When Deborah asked me to write an article on how important it is to take time for yourself two things crossed my mind – I don't have time to do it and I don't know how to do it! Although I know how vital it is claim “me” time, it is like the elusive Holy Grail of mothering. Then, being a true mom, instead of saying I was on deadline with other work, I said I would get it done on the weekend. Do we never learn? As I moaned to my husband: “But I don't know how to make time for myself!” he smiled sadistically and tried to cover his obvious mirth.
It was only when my son was 11 months old that I had a meltdown (complete with floods of tears and anguished calls to my mom and sister) when I realized that I am not Super Woman and do not have enough hours in the day to do everything perfectly. We grew up being told by largely stay-at-home-moms that we could be anything. We believed them and determinedly set about conquering the world. It was when I fell pregnant that I realized I had relinquished control; I just didn't realize to what extent. As radio personality and author Sam Cowan says, she is not trying to be the perfect mother, she just wants to be good enough.
I recently read an article in a Sunday newspaper on the immense pressure working moms are under. It scratched the surface and basically told us they take on too much through their own doing. What genius wrote that? Time constraints certainly don't just relate to working moms. A friend of mine who recently gave up a part-time job was asked by her husband what she was going to do with her time. Dangerous territory… My long-suffering husband has never been allowed to live down the comment: “When did I last phone you on the way home from work and say I was meeting friends for a drink?” I roared back: “When did I last phone you on the way home from work and say I was meeting friends for a drink?” He now chooses his words more carefully.
We all know how important it is to take time out so there is no point in preaching to the converted. I should know. It has been six weeks since my 18-month old son put my cell phone in the toilet. Insurance has paid out the claim, I have duly spent the money and have still not had sufficient time to dedicate to choosing a new phone. Our biggest stumbling block is guilt. If I had one wish for womankind it would be to abolish these feelings of guilt we so mercilessly subject ourselves to. What don't we feel guilty about? Being a foodie, I never fed my child Purity and would spend hours preparing all sorts of homemade meals only to flop onto the couch with a precooked meal myself. Is it that difficult to dedicate time and energy to our own wellbeing?
And, if you can't do this without feeling guilty, think of the converse. When we are more relaxed we are better mothers, wives and friends. We are more patient, laugh more readily and don't sweat the small stuff. We can achieve that state, even if it is relatively short-lived, just by lying in a bubble bath for half an hour. Given what fantastically talented moms we all are (we can multi-task and co-orindate an entire family's schedule), surely we can pinch an hour of time a month for ourselves. Don't be ambitious, start small.
I recently reverted to a weekly ceremony I used to perform when I was single. Every Monday I give myself a mini home facial – I exfoliate, masque and moisturize and it's amazing what that 15 fifteen minutes does to my mood … and skin!
I religiously have a facial once a month and, instead of going late afternoon like I used to, I now go on a Saturday or Sunday and time it to coincide with my son's sleep (fortunately his nap operates like clockwork) so I have no guilt. He can't miss me and my husband gets to lie on the couch and watch sport for two hours without me moaning at him. A win-win situation. Gateway's late night shopping is also great. You can put the kids to bed and head out afterwards for an hour or two of shopping, sipping coffee or hanging out at Exclusive Books. In this case, I think it's being master of your own destiny that is so appealing. Inevitably you won't be able to resist clothes shopping for your kids but it's liberating not to have a deadline that involves rushing off to fetch children, getting home to cook or hoping to beat the traffic. It's not about making more hours in the day; rather think of it as multi-tasking your time.
You cannot undervalue the support structure of friends. My nail technician laughs that I always call my oldest school friend while I am having my nails done. At least I know I have time to have an uninterrupted conversation. Isn't it amazing how uplifting a chat with a friend can be? The same friend was at the end of various text messages when I was a new mom, one of which was, “Is it just hormones or is my husband a prick?” She called me laughing and said, “They all are.” Now neither of us really thinks that but I smiled, took a breath and was able to tackle the world knowing I wasn't alone.
If you're not in a book club, join one, start one, buy into one … do whatever it takes! The first Thursday of the month eight of us gather and with a glass of wine and sometimes over ordered-in food (it's a relief to know you're not going to be judged as we're all time-deprived) we talk, laugh, complain a little, ask for advice, compare parenting horror stories and all leave feeling like the load has been lightened. No matter how supportive your husband is – and mine is amazing – only another mom can empathize and, above all, make us laugh at ourselves. And yes, we do read. Some are Pulitzer Prize-winning novels but there are others that give us a giggle like Diary of a Hapless Househusband, I Don't Know How She Does It and The School for Husbands.
Would we sacrifice being mothers to have weekend sleep-ins or to spend a leisurely guilt-free day at a spa? Absolutely not. Do we have to sacrifice ourselves to be moms? Absolutely not. Indulge in a little “me” time… you're worth it! Your kids and hubby realize that so it's time you do too.
Written by Tracy Gielink - for moms by a mom.
Tracy recommends taking time-out at Teremok Wellness Boutique, Marine Drive, Umhlanga. Open 7 days a week which includes public holidays and weekends, they are also open late to accommodate moms who can only get there after work..