Someone is always asking for more "me time" from her life. Moms love to get together and lament their lack of "me time." But I'll tell you something... The last time BJ said, "Hey, I'll take the kids for a while, why don't you go do something for you," (which he does, occasionally, because he is a pod person) I had no idea what to do with myself.
Let's face facts, here. I wasn't the sort of girl who got regular manis and pedis pre-kids. I'm not suffering because I don't have time (or money) for them now. I have literally driven around in my car, stopped at the Starbucks, driven around some more, and ended up at Borders because it was the only place I could think of to go. And I was bored within about 10 minutes, and someone's kid was crying which made it hard to pretend that I didn't have kids waiting for me at home. I was thinking about all the things I needed to do at home (cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, putting away messes, cleaning the toy room, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning, laundry, etc.) and feeling guilty about wasting time at Borders with my foofoo coffee instead of ticking things off of my to-do list.
Guilt makes it hard to enjoy things.
Another time I went and got a massage for "me time." Didn't love it. In 12 years of being with BJ, I have come to like my back rubbed a certain way, and I don't really like to be touched by strangers or touching strangers to begin with, and it just gave me the creeps and left me feeling like I'd wasted a lot of money. I do like getting a facial, and have found a wonderful aesthetician (if you're local, e-mail me for a referral, because Kelly is a goddess), but it's not really practical to have two or three facials a week in the interest of "me time."
I have forgotten how to do "me time."
Or have I? Is "time for manis and pedis and aimless, non-goal-oriented shopping and foofoo coffee drinking" what we mean when we talk about "me time," or is it something else?
Does the request for "me time" have to do with time free of kids, or is it something more?
Here's what I think. When Moms want more "me time," what they're actually asking for is "someone to take care of me time."
We spend all day responding to other peoples' needs (small, non-fluent, impatient, irrational people). We have to anticipate their needs, lest we risk a meltdown. We are responsible for their hunger, their thirst, their sleepiness, their entertainment, their feelings of being loved and cared for... And then our husband comes home (if we're lucky enough to have one) and we're responsible for listening to his day (his need for attention, to reconnect, etc.) getting dinner for the whole lot of them, cleaning up, getting the kids to bed, and, if the husbands are lucky, getting a little "couple time" in before we pass out.
It's a tall order, and there's not a lot of priority placed on meeting mom's needs in that agenda, unless we maybe get a bit of a foreplay backrub!! (Oh, hi Dad, are you still reading this? Hahah!)
I have learned, in the course of my 3.5 years as a parent of small, demanding children, to find ways of carving out small chunks of time for myself during the day.
- Go to the mall or park with a book. Benignly neglect children as they play with the other kids. (By "benign neglect" I mean, keep an eye on them out of the corner of your eye, but don't push their swings and stuff... let them play on their own, they will live).
- Trade free babysitting with another mom during the day, so you can do errands, etc. without kids in tow. (And see below for the added advantage of the playdate).
- Go to the bookstore, grab a magazine on the way to the children's section. Benignly neglect children as they play with the train, etc. in the children's section.
- At nap time, go for a long drive in the country. When the kids fall asleep, head back to civilization, get a foo foo coffee (hooray drive-thrus), sit in the car and read a book (or take your wifi enabled laptop and check your e-mail/write your novel in the Starbucks parking lot).
- Nap with your kids, the laundry will keep. (Don't do this in combination with the rolling nap I outlined above... That's not safe!!)
- Enlist the kids in the activities you enjoy. Now's the time to train them to be interesting to someone like yourself as they get older. What better way than to teach them your hobbies early?
- Fence in your yard. Sit on the patio/deck/blanket on the grass with your book/magazine/e-mail/project while the kids play.
- Have other kids over to your house. No, I'm not kidding. Playdates will entertain your kids, so you don't have to! I get the best cleaning done when my kids' friends come over.
- Along the same lines, have another kid! In about 15 months, the egg you fertilize today will become a playmate for your little one!
- Be a joiner - I look forward to the kids' gymnastics and ballet classes as much as they do, because I get a chance to visit with the other moms while they participate. Or, I can take a magazine/laptop/book with me.
- McDonald's playplace, your local library during story time, etc. Find places in your community where you can get someone else (or something else, like tubes full of germs) to entertain your kids so you don't have to!
- Join a Moms Club - I hear that MOPS has separate activities for the kids and the moms, so you get a little time where you're not entertaining and anticipating needs, but I guess you have to do a craft or something. I haven't looked too deeply into it.
- When all else fails, or your stuck home sick like we are today, stick their butts in front of a video. I got the upstairs bathroom clean during an episode of Charlie and Lola this morning.
- Find a spa/hair salon/nail salon/gym/etc. with child care. Again, e-mail me if you're local for referrals.
- Find another couple with similarly aged children and trade babysitting with them once or twice a month.
- Go to church and take advantage of the free babysitting. Hold hands and play footsie in the pews.
- Exploit local relatives.
- Contact your local high school or college and ask them to post a babysitting ad for you on their job board. Be sure to interview and get referrals and Google all candidates.
- Ask non-local relatives to come and stay with your kids for a weekend so you can run away from home. They'll love the chance to spend time with your kids, your kids will love the attention and the variety in caregivers (and eating cookies for dinner and candy for breakfast and all the other naughty things grandparents, aunts, and uncles do) and you get to enjoy running away!
- Travel to your nearest willing relative, drop the kids off, and then go to the nearest big city for the weekend... same idea as above.
- Date-in. Put the kids to bed, send someone out for carryout and a rental movie, and snuggle on the couch.
Here's the thing - when we've had couple time, BJ's a lot more willing and able to spend some of his time taking care of me - which is what I suspect the whole "me time" thing is really about to begin with. And I'm a lot more receptive to his gestures when we all have balance.
Also, because I'm a (mostly) stay at home mom, I try to remember that when he's working he is taking care of me, and us, by earning the money that keeps this family going. And that's definitely not nothing. Oprah once said something about, "Happiness is having an attitude of gratitude..." I really find that happiness in my marriage is all about gratitude. We're both working hard right now. It's hard on everyone. We're in it together. And if we remember that, we're both happier, and so are the kids.
How do you find the time for yourself and your spouse that you need?