When you become a new parent, life changes. You’ll no longer have the time you did in the evenings to put your feet up, read a book, watch TV or just relax! You’ll most likely find yourself prioritizing the housework and when you finally do sit down, your newborn will wake up for a feed! However, it is okay to prioritize yourself once in awhile.
It’s not selfish to want and need time to yourself.
It is okay to put your mental health before your sinkful of washing up. It is okay to ask for help. We wouldn’t do something physically draining after we’d just run a marathon so why do most of us insist on doing things emotionally draining after an already exhausting day.
For many parents, ‘me time’ is hard to come by and in a lot of cases can come with a sense of guilt for wanting to take time away from your child. Of course, it’s not only mothers that feel this way, with father’s also needing time out to relax. A 2014 study found that the average mother only gets 17 minutes of ‘me time’ to herself in an average day – this is not near enough time to rest and recover. If you think of yourself like a mobile phone, if the battery is low – would you put it on charge for 17 minutes, to then take it off charge and use it again for the next few hours? I doubt it.
Taking time out for yourself is not only beneficial to your physical health, but also for your mental well-being.
Furthermore, the same poll indicated that almost 75% of the 2000 mothers surveyed, are living their lives for somebody else. More than half said that they do not have the time for their own hobbies and interests since having a child and spend that rare free time consists of planning for the next day.
The inability to relax and experiencing constant levels of stress can leave you feeling exhausted, anxious, irritable and depressed. It can even lead to burnout, a state of physical and mental exhaustion which can impact your everyday life, including looking after your children.
Who is more at risk for burnout?
Single parents or parents who feel they don’t have enough support from their partner.
Parents who put their child’s needs above all else, including adult relationships, hobbies, or work.
Parents of children with special needs.
Parents with chronic physical or mental health problems.
Parents in poverty, in unstable relationships, or with other significant circumstantial stresses.
Parents who take on too much at one time such as a full time job and a newborn baby.
Parental burnout can affect everybody, not just those who may be more at risk. When feeling at risk to burnout, ‘me time’ is crucial. Taking a short break from everyday life can allow you to return feeling refreshed and ready for the day’s work. ‘Me time’ doesn’t have to necessarily mean booking a week away to visit the spa. It can be anything: ranging from a peaceful shower, reading a good book, going for a walk, a night out with your friends, a weekend away or even a holiday!
4 ways to ensure you have sufficient time to yourself to re-charge and be ready for the day ahead:
1) Get up an hour early before your children.
By waking up an hour before your child does, you can have your morning coffee in peace and take the time you need to wake up properly without rushing around trying to make breakfast and get dressed whilst your child clings to you for dear life! You’ll have the time to have a shower and get yourself ready for the day! If you are feeling up for it you can even do some yoga or a morning workout! If you are going to be waking up earlier, remember to try and sleep earlier, aim for 8 hours a night.
2) Give yourself one night off per week.
This doesn’t necessarily mean go out, giving yourself a night off can mean anything! Simply, don’t do the things you would usually do. When your child is in bed, leave the housework for a night, read a book, invite your friends over, have a bath! The point of a ‘night off’ is to do something you enjoy, which can be anything!
3) Introduce quiet time.
When your child reaches the age of being too old for naps but still requires your constant attention, introduce quiet time so you can have some time to yourself. This can be anything, from letting them watch the TV in their room or setting up somewhere for them to quietly draw or read. If your child struggles with this, introduce incentives.
4) Do something you enjoy.
There is no point in ‘me time’ if you are not doing something that actually allows you to relax. Whether that be sitting on your phone or working out! Some ideas for me time includes: going to the cinema, going to lunch with friends, taking a 20 minute walk through nature to collect your thoughts, having a bubble bath with your favourite music on, have a 20 minute power nap if you need it, catch up on some reading or TV, reconnect with an old friend, go for a drive, try a new recipe, go shopping for fun not as a chore, get a massage and turn your phone off! Unless it’s an emergency, don’t take any calls for an hour.
Remember, ‘me time’ is essential to your mental well-being.
If you feel like you need a break, don’t feel guilty or ashamed in asking your partner, trusted friends and family for a little support whilst you find some time to relax or pick up a forgotten hobby! We are all human, we all need time to recharge!