I have been thinking about this concept of me time for some time. Time is such a funny thing, going by super fast when I least expect it, and dragging so slowly when I just want to get a move on. I can spend a whole afternoon waiting in a doctor’s office, and it feels like midnight by the time I get seen, when it's only really been under an hour. That same amount of time spent with my spouse or a good friend feels like only five minutes have gone by. I'm not alone, right? Then, of course, the demands on my time as a parent seem to be never-ending: conferences, meetings at school, activities, home schooling, check ups, cooking, games, sports, appointments, and it goes on and on and on… So what am I thinking when I suddenly want me time?
My daughter, at the tender age of fifteen, just wrote (Special Needs Siblings: A Kind of Our Own) about how important it is to have time for herself. Alone time. Quiet time. Me time. It resonates with me, because, at the end of the day, some me time could probably be very therapeutic, not just for me, but for my kids, and for my husband, definitely and for sure! It's common sense, but then I forget about why time alone, for everyone, is a good thing. Imagine how mentally stable one could feel with just an hour of time to themselves? The proverbial experts all spout great philosophy about the benefits of me time.
During a particularly trying and challenging stage of life in my not-so-distant past, I was consulting a therapist (I was probably on the verge of a mental breakdown, in hindsight, but I digress) and said wise therapist asked what I'd be if I could come back in a different life. I readily answered, “Well, I'd be a large, fat house cat that only eats chicken because I don't particularly care for seafood, and I'd eat and sleep whenever I felt like, and I'd be inside where it's warm and safe, and no one would care that I was fat… Or, I'd be a nun in one of those silent nunneries where I wouldn't have to talk to anyone, and I got to wear robes, and nobody would care if I was fat.”
Wise therapist looked at me and replied, “Wow. You didn't even need to think about that.”
“Nope! I've got that all figured out, you know, just in case.”
“Well,” said he, “I think you really just want to be alone sometimes.”
Well, I thought, he was absolutely correct. I also wanted to eat and not care that my body was very round (I prefer all things sweet, and nothing green, but I'm trying to even that out). Then, of course, as guilt is the default emotion of my brain, I felt guilty about feeling so selfish, especially about something that could never happen, plus, I really, really love my family, even though we're all a bit mad, here.
Here it is, though… part of my desire for a new, impossible existence was extremely telling, and very, very possible. Alone time. Everyone should definitely schedule alone time for themselves. It's not selfish. In fact, alone time may be very un-selfish if it helps you to be a better parent, spouse, or friend. Ideally, you should probably have alone time every day; if not every day, then maybe every week. Now, you may scoff and cry that it is impossible for you to schedule me time. I think, then, that perhaps it should be a goal to do exactly that. “Challenge accepted!” could be your battle cry. Carve out an hour some where in the course of the one-hundred-sixty-eight hours in the week. Even if you have ten kids, three dogs and one husband, one hour should be a doable goal.
Everyone will benefit! Me time could be whatever you want it to be. You could spend your hour reading, journaling, walking, doing a puzzle of some sort, or taking a bubble bath. I have a friend, the mother of four boys, and every afternoon she takes a cup of tea up to her bathroom and takes a bubble bath. She is one of the most grounded mothers I know. I tend to walk, personally, and even when I don't want to walk, I feel so good having just done it, and my whole household benefits from a better balanced mama. Those cool coloring books are nice, too, for quiet, contemplative, restorative me time. Me time doesn't make everything perfect, but it does make the brain better able to cope with stress and the demands of raising a family.
So, parents, schedule your hour (or more) of me time. Empower an older sibling to be in charge of the littles, or claim your hour during nap (or quiet) time. Maybe you can hire a mother’s helper for an hour, or get the husband to help you achieve your power hour by taking the kids out for a walk, or bike ride, or whatever it is that can allow you an hour to yourself. You can even trade hours with another parent who also needs an hour of me time. And, don't forget to reciprocate for your spouse, also, because he or she will need it, too!
Keep calm, have a power hour, and parent on!