Finding Me Time for Parents
It all changes instantly
The minute you become a parent, everything changes. That quiet moment in a coffee shop, the lazy Sunday morning lie in or a cheeky last minute weekend getaway are all distant memories once your little bundle of joy arrives. That said, nothing can replace the sense of love and happiness you experience when you become a parent. All of a sudden, your world is turned upside down. It seems as if your every moment, awake or (rarely!) asleep, is shared with this new little being.
While parenting is certainly an adventure unlike any other, there are times when you crave those moments of “me” time you used to take for granted. Longing for that moment alone or for some peace and quiet where no-one can find you, does not make you a bad parent, you need to have some time for yourself too in order to recharge and be the best parent and partner you can be.
Am I actually allowed ‘me’ time?
Finding those precious moments to just “be” can be a chore in itself. Crying babies, cranky toddlers or demanding family lives don’t make it easy! You may feel at times, that you’re “on call” twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for what feels like the rest of your life. Unless you make time for yourself, you will be. Remember that your own emotional well-being is also important and it shapes the type of care and input you give back to your family. If you’re overwhelmed, even just tired, you’re less able to be present and on top form all the time. A half listening ear or a repeat question is a clear sign that you need a break. So make time.
We often feel that in order to have “me” time, we need to get away. We may book childcare or dream of doing so but in reality, the minute we do, we are filled with guilt, worry and thoughts about how they are coping without us. That overshadows the purpose of ‘me’ time! While it is true that your children are only young for a very short period of time, it is important that you’re well rested enough to enjoy those times with them and have the memories to hold onto, not the memories of how tiring it was or how you ‘let yourself go’ when the children were young!
There are obviously those times of day when you can snatch a quiet moment at the end of the day, once the children are in bed finally and you’ve cleared up after dinner. The trouble is, that by then you’re probably so shattered you can’t imagine anything else other than slinking into bed for a few winks until you’re either woken in the middle of the night by a child who needs you or the morning comes faster than it did the day before. Either way, you’re up and it starts all over again. That said, every day is a different day. There will be ups and downs and days where you are so happy with your little family that you wish nothing more than to spend more time with them.
When you start to feel as if you’re likely to fall asleep standing up, you really need to consider how you can get some ‘me time’ without feeling guilty about doing so. It can be a bit of a process to get yourself out of the mind-set of feeling guilty for needing a bit of time to yourself but it can also be amazing once you get to grips with the idea.
Failure to plan is planning to fail
There will always be those moments where you suddenly find yourself ‘child free’, perhaps a partner or grandparent has popped in and offered to take the children out to the park for an hour. Your mind suddenly goes into overdrive and before you know it, you’re knee deep in soap suds, scrubbing the kitchen floor and stripping beds faster than a monkey peeling a banana. Again, guilt kicked in and a you were overcome with a sense of responsibility. Your household chores will rarely be done so while it’s tempting to spend this precious hour trying to catch up, the reality is that you’re not going to be caught up for long and you’ll be more stressed at the thought of them returning before you’re finished doing what you set out to do.
Pick a day, any day. One that works with your availability and one that works with a partner, friend, family member or local childcare provider. Plan your day out or if you’d prefer to have a day in, then do that. You can do whatever you want to do. It is a date with yourself and it’s important for your own emotional well-being. Think of it as an investment in your children’s mother or father. The most important people in their lives. You wouldn’t want a frazzled childcare provider looking after them so allow yourself the same opportunity to reboot.
What is important is that you do what YOU want to do on your morning, afternoon, day or evening “off”. There will of course be times where you feel guilty about what you’re planning but keep the above in mind and enjoy the idea of honouring the person you are as you, not only as a parent. Reflect on your parenting, think about your children, do whatever it is you want to do on that precious date with yourself. You deserve the time and you’ve earned it and more.
When your babies are little and they come home from the hospital totally dependent on you, you care for them, feed them change them and nurture them. When you consider how you would do anything for them, remember that when they become a parent, you’d want them to be as good a parent as you hope they will be. Think about how you would feel if you saw your child tired and stressed with no time for a shower, let alone a bit of “me” time. What would you say to your child? You would want them to take care of themselves so that they could be on top form again after a good rest and time to themselves.
Life will never be the same again once we have children but would you want that old life back for good, most wouldn’t. There is something so special about being a parent that makes you want to do it again or stand still in time so that you can appreciate every moment of your children’s lives. Time goes so quickly so the guilt you may feel for wanting time to yourself is very real. Tiredness is not what it used to be! A late night out, a demanding job or a difficult life situation will all be overcome in time. The feeling of worry, guilt, love, decisions and the unknown of what the future holds for your children, will never go away. It may change as they grown but so do you.
It would be wrong to suggest that you are putting yourself before your children if you start planning some “me” time. It would be quite the opposite. Your children need a happy, present and confident parent to look after, love and nurture them. Taking a little bit of time to yourself once a week, once a month or however often you’re comfortable with, will give you something to look forward to and it will help to show your children that you care enough about them to take good care of yourself. Hopefully, this will mean that you will be in their lives for many years to come. When we find the connection with ourselves, we remember that despite the challenges we face as parents, we can still check in with ourselves once in a while for a full service before getting back on the road we know as our journey through parenting.
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