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Do the laundry. Check. Wash the dishes. Check. Clean the house. Check. Buy groceries. Check. Prepare meals. Check.
This is what a typical to-do list of a stay-at-home-mom looks like. And with the current lockdown situation having extended beyond expectation, there’s another addition to the list - help kids with online lessons and completion of homework.
All tasks on the list checked by the end of the day. Kids and other family members fed; all housework done. Are you sure you aren’t forgetting something else on that list? Check again.
- Did you relax during the day?
- Did you have a good hearty laugh?
- Did you play with your child?
- Did you listen to your favorite song?
- Did you feel the warm rays of the early sun?
- Did you smile as the early morning breeze touched your face?
No? Well, that’s possibly because you never added these items on your list in the first place! Things that were so “natural” and a part of our being when we were younger. Things that mattered to us until just about a few years ago. Things which uncomplainingly took a backseat when motherhood happened.
Mommies, it’s time to create a new to-do list. Sadly, in the whole process of pampering kids, we’ve forgotten to pamper ourselves. Time to revisit the child in us; time to take a step back from the busy lives we’ve entangled ourselves in, and unwind. Why? Because we moms are stressed, without a doubt. Stressed moms can’t be happy moms. And unhappy moms can’t raise happy families. Simple.
The Often-Overlooked ‘Me Time’
We all talk about it. We crave for it, but we hardly do anything to make it possible. Why is achieving “me time” in the normal routine of a mother so difficult, rather next to impossible? Is it really because we’re busy beyond imagination? Or, is it because perhaps we feel a sense of “guilt” deep down of placing our likes and interests over taking care of our family needs?
Think carefully. More often than not, it’s the latter. I don’t say moms aren’t busy. They are, undoubtedly. But very often, even when we have some free time at hand, we forget, sometimes choose not, to use it to our own advantage. To de-stress, for example. Simply because we’re so accustomed to fulfilling the needs of our kids and family that fulfilling our own seems a bit “out of place”.
“Wouldn’t my kids get neglected if I do something of my own?” Or, “I’ll do this later; first let me finish this task.” The result: each day passes by and though we keep complaining of little or no ‘me time’, we fail to actually create it. Our to-do list is all complete but we’re still stressed, bogged down, unenthusiastic by the end of the day.
Why Me Time Makes All That Sense
If I were to sum it up in one phrase - you need ‘me time’ to preserve your sanity. This is the only reason why the concept of ‘me time’ makes sense for a stay at home mother. Without it, my dear, we might just go mad by the time this lockdown situation comes to a welcome end.
Besides, even without the lockdown, what do we do when kids go to school and hubby leaves for work? We get started on quickly wrapping up all the housework before kids return, right? Not entirely wrong to do so but let’s see what experts say about the importance of “taking a break”.
Several studies conducted at the University of Michigan suggest that lack of enough ‘me time’ is one of the primary causes of unhappy, often failed, marriages.
Not having adequate ‘me time’ can make moms excessively stressful, even depressed
‘Me time’ is equally important for physical health too. Not giving adequate alone time to yourself may result in frequent aches - headache and backache being the most common. Besides, stress is an inevitable cause of weight gain, not to mention other diseases such as heart conditions.
Now, that’s definitely not what we want, right? Women are the backbone of a family. Kids depend on us. So do our better-halves. When we’re hale and hearty, we can pass on the same vibes to our kids, adopt better parenting practices and even enjoy a happier, more satisfying relationship with our spouse.
Enjoying “me time” isn’t contradictory to your role as a mom. It’s complementary.
Must-Haves On Your To-Do List
Now that we’re convinced of why ‘me time’ is important, let’s see how we can actually go about taking it out. Trust me, it isn’t difficult. It’d definitely require some conscious effort at first, primarily because we aren’t used to “enjoying” or spending time just for us alone. But once you start off, these things would become a part of your daily routine, much like everything else.
You wouldn’t need a to-do list for this stuff then because you’d actually look forward to those few but beautiful moments in the day, dedicated only to yourself. Also, with these pleasant breaks during the day, you’d end up finishing all your household chores much faster because happier and stress-free minds are more productive and efficient. You might even start enjoying all the daily monotonous tasks.
Here are a few examples of all that you can and should include in your to-do list for the day:
To-Do Task #1: Get Some Sunlight
When: Early morning
With lives getting busier, the marathon starts right from the time we wake up. Let’s push this race ahead by just half an hour. Wake up slightly earlier than usual, before the kids and everyone else is up. Step out into the balcony, this time not to put out clothes for drying but only to experience the magic of nature at its best.
Let the early morning fresh air and sunlight be your only two companions as you enjoy sipping some hot tea/coffee just with yourself. Smile as you soak in the beauty of nature. You’d be amazed to note that at that moment, no other thought crosses your mind. No tasks; no to-do lists. Such is the magic of nature.
Actually, we put in effort to shove aside this magical effect and delve into weaving the task-web instead. Choose not to do so. Just be in the moment and enjoy before you gear up for a long day at a full-time job of childcare.
To-Do Task #2: Resume a Childhood Hobby
When: Preferably in the afternoon, post lunch
After everyone’s well-fed and settled, ideal would be to catch a short afternoon nap, if you possibly can. It relaxes you and gives you a much-needed break in the day. But, as has been my experience, my kids would never let me sleep, simply because they don’t! So instead of feeling frustrated over not being able to get any rest, I started using that time to do something (not the usual household tasks) which I’d long been wanting to.
I picked up a favorite childhood hobby from where I’d left it many, many years ago - embroidery. I now write this blog too on some afternoons in the week. You can pick whatever you like or used to like but forgot all about it in assuming the role of a mom. It could be craft (which your kids would love by the way; you can also engage them in the art), painting, sketching, or even coding, wherever your heart lies.
To-Do Task #3: Play a Board Game with your Child
When: Anytime you’re comfortable
Re-kindle the child in you, for only then you’d be able to truly understand how children can manage to stay happy and care-free always. Remember playing Monopoly as a child for hours without a worry on your mind?
Do that again, this time making your child your partner in the game. See the broad smile surface on their face as you break this “news” to them! Their forever-busy mom taking time out to play a game means the world to them. As for you, you’d get a chance to revisit the good ol’ days and touch base with the cheerful, stress-free you.
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To-Do Task #4: Sway to Your Favorite Tune
When: While you do housework
No kidding. Try doing all your chores with your favorite music playing in the background. It makes a world of a difference. I personally like to hear my favorite playlist while cooking. It’s extremely relaxing and makes me forget any stress, any unwanted thought in a jiffy! Within seconds, you feel transported to another world - one that’s free and lively. That’s how music therapy works on stressed-out souls.
To-Do Task #5: Sing to your Heart’s Content
When: In the shower
The expression “bathroom singer” did originate for a reason. Proudly be one. You’d fall in love with yourself and your life. It’s an excellent retreat after a long day, particularly if you like showering before retiring for the night. If you bathe during the day, even then singing in the bathroom gives you a sense of relaxation; not to forget the much-craved-for ‘me time’.
To-Do Task #6: Pamper Yourself
When: On weekends
It’s holiday and you truly deserve one for sure. I know moms have no ‘off days’ but a welcome break is definitely achievable. Treat yourself to a relaxing head massage or pedicure. Just let go of yourself and take a few minutes out to unwind. It could be in the afternoon or any other time you deem comfortable.
To-Do Task #7: Read a Kid’s Classic
They aren’t called classics for nothing. Remember how you loved reading one after the other, eager to know the moral behind each story? Dig out any of your old childhood books if you still have them safely kept, or try looking them up online. You might just find some there too. Pick a comic book or just any story book of your child. It’s real fun. Read it yourself or read it out to your kid at night and have fun together.
Me Time: It’s Possible
The tasks stated above are the real to-do items to be completed in a day. Do you agree? One more thing. Remember that enjoying ‘me time’ isn’t contradictory to your role as a mom or homemaker. If anything, it’s only going to complement your original to-do list for the day. When you feel happier from inside, you’d enjoy your daily tasks better and even finish them quickly and efficiently.
Besides that, think about this. Even if the above list seems “unachievable” in your personal case, it’s perhaps because we’re assigning priority to each and every single task in the day that there exists. It wouldn’t harm to give our ‘me time’ slightly more importance over something else on the list which can be put aside for, say a day? How about “Let me learn the lyrics of a song I’ve been wanting to sing for so long and clean up the storehouse tomorrow instead?”
This is just an example. You’d find plenty more like these which have been taking up a major chunk of your time so far, leaving you with practically no time for yourself! Make a list of all the tasks in the day. Prioritize them as to which ones can’t be done without (cooking, laundry, for example) and which can be left to another time without causing much disturbance to anybody.
After all, avoiding disturbance to your mental health is equally important. High time we realize this and get started in the direction. Get off that guilt ride and hop on to the joyride of spending some time just for and with yourself. Sounds like an idea?
How do you unwind in your “me time”? I’d love to know. Leave a comment below or email me your experiences. If you liked this post, do share it on your social media handles and follow me there for more such posts. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to get regular posts in your inbox.