. No, I didn’t miss that day in nursing school. Yes, I have heard of condoms. I’m not complaining, Beverly, so settle down. It has just been a fact of life here that there has constantly been a small human around that needs things. Humans of younger ages are typically more immediately needy than that of the older variety, though this isn’t always the case.
When you have small kids, there is always something that needs doing. This ranges from things you can maybe hold off on for a day or two (like scheduling their physicals that are already 4 months overdue) and things that necessitate panicked intervention, and about 47,662 things in between. I cannot tell you how many times I attempted to sit and read only to be disrupted 4 milliseconds later by a scream of “MOM! CAN YOU WIPE MY BUTT?”. Not exactly something you can ignore for “me time”.
I know a lot of moms have made time for themselves before the day begins. They get up at 4;30/5am so they can have coffee and browse through Pinterest or get in a work out. This never worked for me as I am notoriously dysfunctional upon waking and also, I never had kids that slept. My odds are shit in the kid sleep department, having only 1 out of 5 that would reliably sleep (thank you, Lily). ONE OUT OF FIVE. A few years ago I actually posted that my watch was tracking 4 total hours of broken sleep on average for months. Needless to say pulling myself up for a workout was ALWAYS ditched in favor of the possibility of another hour of sleep.
So what do we do then? Maybe we can use our lunch time from work to do something for ourselves? Nah, you’ll probably spend this time making those doctors appointments you’ve been neglecting and running around like a lunatic to get a kid to the pediatrician and back to school so you can get back to work all within an hour. Hopefully there weren’t any emergencies that held you up so you have to stay late to make up work time.
OK, so lunch doesn’t work. What about after the kids go to bed? Cut to the scene of me after battling with O for 2.5 hours to get him to sleep having only gotten 4 hours a night myself for the last 13 months and as soon as O’s eyes are closed, so are mine. Or maybe we cut to the scene of Sid gently shaking me into awareness that its 2 am and I never left Owen’s bed and I have drool up the side of my head. So, after the kids go to bed was out.
I wish I could tell you I figured this out, but I didn’t. In the absence of leaving the house I got zero “refill your cup” time. My husband was always AMAZING at “leave the kids, go alone/make plans, etc.” but even then I was usually going out to do something that needed doing, like grocery shopping. It was rarely a thing I did for myself. Even when he bought me gift certificates for massages, I put off scheduling them for forever. Look, I’m sure there were better ways for me to manage things and get what I needed but I was so overwhelmed and exhausted that my brain couldn’t even try to figure it out.
Amanda, where are you going with this? Great question. I’m going to say this: Yes, it’s important to “make” time for yourself but it’s not always as easy as saying those words. It can take support from your spouse, friends, extended family to make that happen. I’m blessed to have all of those things and I STILL find it difficult to do. It’s getting better now thanks to a lot of life changes that have occurred since the pandemic hit. I still struggle sometimes though, I think we all do.
What creative ways do you find to take care of yourself so that your head doesn’t implode from the mental load of parenting/being a human?