Find Time for You: Even Super Mom Needs a Break
Most women already know what the statistics bear: You are still carrying most of the load. You juggle kids, work, home, volunteering and everything else in between. Are you really enriching your life by doing everything?
"When we are stressed, overwhelmed and tired, we have a shorter fuse. We become irritable, and it's more difficult to handle the challenges of being with children," says Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, a personal life coach in Aurora, Colo.
Logically, you know that running yourself on empty isn't good for your health or your family. But the instinct to be a devoted mother means operating in overdrive. You want your children to be happy, and you desire to give them every possible life experience, even at the expense of your own needs. You feel guilty if your children don't have everything you think they should have.
However, Victoria Moran, author of Creating a Charmed Life says we need to let go of the distorted images we have of the "sainted mother." "We've got to give ourselves a break, or we're passing the old guilt patterns along to our daughters," Moran says.
Heather Brockhaus, a busy mom in Bartlett, Tenn., used to struggle with the guilt factor. "If I didn't clean the house while my daughter napped, I felt like a slacker," she says. But being mother to a strong-willed toddler expends a lot of energy. Brockhaus realizes if she doesn't take advantage of her daughter's naptime to re-group, she's too stressed to be a good mother.
"When we emerge from our solitude, we are stronger, more relaxed and calmer," says Disbennett-Lee. She adds that as much as we need a break, our children need one, too. When we establish "mommy time," we are in fact helping our children learn independence, socialization and hopefully, an appreciation of what we do for them. Even more importantly, we are demonstrating that taking care of ourselves is important.
"Frazzled is not pretty," Moran says. "If you don't put gas in your car, it won't run; if you don't give some nurturing to yourself, you'll be a pretty poor nurturer."
'Pencil in' Your Time Out
Now that you know it is healthy and even productive to take a "time out," how can you actually take one when you can't possibly drop one thing on your schedule?
Take stock of what you are doing now. Do you really need to bake three dozen cookies for every parent meeting? Or chaperone the next field trip? Will your children really be scarred for life if they don't have a dinner made from scratch?
Seriously think about what your own goals are. Focus on your interests and the opportunities at hand. Once you have your focus on target, the wasted time that goes along with being pulled in too many directions will be a thing of the past.
"Declare a 'mom's time out' and let your children know that barring any emergency situation, you are not to be disturbed," says Disbennett-Lee.
Rally the Troops
To successfully plan a time out for yourself, get everyone in the family involved. Even the smallest hands can reduce the workload for Mom. Trade babysitting with another mom and use that time to rejuvenate. Give yourself a spa treatment with a hot bubble bath and pamper yourself with quality moisturizers. Indulge with "grown up" things like fine chocolates or a glass of wine with a good book. Connecting with other moms is also fulfilling and relaxing.
Sarah Bell of Marietta, Ga., is fortunate to have a husband who encourages her to take time for herself. She enjoys getting together with her girlfriends to craft at least one night each week. Bell feels adamant that taking time for herself is part of being a good mom. "If you don't respect yourself, who else is going to?" she says.
Something else to remember as we look for light at the end of the tunnel: This time with our children will go faster than we think. As our children get older, we will have more time to ourselves. If we use this time wisely and take care of ourselves, the whole family will reap the benefits.