Taking Time Out for ME

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I can give stay-at-home parents loads of advice about creating schedules to work around kids, organizing their work for optimum effectiveness and efficiency, multi-tasking tips and so on. But there is one key that helps me do all the stuff I need to do and remain sane. I don’t hear about it often, it’s called . . .ME TIME. Yes you heard me correctly. I’m talking about rejuvenation time, quiet time, alone time, personal time, self-care . . . ME TIME! Answer this. When was the last time you were just “you?” Not recently I bet. What do I do in my 4 hours? Lots of stuff. I can rent a hot tub and soak for an hour. I can go to a bookstore, grab a juicy novel and sit in a big comfy chair until I finish or until the bookstore closes (whichever comes first). I can park by the water and watch the sunset. I can go to Denny’s and ask for the most fattening platter on the menu. I can go to a movie and order the biggest tub of popcorn and a box of Junior Mints. I can go to the park and ride on the swings. I can go to the gym and watch big muscular men workout. I can drive far, far, away very slowly and look at the scenery. The possibilities and the destinations are endless. I meet people and talk to them and I’m just “ME”. I can be myself and not think about the dirty sink or the smelly diaper or the crazy client. It’s a wonderful feeling, but most of all it clears the mind. It allows me to sort things out. New ideas, solutions to old problems, and other wonderful things pop into my mind as soon as silence surrounds me. Try it, I dare you! But let me warn you, after you try it you’ll never be able to live without it! “But moms need breaks!” we all know that. “They need to nurture themselves so they can be better moms. Too many moms let themselves run on empty. Being a good mother also means taking care of yourself so you can give more of yourself to your children.” Indeed, it won’t actually do your kids any good if you’re stressed about being the perfect parent. Taking care of yourself is a priority. It’s the “airplane oxygen mask approach”: Put on your own mask first so you can better help whoever’s sitting next to you. In fact, a study published in March 2006 concluded that a mother’s mental health directly affects her kids. Kids whose moms were treated — successfully — for depression were much less likely to become depressed themselves. But if the mom’s depression continued, her children were more likely to become depressed Why do many parents, mothers in particular, feel guilty when they take time for themselves? First let’s examine the feeling of guilt. There is healthy and unhealthy guilt. Healthy guilt has sadness underlying it, a sense of true regret for a chosen behavior that created harm or some problem, often for others. Unhealthy guilt is a feeling of shame, that we aren’t OK as we are, that we should be different than we are and should make different choices. We have beliefs like ‘We should put everybody else first.’ There are some healthy shoulds that are actually values, virtues and morals in action. We really should look after the earth, avoid racism and care for our elderly, disabled and disadvantaged. It is the unhealthy shoulds that create the dis-ease and stress in ourselves and our families. Many parents believe they should make their children happy. They are told ‘You make your children so happy’ or ‘You broke her heart.’ The reality is that we have influence on one another, including our children, but we do not have the power to make anyone feel anything. We may trigger a reaction but there it ends. Of course we aim to be sensitive to each other’s tender spots and choose to use respectful language. John Gray in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus explains that men tend (there are exceptions) to have success feelings when they think they made their wife and children happy. Meanwhile women tend to feel responsible for everyone and all their feelings. Training of the female in my era reinforced this habit. I remember my mother repeatedly giving me the plate of sweets at socials with the instructions to ‘make sure everyone is happy and has what they want.’ She trained me to be on the watch for others’ needs, not to consider taking a sweet for myself until others were looked after and not to question that my brothers were off playing and ‘being boys.’ Then there are those voices of people from our past or in our circle with their shoulds. ‘You should stay home with your children’ or ‘You shouldn’t be staying at home with children after your parents paid for all that education.’ Don’t let people should on you. Just because some people are uncomfortable with our decisions does not mean that we should live our lives so they can feel right. Moreover, observe and censor your own menu of shoulds. Being driven in life through unhealthy, and usually meaningless, shoulds, can create resentment and meaninglessness. Like all moms, I have a multitude of things going on from the time I wake up in the morning until I collapse in bed at night. Getting everyone up, fed, dressed, and out the door to work and school is a full-time job in itself, and then it’s only 7:30 a.m. I do my best to manage my time well. Sometimes I succeed; other times I do not. One thing that I try very hard to do is to find some time for me. Whether it’s sitting down for a page or two in a novel that I’m currently reading, flipping on the television to watch a favorite program, or just taking a walk in the spring sunshine, it’s something just for me. Having a child with autism, I find that if I take that time, even just a few minutes, I am able to handle the stress that sometimes accompanies having a child with special needs. I am known to occasionally take on more tasks than humanly possible. Between working part-time, volunteering, and handling all the responsibilities that come with my “Mom” title, I sometimes forget to take time out for myself. While I may feel selfish taking a “time-out for Mom,” I am actually doing my family and myself a huge favor by doing so. When I’m overwhelmed and stressed I have very little patience, and I have a tendency to be somewhat irrational! I am able to view things in a totally new way, and I’m a much better (and happier) me when I’ve had my “time-out.” From one mom to another, try a “time-out for Mom” today. I think you’ll agree that it’s been long overdue and is time well spent. Taking Time Out for ME

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