Moms, how often have you heard “make sure you nap when baby naps” or “make time for yourself?” These and other well-meaning snippets of advice really are little nuggets of wisdom…but decidedly difficult to accomplish with young children that require round the clock care. The challenge to carve out me time can be an even taller order if you aren’t lucky enough to have very much family support to give you a break. However, there are certainly very good reasons to make the effort and the attempt for mommy breaks, and here are just a few:
“If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t No One Happy…”
Have you ever heard this saying? It does tend to ring true, and a tired, worn out mother that does not have the opportunity to recharge her own batteries not only has less energy to give her family but can also react with more annoyance, frustration or even anger. If the kids and spouse feel they have to walk on eggshells to avoid upsetting Mom, it just doesn’t make for a happy household. So as challenging as it can be to make time for self care, it really is important for the overall family dynamic.
Often, even a short break away from the responsibilities of caring for children and running a household can make a big improvement in a woman’s energy level and ability to cope with daily responsibilities and challenges. One of my favorite “recharge” activities is a monthly mommy happy hour with about 10 other moms I know. We get about two hours away to commiserate with other moms who “get it,” we laugh, we eat, and we go home a lot happier. Several moms have told me after that their husbands said to say thank you for organizing these little getaways, because the positive effect on the moms’ moods was noticeably improved for at least several days when their wives returned home after a little girl time.
Long Term Stress Simply Isn’t Good
This little tidbit probably goes without saying. However, if you are like most moms, you probably put yourself last, and just keep shouldering stress and responsibilities. Over time, the effects of the stress can take their toll. Fatigue, mentally “fogginess,” inability to focus, aches and pains, susceptibility to getting sick, acne, upset stomach and increased chances for high blood pressure are just a few of the possible impacts of long term stress. Taking regular time outs for you can really help a busy mom unload some of her stressful burden and have very positive effects on long term health.
So Just How Do I Carve Out “Me Time?”
Ah, the magic question! While I don’t have the perfect answer, the single most important thing a mom in need of a break is to ask for help to watch your child. This is purely speculative on my part, but I have noticed among my mom friends a reluctance to ask for help because of guilt (“I should always be there for my kids” or “I feel bad for the person watching my crying/fussy child”). However, the worst that anyone can tell you is no. Is no really so bad? If they say no, then simply move on and ask someone else you trust to watch your child.
I realize Dad’s aren’t in the picture for every family, but if he is, he is the logical first person to ask. Ask him to take little Johnny or Julie to the park for an hour so you can soak in the bathtub or go for a pedicure or watch your favorite episode of TV uninterrupted. Daddy gets some quality time with his child, you get a precious break and will probably be a much happier lady after some peace and quiet. It’s a win/win.
Grandparents may also be great babysitters if they live locally. Even if they don’t want to be relied on regularly for babysitting, most will probably be willing to give an occasional break, especially if you do a good job communicating how important it is for you to recharge your batteries to be a better care mother/wife/care giver.
For those that don’t have much family support, other moms are your next go to place for support. Do you go to playgroups or mommy and me classes? Do you get along well with another parent from the park and are your kids friendly with each other? Are you part of any mom/parent support groups (either in person or online)? Then ask another parent you trust about swapping child care so you can each have alone time or date night. Other parents understand better than anyone else what it is like, and swapping child care with a trusted parent may be your answer to much needed R&R.
Lastly, many churches and community groups like the YMCA also after parent night out or MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) programs where parents can leave children with daycare providers and have a date night or solo time. Look for local programs in your area.
Mini breaks like these can sustain the mommy soul if done with regularity. The effort to arrange child care will be well worth the trouble, giving you the where-with-all to return to Super Mom status.
Tracey Louis is a stay at home/work from home mom that promotes www.thehighlandlakes.org when she’s not chasing her spunky toddler. The Highland Lakes is a gorgeous region of rolling hills and lakes in the Texas Hill Country, about an hour northwest of Austin.
Image credit Miguel Virkkenun on Flickr