This is a direct letter to every single mom and dad (and anyone else) who is caring for young children. It doesn’t matter if it’s one child or multiple children.. However, being a parent is not a prerequisite to hear this message. You need, NEED, to make time for yourself. You need, NEED, to care about your own well-being. And, you NEED, yes, NEED to NOT feel guilty about it. “Me time” refills our souls that can then pour into our children (and others we care about) like loving rivers. Without it we are empty, and everyone suffers. I know, I’ve been there.
Hi, my name is Christina, I’m a wife, mom, small business owner, blogger, fitness instructor, and woman. I have been one of these at a time and I have been all of them at once. There was a time in my life where I ran on empty. I’m not too sure how I did it, but I did. I kept moving purely on fumes I suppose. But I was shaky, cranky, tired, and unable to be the mother and wife I so desperately wanted to be. I could see it. I could see it outside looking in. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I was doing the absolute best that I could at the time. I was just never alone, I NEVER had “ME TIME.” And if my loving husband suggested I take time away the mom guilt sunk in like a ton of bricks and I would just say “No, that’s okay. I’ll be fine.” When the truth was, I was slowly digging a hole that would later challenge me to change forever.
See, my husband Andy and I don’t live near too much family. So, when we had our kids we didn’t have a lot of help. I always hear people say, “It takes a village,” and while I totally believe in that theory, we really didn’t have a big village surrounding us. We certainly had friends that ALWAYS lent a hand when we asked, but we never wanted to abuse those friendships in that way. I still have friends I can count on if I ever needed more support, the difference is, these days, I have opened myself up to lean on them now more than I did then. But back to my point. Without the help, and without allowing myself the breaks I so desperately needed it eventually led to a sense of overwhelm. I can now see it added to my anxiety which I talked about in a previous blog. I can also see I was completely off balance! I wasn’t healthy physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. Changes were needed, if not for me, for my husband and my children. Of course, I want it for me, but they are my reason for so many things and they deserve the best version of myself that I can give them.
The truth is I work on this every day. The difference between now and then, is that I’M ACTUALLY working on it. See, creating balance doesn’t mean you’re perfect and have things figured out all the time. No, it simply means you can recognize where you need a shift and then begin to consciously shift it.
But how do you make time for yourself when it seems like you are never alone? Here’s what has worked and what I’m currently trying to realize:
The first thing I started doing when my kids were young was waking up early to workout. It always inevitably had them joining me 20 minutes later, but at least I got those 20 minutes in. These days, when they wake up and see me doing my home workouts, they either just go back to bed or grab a book and wait for mommy to finish. They now see it as mommy’s “me time.” More than that, I grew to love my mornings. The house is usually picked up (a nighttime chore for us all before bed), it’s quiet, and I can process what’s to come that day. I still wake up early even if I don’t exercise just so that I can have those moments of peace and tranquility. I also notice, I am a more patient mom when I can wake up and get myself ready before it’s time to start their morning routine.
On the reverse side of this, Andy and I take turns walking the dog. Whenever I’m about to head out the door for that walk the kids like to say, “Have fun on your 20-minute vacation!” It makes me laugh, but how true it is! If you don’t have a dog, I highly recommend it! We don’t always walk the dog alone. In fact, the kids love to come when the weather is nice. But even then, it’s good for all of us to have a nice leisurely walk with no real agenda.
Second, I stopped making myself feel so guilty! I started hiring that babysitter so my husband and I could have more regular date nights, or I hired the sitter when I had work to do, or I hired the sitter simply when I needed to breathe. The best part about it was that my girls absolutely love their sitters! They’ve built this amazing relationship with them and find it fun when they come over. This makes my mom guilt subside just a little. Honestly though, I find myself sometimes realizing it’s been too long since we’ve called the sitter. This part I’m still working on…but when I see it’s been too long, I immediately make a correction!
Thirdly, I spend time with my girlfriends. What is it about motherhood that women just get all involved with their kiddos that we cease to make time with our friends that fill our spirits? Granted, I don’t spend nearly as much time as I did before kids, but I now make a conscious effort to connect; whether is a girl’s weekend, a phone call, or a just meeting for a walk it fills my cup. Plus, I now see that it’s good for my own little girls to see mommy with her friends.
Fourth, I follow my passions and my hobbies. My kids now laugh and tease mommy because of her passions. I could be wrong, but I find they don’t see it as time taken away from them. They see it as something that makes mommy happy and they love a happy mommy. I believe when we engage in our hobbies and follow our passions it sets the example for our children that they should do the same. Plus, if we are doing the things we love, we can pass it on to them.
These days my kids are getting older. I’m starting to realize they don’t need me as much as they once did. I’m learning to let go and encourage more independence. While I do that, I’m also using those little nuggets of time to take a break, or breathe, or just relax – and tell myself that it’s quite alright. Personally speaking, my brain can be more patient, more creative, and more adaptable to changes when I take time to be still, quiet, and relax. This doesn’t mean I’m being lazy or surfing social media. In fact, I find social media to be the opposite of taking a break, but maybe that’s just me. It simply means that I allow myself release from the pressure of constantly making sure everything is in order.
I don’t know if I’m a perfectionist, but I can confidently say I’m a type A. Wanting to be the perfect mom is a clear desire in my mind. Learning to let go of that idea of perfection has been challenging yet eye opening. All we can really try to be is our best selves. Having space, alone time, following passions, and freeing ourselves from mom guilt will allow us to do just that. It’s in that balance that we can create our own version of perfect. Or as I like to refer to it – perfectly imperfect.