“Me time" may seem like a distant memory by now, so this week we focus on why it’s an important habit to adopt. We also discuss what it means to prioritize yourself, how much time that means, and finally... how to actually do it.
Genevieve Shaw Brown, ABC reporter and author of “The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First is the LAST Thing You Should Do,” argues that parents who always put themselves and their needs last are doing something unsustainable and counterproductive. Her motto is: “Treat yourself as well as you treat your kids.”
Lindsey Roberts also believes it’s important that parents prioritize themselves. She uses an analogy to explain the importance of parental self-care by noting that in the days of traditional ground warfare, generals always had “dry clothes and hot coffee” not because they were spoiled, but because if their morale was bad, it would drag down the troops.
Lauren Smith Brody surveyed over 700 working moms in writing her book, “The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity & Big Success After Baby,” and found that approximately 80 percent spent one hour (or less) per week doing something for themselves during their first three months back at work. She found this to be the case regardless of whether the moms reported having especially demanding babies or not.
Who ended up taking slightly more time than one hour per week? Brody reported that women who had what she calls “Working Mom Mentors” did. The theory is that women who’d seen successful working moms were more likely to grant themselves the permission to take more time for self-care than those who didn’t have one.
Lest you think that this means that they were taking spa days for themselves and their besties, Brody writes, “They were realistic. Not one of them suggested that newly back-to-work moms schedule a luxurious weekly massage — or even spend time truly alone.” She says that the key is to expand the notion of what it means to have “me time.” It may mean taking a half-hour detour to window shop, having a dinner date with your husband, cooking yourself your favorite meal, or even bringing your baby on a “date” to your favorite coffee shop if you don’t have a sitter.
As you become a more confident new mother (or if you need the time for self-care right off the bat), Lindsey Roberts’ approach may also work for you. She believes that parents should take regular “days off.” And what should they do on these days? Roberts says:
"Try to think about what will be restorative. Maybe try on clothes for an upcoming season without little hangers-on rushing your decision process. Maybe get in a good workout and then relax in sneakers at a coffee shop where you can read a fun book. Or maybe schedule lunch and a spa day with a close friend."
To take an extended period of time (i.e. a full or half-day), you probably need to have a sitter or family-member take care of your newborn. If that’s not possible, consider taking one a half-day off of work with your vacation days. Or even getting a babysitter for an hour or two on Sunday so that you can just get yourself ready for the week with some peace of mind. If you’re having attachment issues, you don’t even need to leave the house! Stay right there with the babysitter in the next room if it makes you feel better.
If self-care feelings are out of the question now, at least file yourself a mental note. Believe it or not, one day the guilt you feel leaving your baby while you go to a 45-minute yoga class will ease, and as that becomes easier, one day soon you’ll also feel ok about going to a 2-hour (gasp!) yoga session. And then one day after that, you may even be able to go on that weekend yoga retreat with your girlfriends.
For now, though, baby steps. We’re rooting for you and wishing you as many lovely coffee breaks (where you can actually enjoy the beverage, hot!) as you can squeeze in.