Everyone knows. Every mother needs to make sure to take some time to herself for herself, by herself. Everyone preaches, even people without kids know the, “nap when the baby naps”, and self-care line.
Before kids, I had a lot of time to spend by myself. Before I met my husband, I lived alone for five years outside of New York City. Had a great little place that I painted blue and yellow, with art on my walls that I chose. I would take time to myself by reading some witty non-fiction bestseller or teaching myself how to do a french manicure (which I did so well, people asked me where I got my nails done.) Other things included deep conditioning masks for my hair, tanning on the beach, or endlessly shopping Amazon.
I knew at the time that these years would be gone forever one day, so I really lived it up. I was lazy when I wanted to be. I deep cleaned my house my way. I ate frozen fries for dinner and slept on the couch. I smoked at the time, and would even smoke in bed. *gasp!* I knew I would want to look back and feel good about spending that time how I wanted to. And I am glad about it.
My me-time consists of a couple days of the week I get to poop in peace, and some days, I get an entire 20 minute shower to myself. Most days, I am followed into the bathroom, into the kitchen, into the shower, into everywhere else.
For almost every mother out there- unless she’s got some damn good help- her me-time is combined with something else. Her personal downtime is actually multi-tasked. Her me-time of going to the grocery store by herself is coupled with bread, milk, eggs, cereal, and other necessities for the pantry. Or, as in my case, the shower I got today was uninterrupted. Never before did I consider necessary hygiene something that was personal down time. A break from the daily grind. But it sure is in my world. So I better enjoy shaving my two week old hairy legs, because I may not get this shower again for several days.
We fool ourselves into thinking that we enjoy this me-time, and we are in fact taking me-time regularly to recharge and be ready and present and attentive to our children. Oh, look at me, by myself, sans kids.
Later, when they’re older and need you less, it becomes easier. They understand you’re coming right back, so sneaking to Starbucks for twenty minutes to go adult isn’t such a big deal. But you know, you better not take too freaking long, mama.
But when they’re little like mine, my time simply isn’t my own. My me-time is borrowed away from other things that need to get done, and so that’s why it gets coupled with other must-do things like showering. Or folding clothes. Or doing dishes/cooking dinner. It’s the only time I’m not being touched and climbed on and can have a complete uninterrupted thought go through my head. And forget about contemplating the world like I used to do. Forget about studying the history of Marxism, for example, and being able to form an educated argument against it. My thoughts consist of why in the hell I have so many pairs of socks without matches for my daughter. Or that I can’t believe she’s outgrown another outfit.
For moms who work outside the home, I think it is obvious that their time is being taken up during the day with other things, leaving her with the need for her me-time during after hours. Not that she gets it, of course, because the kids still need care. But for the stay at home moms, people assume we have all this time to ourselves during the day and can just stop and paint our toenails. (It has been four months since I last painted my nails.) Her job at home isn’t really considered work or time invested in something other than herself (like work), and so it gets missed why she needs a break.
The only thing she has left is to go take a freaking shower already. There. There’s your break. Enjoy it while the hot water tank lasts (or the kid comes in crying, whichever comes first).
When they tell you it’s hard, they can’t explain it. And it’s not to necessarily complain. It just is what it is. There almost never is actual me-time, the same me-time you got pre-children and pre-responsibility. It won’t happen again for years. That’s part of it – comes with the parenting territory. But I think it sure would be helpful if that was acknowledged and cutesy pieces of anecdotal advice like taking me-time was actually not doled out like candy on Christmas. Instead, “Hey, mama, I know you got it rough. I hope you got to shave your pits along with your legs, today.” That would be helpful. Because at least we would know that you get it.