|Written by Lynne Dardis Pesce
Toss the guilt aside and take time for yourself
Flight attendants advise those traveling with small children to “make sure to secure your own oxygen mask before helping your children.” The idea of putting ourselves first seems to go against most moms’ very nature. Our kids’ needs take priority over our own, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t secretly—and often with guilt—crave a little “me time.”
Dr. Beverly Stubblefield, a psychologist with a private practice in Slidell, talks about the importance of caring for yourself in six domains: mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, sexually, and spiritually. “Working moms often forget about the social, spiritual, or emotional aspects and focus on physically taking care of kids, forgetting to physically take care of ourselves,” she says.
While moms may understand that ‘me time’ is important on many levels, there are obstacles to making it happen. Guilt is one. “You feel guilty about not being with your kids when you’re at your job and you feel guilty about not being at your job when you are with your kids,” says Dorinda Bordlee of Metairie, an attorney and founder of a public interest law firm, whose four children range in age from 10 to 17.
If a mom won’t dedicate time to herself because she feels she’d be letting her kids down some way, here’s a counter argument: Me time provides distinct advantages for your children. “Taking time out to take care of yourself is necessary for you to be a separate self,” says Stubblefield, “allowing the child to have someone to identify with and someone to be a role model.”
Another crucial challenge for a working mom taking time for herself is that there is often no time to take. Mornings are a carefully orchestrated routine of waking extra early to shower and dress before tending to your kids—dressing and feeding them and rushing out the door to “start” your day. Evenings are much the same—hurrying to get the kids and then trekking home to prepare dinner, bathe and put the kids to bed before tackling some household task like the baskets of laundry that have been piling up for days. It’s no wonder that an online poll of working moms showed that their number one wish for mother’s day was “time for myself.”
Sabrina Trouard of Metairie is a first-grade teacher with a two-year-old daughter. Her obstacle to “me time” is that she finds it hard to switch from work mode to mom mode. “I have trouble turning off the working mindset, so I’m always thinking about what I have to do next.” Her time for herself “usually consists of the moments lying in bed before I fall asleep,” she says.
Working moms also need to balance their own schedule with their children’s. “It gets even more complicated as the kids get older,” says Kristin Donofrio of Uptown. “You become a gigantic taxi shuttling them all over town.”
Many moms have realized that they can’t do it all by themselves.
Kristin’s husband, Michael, is an asset to her when it comes to their three daughters, ages 10, eight, and nine months, taking over all parenting duties when Kristin isn’t home. Kristin travels for her job and is out of town nearly three weeks every month. But her husband doesn’t dump all of the parenting work on her when she returns home. She and Michael use what she calls a “parental time-share” system to enable alone time for each other as well as quality time with one another. The two of them take turns watching the kids themselves, and they also make arrangements with their friends to take turns watching one another’s children.
Dorinda’s husband, Tony, tries to help her by “taking the needs of parenting and playing shuttle bus or doing whatever is necessary to free some time,” he explains. When Dorinda wanted to take piano lessons, she relied on her sitter to watch her young children. She got to do something she always wanted to do, and when she got home she could play songs while the children sang along. Later, she was also able to teach them to play. “It felt good being able to do something for myself and benefiting my family at the same time,” she says.
Exercise is another way many moms break away from the stress of their day. Megan Hays, a nationally certified personal trainer at Maple Street Fitness and Tulane University Reilly Center, suggests “treating your daily exercise like a task to check off your ‘to-do list,’ or even as an appointment with yourself that you plan—and keep.” She adds, “You’ll not only increase your self-esteem in that you’re keeping a commitment to yourself, but you will reap the benefits that daily exercise has to offer, including feeling better, looking better, and living longer.”
Whether you choose to read, exercise, take up a new hobby, or just take a bubble bath, alone time is essential for your own well-being and therefore the well-being of your entire family. There’s truth to the saying, “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Given the limited amount of free time a working mom has, it’s essential to capitalize on every second. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time:
1. Wake up 15 minutes before you have to; take the 15 minutes for yourself.
2. Give your children a consistent bedtime to free some time in the evening.
3. Make an appointment with yourself each week and have someone else ensure that you keep it.
4. Plan your meals in advance to limit the number of grocery trips.
5. Prioritize your responsibilities at work and at home; some tasks are urgent, some can wait.
6. Divvy up the household chores—cooking, laundry, cleaning, the kids’ bath time—with your partner.
7. Incorporate your children into your daily chores, whether it’s cooking together or making a game out of sorting the laundry.
8. Team up with other parents when it comes to carpooling, cooking, watching kids, etc.