I was hiding in the bathroom eating a frozen Reese’s Cup and trying to hold back tears. Both of my boys, ages two and four, were having an exceptionally stubborn day. Every little thing was a battle. Every. Little. Thing. From which clothes to wear (you’ll be hot in that) to which shoes to wear (you’ll get your feet wet) to which snack to have (you’ve already had two bananas today!) to which show to watch (the great Octonauts vs. PJ Masks battle of 2017), they were getting along with neither each other nor me.
And it hit me: I was burned out on mothering.
When you’re constantly caring for other people, it can be hard to take time for yourself. Everyone’s heard that “Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping other people” spiel and often it’s applied to motherhood and giving yourself time to take care of yourself, but it can be SO HARD. Often life gets so dang busy, and you’re accustomed to being overlooked (remember that mom who wore one earring for seven months to see who would notice?), and it’s not so hard to overlook yourself.
But there’s hope. Even if you don’t have someone to watch your kids for you, even if you and your partner are on opposite schedules, even if you’re weary with fixing other people’s plates and wiping other people’s bottoms, there is time for you.
Here are some ideas for how to make time for yourself, and what you can do to care for yourself during that time:
Where’s the Time?
- Get up early. I know. I honestly can’t imagine doing this. If you’re a morning person, this can be your chance. Get up before those babies or big kids, make a steaming cup of coffee/tea/whatever, and just do you. JUST YOU. Don’t do the dishes. Don’t start a load of laundry. Pick something from the next list and love on you for a change.
- Stay up late. This is my jam. I’m a night owl, and I always have been. I put those stinkers to bed, break out the ice cream, and entertain myself.
- Nap time! It is so, so tempting to use nap time to be productive. If even just one of your babes still naps, that may be the only time you can efficiently accomplish anything. But if it’s been a rough day/week/phase, maybe don’t be efficient. Use that precious time to recharge. The dishes can wait.
- Use that T.V. I’m lucky that my kids can be entertained with a movie or their favorite show. If it’s a rough day and I can’t wait until bed time, I’ll make them a snack and plop them in front of that glorious screen and take an hour for myself. In the middle of the day. Like a Mom Ninja. #Winning
- Task those kiddos. Build the biggest Lego tower ever! Write the whole alphabet! Read two chapters! Depending on your kids’ ages and abilities, this may or may not be an option. My two boys fight over toys, so I tend to default to option #3 for daytime breaks. But when they’re older, I plan on giving them an ‘assignment’ that’s fun, that they can show me later but don’t need me for, and one which allows them to entertain themselves so I can have some moments of peace.
What to do?
How often do we daydream about what we’d do with an hour of free time, and then somehow end up with one magical hour and waste it doing chores or mindlessly scrolling a newsfeed? When you’re caring for yourself, be intentional with your time. Choose something that fills you up, and restores your reserves of patience, and helps you feel like a human and not just an endless mom-ing machine.
Here are some of my favorite human-time activities:
- Read. A book, a magazine, a newspaper. Whatever gives you joy. Get lost in someone else’s world. Preferably with a snack.
- Watch a show or movie you get to pick.
- Take a bubble bath. WITH A BOOK! Ha, can you tell I love books? Baths are usually an after-kids-are-asleep one for me. They work together to my detriment, so I can’t really be too indisposed during the daytime.
- Give yourself a manicure/pedicure/spa hour. Soak those toes. File those nails. Do a face mask. Make cucumber water, play your favorite on-demand radio station on a meditation station, and say ohhmmm.
- Workout. If exercise gives you joy, do some home yoga. Stretch, do pushups, anything you need to do to feel more like you.
- Bake/Cook. If you’re a kitchen goddess, experience the joy of being solo in the kitchen. Play your favorite music, drink your beloved drink (smoothie, wine, wine smoothie — I’m not here to judge!), and create something you’ve been dying to try. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only one who will eat it. Give the hordes leftovers. That beef bourguignon is for YOU. That decadent triple chocolate swirl cheesecake is for YOU. Enjoy.
- Paint/Sew/Craft it up. Just imagine doing your craft without having to come up with a kid-friendly version that you’ll have to pause your own project fifty times to help with.