Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Putting Me First

I recently had a fellow mom tell me "my child is my hobby," and this struck me as a strange, but true phenomena in America. I promise you, this post is not going to be me going on a rant about helicopter parenting or the ills of trying to live vicariously through our children, but rather on the fact that as moms, we sometimes lose sight of our own needs/wants because we're so busy taking care of our kids. I know dads fall victim to this too, but as I can only speak to my experience, this post is going to focus on moms (sorry guys!).

When I gave birth to my son, all I wanted was for him to be healthy, happy and well-adjusted. And I wanted to give him the moon. I am one of those parents who, 95% of the time, genuinely enjoys being with her kid. He's fun and I love him dearly, so I don't mind spending a lot of my free time hanging out with him.

But at some point, I realized that between working out of the house full-time, commuting, running errands, doing Mommy & Me classes and all the other stuff that comes with being a busy working mom, I had stopped doing the things that were enjoyable to me because I just didn't have the time. Strike that, I wasn't making the time.  By the time I got Little Man to bed at 7:30, picked up a little and got my lunch packed for the next day (or when I was still nursing, got my pump stuff cleaned and ready to go and the diaper bag together), I was spent. I had maybe an hour zoning in front of the TV and then I was out.

Weekends were no better. Grocery shopping and house cleaning and laundry and a host of other household running activities took precedence over the things I enjoyed doing. I hadn't picked up a crochet hook since before Little Man was born. My scrapbooking supplies lay dormant. I couldn't think of the last non-parenting book I had read.  And exercising? Forget about it!

Then, as part of my mini, nebulous Happiness Project + downshifting, I added a mantra to my life: Make time for me!

It is not an easy thing. It seems like it should be, but it isn't. Life can get hectic and busy and crazy and there are times that my plans have to be altered because of illness or other life emergencies, however now that I have become mindful of taking time for me, it is less and less frequently that life tramples my time!

How do I do it, you ask? It has really been a matter of making some small changes.

For the bigger, out of the house type of activities, I have have made a point of scheduling at least one activity for myself each month. The key to this working is that I put it on our family calendar. Somehow the act of putting that time down on paper makes it easier for me to consider it set in stone and to actually follow through. Before I was always hoping to squeeze in events "at some point," but it never seemed to work out. Now that the time is scheduled, the family can plan for me to be gone.

In the day-to-day I was able to find "me time" by merely planning my day a little better. This summer when I was training to run my first 5k, I kept trying to pencil in time to run at the end of the day. This did not work for me, because by the time I was done with the evening family activities, I was in no mood to run. Sheer exhaustion was robbing me of some much needed "me" time. Instead, of throwing my hands in the air and deciding it was a lost cause, I became more disciplined and started getting up an hour early. I'm not a morning person, nor am I a runner, so this was really difficult for me at the outset. After a few days, I came to look forward to my early morning routine. I would run for about 30 minutes and then take 15 minutes at the end of my run to sit next to one of the ponds in our condo complex, listen to some Jack Johnson, stretch and meditate. It was a nice calming way to start my day and I'm looking forward to getting back to that routine after Maverick arrives.

I've also tried to be more mindful of what is eating up my time. I used to bemoan not having time to read a book or pursue my hobbies, but realized I have frittered away countless evenings by surfing the web and watching TV. In an effort to curb this, I've started trying to shut off the computer, the iPhone and the TV off and just picking up a book (or do some scrapbooking or crocheting, etc.).  Realizing that I was using up my free time to pursue activities that weren't exactly meaningful to me has made a HUGE impact on me. Now I try to be more aware of how I'm using my time on a regular basis.

Of course, it is still a work in progress, but I highly recommend stopping and reflecting on your own life. What are you putting off because of poor planning, disguised as busyness? Just taking small amounts of time for yourself each week can really lift your spirits. Sometimes it is just what you need to remind yourself that you are still #1 in your own life!

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