Self-care is important and “me time” is a must — especially when you have kids. At least, that’s the message that seems to be playing like a broken record these days. (Just give a quick scroll through your Facebook feed, and you’re bound to stumble upon an article or two that mentions it.) But as a mom of two toddlers, carving out a window of time just for myself isn’t exactly at the top of my list. As a working parent, it’s hard enough finding time to set up a play date or squeeze in a date night (that actually happens) without just adding more stress to my already-hectic schedule.
However, the past few months have left me seriously reconsidering the importance of self-care. Maybe it was the fact that I kept getting sick (over and over again) that made me think the universe was trying to give me a sign; or, maybe I really had read one too many self-care articles, after all. Whatever the case, I began to wonder: Was I really doing enough to take care of myself?
Enter, The Experiment: I decided it was time to get onboard with this whole “Me Time” thing (or at least try), once a week for one month. It wouldn’t be easy, but I promised myself I’d commit to the cause.
Week 1: I picked up a book and actually read it.
I initially planned to meet friends for dinner and drinks as a throwback to the Friday nights before bedtimes dictated my schedule. But it was raining really hard that night, so I wound up spending the evening in the local library, walking the aisles and carefully selecting books.
Translation: It was MARVELOUS. Alone time in a place that mandates silence? I couldn’t have picked a better place to kick-off my month of “Me Time.”
Of course, I would have preferred to see my friends that night, but it was nice spending time in a quiet space, doing something that I enjoy, yet hardly get to do: read something other than a recipe box, or headlines in my Facebook feed. I used to stop by the library weekly before having a baby. Nowadays, trips to the library are rushed since I have to work quickly before one of the girls throws a tantrum.
It was only about an hour and a half of “Me Time,” but it was still amazing.
Week 2: I wrote (and wrote, and wrote).
To say my week was stressful would be an understatement. Sometimes there are days when everything just seems off and other times it’s several days of crappy experiences that make for a really bad week. Work was stressful, items were due for a school fundraiser that had completely slipped my mind, and I literally could not hear out of one ear due to a super fun sinus-turned-ear infection. Stress, I realized, takes a toll on everything. I was tired and achy, my appetite was off, and I was exhausted. This week left me feeling like a bad mom since my patience was MIA and I spent more time resting then spending quality time with my girls.
For this reason it was really difficult to schedule a few hours away from my girls. But I took one hour for myself on Saturday morning by doing something I really needed to do: write. I grabbed a coffee and some ear buds, and sat at a desk in the library and just wrote. Then I came home to my girls and took them to the park.
Sometimes you just need to vent — even if it’s all in written form.
Week 3: I took a day off — for a reason that had absolutely nothing to do with kids.
Here’s where I got really ballsy: I took a vacation day and dedicated four hours (yes, four whole hours!) to myself. I’ve literally never done that since having kids.
My family was in town from out of state, and it was the perfect time to spend some time on my own. Relatives cared for my girls while I spent the morning and early part of the afternoon doing anything and everything I wanted to do. No nap times or lunchtimes to worry about — so freeing!
First, I enjoyed a quiet drive to a nearby outdoor mall where I grabbed my purse — not a diaper bag or a purse loaded down with snacks and baby wipes — and headed into Starbucks. There, I leisurely enjoyed my breakfast and a HOT COFFEE at an outdoor table, while I watched fellow moms pushing kids in strollers during their morning coffee run. Then I took advantage of being kid-free and hit up my favorite stores where I actually tried on pants, tops, and shoes without worrying about little kids melting down or sneaking under dressing room stalls to say hi to fellow shoppers. It was stress free and I actually took my time to figure out what I wanted to buy. Shopping with kids often results in purchasing items in a rush when one of them starts getting bored.
I rounded up my “Me Time” by getting a mani/pedi, which was enjoyable since I did not have to worry about rushing home.
But I did miss my girls and looked forward to getting home to them and spending time with them. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with relatives and getting ice cream. Sorry Fitbit, but “Me Time” means not counting calories.
Week 4: I got a massage.
That’s right — I decided to dedicate a whole hour-and-a-half to myself on the last day of the experiment by scheduling a much-needed massage. And yes, a spa day in the middle of the work week was INSANELY relaxing. Bonus: While I waited for my appointment to begin, I had time to read the latest US Weekly, sit in silence, and just zone out.
Taking time away from the chores, the scheduling, and constantly playing catch up after a day at work — even if it was just one day a week — allowed me to decompress. Each time, I came home to two little girls who were very excited to see me, and I was relaxed enough to actually play with them without worrying about what I should be doing — like the laundry!
I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to the end of this experiment. Before I began setting time aside for myself there was very limited “me time” in my life at all. Sure, I would sneak away for the occasional quick trip to Target, but really dedicating time away from my kids to just focus on myself — no chores or other tasks involved — had not been high on my list of things to do.
But clearly, it should be.
Even if it was just an hour grabbing a cup of coffee or reading a book, setting time aside for myself helped me decompress and feel more like me than a harried, stressed-out mom. I had time to shed the frustrations and stress that inevitably carry over from the day, and return home much more relaxed. Plus, it gave me time to miss my girls.
So yeah, “me time,” is a must after all — and truth be told, I can’t wait for my next one.