It’s Saturday night at 8pm, only 30 minutes until Oliver (hypothetically) goes to bed for the night and only 31 minutes until I start fantasizing about climbing into bed myself. My husband offers to take full responsibility of Oliver so that I can have some “me time.” Without thinking twice I jump at the offer.
Now if only I could figure out how to spend my “me time.” I start in the kitchen thinking a snack might be in order. I’m in the middle of comparing the merits of kettle corn to buttered popcorn when I can’t help but notice the awful state our kitchen has fallen into. Before I know it I’ve forgotten about the popcorn and I’m loading the dishwasher, washing bottles, and tying off the overflowing bag of garbage. My husband shouts in from the living room couch, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be doing something fun.”
Fun—that’s a concept that’s changed a lot since having a baby. Sometimes when your choice is between trying to calm a screaming baby and scraping day old baked ziti off of plates, the plate scraping can seem like a trip to Disney World. But he’s right; the kitchen can wait. I reluctantly put down the dish soap and move into the bedroom. Maybe I’ll read a book.
The first things I notice upon entering are the hamper of washed clothes waiting to be put away and the dirty clothes laying all over the floor waiting to be washed. I resist the urge to tackle that chore and shuffle into the living room where my husband is sitting with the baby. I plop down on the couch next to him.
“You want a foot rub?” I ask, reaching to yank his socks off.
“I’m not going to say no, but this isn’t exactly doing something for you.”
I audibly sigh in agreement, but I’m not quite sure what else to do. I’ve grown so accustomed to filling any free time with must-dos like cleaning, cooking, and baby care that I feel a pang of guilt for doing something that I want to do. Surely having clean underwear takes precedence over any purely selfish pursuit. No? And as a stay at home mom, handing baby care off to my husband for the rest of the night feels like I am slacking on the job. Because when am I not at work?
When raising your child is your “job” of sorts, how do you learn to clock-out when you’re always taking your work home with you…or, more aptly, you’re always at home with your work?
Learning to take “me time” in the face of other pressing obligations and errands requires some practice. I’m nowhere near perfect at taking guilt free time for myself but here are some tips that are helping me get there.
1. Give yourself permission. Taking care of kids is hard work; you don’t just WANT a break you NEED a break to be at your best.
2. Acknowledge feelings of guilt but recognize they stem from unreasonable expectations you have of yourself.
3. Talk with your partner or other care provider and agree upon a set time when you can renounce all baby responsibilities.
4. Get away from the baby during “me time.” Get out of the house or ask whoever is watching the baby to leave. It’s hard to focus on you when you can hear a crying baby the next room over.
5. Make plans with someone so that you can’t back out.
6. Ask for help getting all those lingering chores accomplished. If you don’t feel overwhelmed by a mountain of to-dos, it will be easier to focus on you.
So what did I finally decide to do with my “me time?” You’re looking at it.