On any given day, between the hours of 7:30 am and 7:30 pm, my home is a lively place. It buzzes and hums with the mischief of three busy two-year-olds discovering their world.
I rush about the house, vainly attempting to keep up with them. I toss in a load of laundry here, break up a squabble over there, and generally try to keep my children happy and alive, and my house clean habitable.
At the end of the day, I sit down to dinner with my husband and reconnect. The time between bedtime for the kids and bedtime for the grown-ups is ours.
While I love time spent with my family, it is not always easy for me to find time for myself. I’ve learned that if I want to cultivate my own happiness, I have to carve that time out of a day that seems to already be whittled down to nothing.
Over the past two years of raising triplets, I have struggled to create space for my own needs. During the first year of the their lives, I almost lost myself entirely. As time passed, I slowly began to realize that the more I focus on myself, the more I am able to be a better wife to my husband and a better mother to my children.
While I’m nowhere near perfect, I have found a balance that works for me right now. I hope that these five ideas can help you to do the same.
Define self-care for yourself. Self-care means different things to different people. If you can’t identify what it is that fills your emotional bucket, it won’t matter how much time you set aside for yourself. You will never be satisfied. For me, self-care means finding silence to read or write. Seems simple enough, but finding peace in a home with three toddlers is not always easy. I have to work for it.
For you, self-care may mean spending time with friends, exercising, or cooking. It may be an annual beach vacation or volunteering at an animal shelter. It doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure it suits you and that you are a happier person because of it.
Identify your best time of day. In Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before” she talks about the concept of larks and owls. People that prefer to wake early and those who would rather stay up late. It’s more of a continuum than a black or white concept.
I happen to be a lark, so getting up very early, while not always easy, is refreshing to me. In the evenings, I struggle to even make a coherent sentence after about 9:00. In the morning, I can get the same amount done about half the time. Also, I love drinking a cup of coffee that is piping hot to the last sip without having to toss it in the microwave.
Waking early isn’t for everyone. I am married to an owl, and he is sluggish and foggy in the mornings no matter how much sleep he gets. Everyone is different; it is just a matter of finding the time when you are your best and capitalizing on it.
Don’t waste your time on things you think you should be doing. This one was critical for me. The first year, I had a long list of things I thought I should be doing. I loved the thought of scrapbooking my children’s lives and pureeing their baby food. But, I constantly felt guilty about the untouched scrapbooking supplies sitting in my office. And, because I get no joy from cooking, I felt like making my own baby food was sucking all of my free time away.
Trying to fit these things into my already overcrowded schedule was making me unhappy. When I decided to focus on the essentials, the things that made me truly happy, managing my time became much easier and I felt more fulfilled.
Protect your time. Once you find the activity and time that work for you, protect it. When others ask you favors, or ask you to skip your obligation to yourself to help them out, find the strength to say no. It is so easy to treat this time as a luxury rather than a necessity. Remember how important you are and how important it is to your family that you are your best self.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Occasionally, a couple of days will slip by when I will hit the snooze alarm in favor of allowing myself a little more rest. That’s ok. Remember, this time is for you and you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, I don’t think there is such a thing. The best you can do is good enough.
From August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.
Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.