I read an article a few weeks ago in New Zealand’s Canvas magazine, in which writer Megan Nicol Reed penned: “there is something inherently nauseating about talk of prioritising one’s own wants”. I wrote to her. We debated. Then we agreed: it’s not the concept of me-time that is hard for some to swallow; it’s that it’s become a sort of catch phrase that we throw around at things as though it’s the panacea to all that ails us.
Me-time – prevention is better than cure
Me-time is not a fix, or a cure. It’s a preventative – and a very necessary one for us mums.
We put our heart and soul into raising our children, don’t we? That’s because most of us believe what’s nicely summed up by John Trainer in his quote:
Children are not a distraction from more important work; they are the most important work.
Motherhood is a responsibility; a job for life. But with this job, there’s no contract, no start and finish time (if only!), no performance review or bonus, no holiday leave. As women we are hardwired to please, and as mothers we hold a lot of store in harmony. So we tend to say ‘yes’ a lot. We make ourselves available to other people – our children, partner, colleagues, friends. We wear so many hats, and it can wear us out and sap our energy so that often we find ourselves running on reserve.
Me-time is a preventative as it can help to prevent us from depleting ourselves entirely, from burning ourselves out due to all that we give – all the thinking, the playing, the loving, the teaching, the listening, the waiting, the expert skill-wielding like negotiating and mediating. The list goes on. No-one can understand the tiredness of a mother except another mummy. It’s mentally, physically, emotionally and hormonally draining!
When your car engine drains its fluids, you re-fuel it.
When your car starts showing signs of wear and tear, you service it.
Every 6 months your car is tested and corrected for safety on the roads.
Yet the most important engine in your life is your body.
Our bodies can’t keep expending, expending, expending energy without maintenance. It’s as simple as that.
But me-time isn’t simple to achieve. It takes finding the time (or making the time, I’d suggest). And, quite critically for us mums, being okay with putting yourself first – I’m not talking about all the time, just sometimes. Though even with the some-time frequency, it’s something many mums struggle with, because they feel guilty for putting themselves first. If this sounds like you, allow me to share with you a different way of looking at this, which will help lessen the guilt and help you feel okay about it.
Filling up your cup
In my book ‘Dear Mummy, You’re Important Too’ I talk about the concept of filling your cup. This means doing things you love, that really light you up – not that light you up as Mummy, but as YOU. This is about who you are, because remember: you were you once before you were Mummy, and you’re still you.
I’ll give you an example of the difference: what lights me up as Mummy is baking with my daughters (which is really just licking the spoon for them!). What lights me up as Tui is standup paddleboarding, yoga, and walks on the beach, or even just 20 minutes to retreat to my room and read a couple of articles from my favourite magazines.
When you take time to be present in your life, to engage in activities that light you up, your cup will fill. When your cup is full, you’ll be the best you that you can be: you’ll be at your most calm, contented and happy. And in this state of mind and being, you’ll have the reserves of energy and love and patience you need, in order to give generously to your little one and others in your life. In other words, the more you care for yourself, the more compassion you’ll have for others. If this is true – and I strongly believe it is – then we should feel no guilt in taking time for ourselves, because in doing so we’re preparing to give time, that’s brimming with love, back.
As far as making space for me-time, that starts with a mindset that you are a priority.
We need to put ourselves at the top of our to-do lists. How? Simple: each day write – against your name on your to-do list, or on your calendar – one thing you’re going to do today that lights you up. It could be as basic as a bath at the end of the day.
Do something, anything, as long as it’s just for you. Start today. And pay attention to how you feel and how you are with your family when you return from your interlude. I’m certain you’ll be better – and that’s what Dear Mummy is all about: fulfilling your best potential, to be an incredible mummy and an incredible woman.
Make time for you. You deserve it, because dear Mummy, you’re important too.