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A while ago I visited my esthetician for the first time in months. As soon as I walked in she looked at the bags under my eyes, droopy eyelids and slouched posture, and noted that I was clearly in need of some me-time.
She was right. In fact, the need was desperate.
She said, "If you can't find time in the day to get your eyebrows done then maybe it's time to reassess how you spend your time."
Some weeks, I am chronically overscheduled. I start my day early and end it late. I work full time outside the home, raise a toddler, run a home with my partner, write for various sites, serve on boards, try to keep up with friends, scroll through social media feeds and try to stay clean. I know that I am not the only mother who packs her days this way. In fact, it seems most mothers, despite our varying schedules and activities, always seem to put themselves at the bottom of the list.
While many of us would want some time for ourselves, finding that time is easier said than done. Lately, I've started thinking of creative ways that don't involve me pulling away from precious family time. Here's what I came up with (in easy to understand GIFs, because you're too frazzled to actually read this):
1. Early morning
Wake up before your children do. Note: if you have a newborn, this won't work. Once kids have a set sleep schedule, wake up at least one hour before everyone else does. This guarantees an hour of solitude to drink your cup of coffee while it's warm (for once), read a book or magazine, or exercise.
2. Morning ritual
My son starts off the morning with books. But this is not the time his father and read to him. Instead, we keep a stack of his favorite books by our bed, and he flips through them and "reads" to himself. That buys us 10 minutes, on a good day, to catch up with each other or to sit quietly. We love that it encourages literacy and also lets him know it's OK to spend time independently.
Must-do errands, like picking up a prescription, renewing your driver's license or waiting at the doctor's office can become prime time to carve out some me-time. If you are waiting in line at the pharmacy, call a friend you want to catch up with or read all those articles you have been saving on your phone. Do not flip through social media. Seeing a celebrity who lost the baby weight in 48 hours won't make you feel better about yourself. That is not a good use of me-time. Do feel free to stop and grab coffee on your way home, though. Play your favorite music and give the kid tunes a rest.
4. Outsource avoidable errands
While going to the grocery store can seem like a break from the day for some, for me it is a chore I'd much rather avoid. If you can invest in a service that delivers groceries, such as Amazon Fresh, or meal prep services like Blue Apron, you'll minimize the amount of time spent on dinner. You can also pick up hours of me-time just by avoiding trips to warehouse stores like Costco or Sam's Club. Instead, I order things like diapers and dishwashing soap from these retailers online. I save a lot of time by not having to drive in rush hour traffic. And just like that, you've found more me-time. (Unless, of course, shopping is your me-time, in which case, have at it, girl!)
Use at least one of your days off during the holidays to get a sitter and take the day for yourself. Plan some time do nothing or do all those things you wish you had time to do. I heard about a mom who uses her birthday as a holiday and takes that time to get a physical to practice self-care. I'm planning a movie day with a girlfriend on Veteran's Day.
Taking time for ourselves can make us feel guilty. But I have come to realize that me-time isn't me saying I don't want to me spend time with my son. Rather, it's recognizing that I need time to nourish and replenish myself to be better for him. I need to have a clear mind when I'm trying to negotiate bath time, so I can be fully present for kisses and cuddles at bedtime.