I’m a busy mommy to four. I homeschool my daughters while trying to keep my sons from destroying the house. I try to squeeze in nap time and healthy meals around my daughters’ packed dance and competitive gymnastics schedules. And I collapse into bed at the end of the day, much earlier than I’d like to admit, and wake up too early each morning to the sound of a screaming, hungry baby.
But the only thing I could ask for in life is more help. But the help I’m looking for doesn’t involve someone taking over so I can go away. I actually really like being with my kids and wouldn’t trade these days with them for anything because as cliche as it may be, I know someday they’re going to grow up and not need me as much. Someday (and probably soon for my eldest), they’re going to choose to go away from me.
And all of this is why I can’t get behind the “mommy me time” trend. Aimed at giving mommies time and permission to take care of themselves, I think the idea of mommies needing to regularly be away from their kids and families in order to manage their own health doesn’t work for everyone.
Some mommies love “me time.” Some mommies love going out and getting a manicure or facial. I’m not that mommy, I bite my nails and I’ve had exactly one massage in my life and hated it. Some mommies love going to dinner with their friends and drinking the night away. I’m not that mommy, I’m too exhausted for wine at the end of the day and so are the very few good friends I have. Some mommies love to run, go to the gym, train. I’m not that mommy, I’m a dancer and while I would love to spend more time in the studio, the 2 1/2 to 3 hours required to get into a ballet class are hard to come by.
I’m tired of the internet telling me that I need “me time” and I have to take care of myself. That I am failing my family by focusing all my time and attention on their needs and not taking time for myself. I don’t want to read another blog post about how I need “me time” in order to be a successful parent.
Truthfully, I hate the idea that I’m need to be responsible for taking care of myself. I spend every waking moment taking care of other people. I cook for them, clean up after them, do their laundry and make sure they’re bathed, rested and generally healthy. I really don’t need to be adding anything else to my to-do list, including “me time.”
What I really want (and, in all honesty, need) in life is to be taken care of. To have some of the kindness and caring I constantly show to those around me returned. To just sometimes have someone cook for me, clean up after me, do my laundry, make sure I have the time to bathe, rest and be healthy.
Putting the ownership of taking care of myself on my own shoulders is merely one more thing I’m going to fail with. “Me time” is just one more thing that will never get done. One more item on my never ending to-do list that never gets crossed off.
So how about instead of constantly telling mommies they need to make time for themselves, try giving them that time. Rather than waiting for a mommy to say “I’m going to…” or “I need to…” or asking them “do you want to…” simply give them the time and space to want to do things for themselves.
Obviously, this will look different for every mommy. For some, it involves arranging babysitters and making appointments. For others, it might involve having a schedule where she’s guaranteed “me time” to do whatever she wants without other responsibilities.
For me personally, it involves knowing that my kids are engaged and taken car of by another adult so that I feel comfortable slipping away to shower or work on a project sans tiny helpers. My house is like a 24/7 hurricane so having a set time isn’t really helpful. Making appointments isn’t easy (to make the phone call or guarantee it will be a good time to go out). Instead, I prefer to take those moments as they present themselves, ducking out for a little “me time” when everyone is happy rather than when life is a train wreck and I will spend the entire time I’m away worried about how the adults are holding up (I know my kids will usually be fine.)
But making this time available for me to take care of myself falls on the shoulders of the other adults in my children’s lives. It relies on them to be engaged and in control of my kids so that I feel comfortable being away. Saying “just go” really makes me feel like I need to stay even more.