It was the last boarding call. The long queue ahead of her had quickly vanished. The fighting siblings and the extremely cute toddler who was waving to her was already in the flight now. She nervously paced around the boarding gate. Could she back out now? Was this a bad idea? Traveling without her two year old and her husband is not something she had imagined she could do! Tanya held her boarding pass with her sweaty palms, the tears trickled down her cheeks again, forty eight hours of crying were about to end…
From the day we hold that tiny baby in our arms, we know our lives have changed forever. As mothers, our sleep timings, food breaks and even our toilet schedules revolve around these little miracles that we created. The thought of ‘me time’ is considered a synonym for being ‘selfish’ or an example of bad parenting.
“Even if I decide that today, I WILL watch my favourite TV show and make the baby sleep on time, I can’t do it. I just can’t. There is either the kitchen slab to clean or hubby has an important thing to discuss or I am just too tired to stay awake. Where is the question of ‘me time’?“, confesses Avril, a mother of an adorable one year old (name changed).
The Roles we Play
Most women begin their day by playing the role of a chef. We are either cooking or arguing with ‘the always late cook’ about why we need less oil and less spices in our food. We juggle being ‘the perfect mommy’, ‘the perfect wife’ and in some cases, ‘the perfect daughter-in-law’ of the family. For working women, the roles change immensely just as you start the first day of work after maternity leave.
“Every time I enter the mall to buy something for myself, I end up going to the kids’ section. I shop so much for the baby that I feel spending on myself would be such a waste!” said Nancy at a Mommies’ meet.
As mothers, spending on ourselves is a crime we cannot commit. This guilt cannot be fought with. It’s almost like the sweet, little baby was wrapped in a blanket of ‘mommy guilt’ and given to us on the day of its arrival in this world. You may hand over the baby to anyone – from husbands, to mother in laws or efficient nannies but the blanket just stays with you and wraps you tighter with each growing month. This guilt follows you to the bathroom, the day you decide to take a longer shower with the bath oils that promised to relax you. It follows you to the house warming party of your best friend where you picked the red wine, even after the baby has stopped breastfeeding. It dictates your free time – if you have any!
We try to make ourselves useful in any way possible. We tell ourselves ‘free time is luxury’ and we cannot allow ourselves luxury once we are mothers! So we use that time to find ways to earn extra bucks so that the monetary pressures are released. We iron all of the babies clothes, because even the park visits around people we don’t know is as important as an international conference with the board of directors! Not to forget rearranging the cupboards and cleaning the store rooms because especially as a SAHM (stay at home mom), we have to “be productive” even if its at the cost of our “me time”. Especially if it is at the cost of our ‘me time’.
The Truth about ‘Me Time’
Yes, it does take a lot of effort to fight that guilt and take time to do something unproductive or relaxing, that involves no one but you. The new identity of being a mother should not kill your original identity of being you. Motherhood shouldn’t come with such a huge price to pay! Happy mothers make happy babies and happy families. Children from happy and secure families are known to adapt faster and not be bullies in the early years of schooling.
“It scares me to return home from work, because my wife’s moods are always unpredictable! I know it’s hard to be home alone with a tantrum throwing toddler, but I miss the happy wife I used to have.” expressed Sachin in a parent seminar.
The answer is simple – a little time to pamper yourself can create the happy family that you are looking for.
With a heavy heart, Tanya walked towards her flight. She knew this ‘me time’ in the foothills of the Munnar valley is what will give her body some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Her pending writing articles needed a flow of thought. She let the guilt blanket loose, trusted her husband to handle the baby and boarded with a smile on her face!
Tips to Connect with Yourself
1. Pick one activity that you enjoyed before becoming a parent. It could be dancing, yoga, walks or jogs. Make sure it’s an activity that helps you sweat it out. Release those feel-good hormones!
2. Go out alone. Make a quick trip to the beach or to your favourite café. Do not include supermarket time or run errands. This is some time for you to be with yourself and unwind.
3. Eat good food. Make a conscious effort to pick foods that are not temporary mood lifters like cheese-laden pizzas or chocolate cake. Pick the right food that keeps your postpartum body energetic and active. When you eat the right portion at the right time, you reduce your chances of grabbing junk. Pick fruits of your choice and include vegetables in your meals.
4. Reduce screen time: Often while scrolling through social media notifications, we do not realise that a lot of time has passed. This time could have been our ‘me time’.
5. Cook for yourself: If you like cooking, dedicate one day of the week to cook your favourite dishes. If cooking is not the therapy you like, order your favourite food. This could be the start of a new tradition like ‘Mommy Mondays’ that the entire family can celebrate.
6. Pick up an old hobby that you dropped when you held family responsibilities too tight. Sing, read, paint – spend an hour a week doing what you love.
Fall in love again, this time make sure it is with YOURSELF!
Mansi Nipun Gupta is a Psychotherapist and a Relationship Counselor. With a soon to be 1 year old naughty son, Mansi currently teaches and counsels students from various backgrounds. With her innovative learning methodologies and student management skills, she coaches students for life skills and academics. She also conducts seminars on parenting and relationship management.