It wasn’t until my kids were a bit older that I realized I needed to start dating myself again. And I’m not talking about waiting until they were (finally) asleep to delve into that delicious book sitting on my nightstand for months. No, I’m talking about actually doing something where my mind and spirit could get totally lost — something that I’d long forgotten about since having kids. For me, I couldn’t experience this unless I left the house, and sometimes, that meant leaving the house alone.
Because let’s face it, sneaking in precious moments of “me time” for yourself is always great, but it just isn’t the same as long as you’re home. You’re looking at that pile of dirty dishes that’s still in the sink; you’re thinking you should really clean that coat closet, or be planning meals for the week.
Make no mistake: It’s a challenge to care for our families and put ourselves first every once in a while, especially if you are a mom who works. It’s all too easy to forget that we count, too. But I can tell you this: As soon as I started taking time away for myself, it gave me the clarity I needed. The added bonus? I also became a happier version of myself.
Here were some ground rules I set for myself that I think every mom should, too.
1. Even if you only get out once every few months, DO. IT.
Everyone needs a little escape from their lives, and parents are no exception. I used to feel like this was a sign of weakness when in fact, it makes you stronger.
2. Let the guilt go.
I know it feels weird, to not feel guilty about getting pedicure or lunching solo while someone else cares your kids. It does get easier though, and everyone in your family will soon realize how necessary it is for you have a break. But even if they don’t, you should realize the importance of it. As moms, taking care of ourselves is vital to our family. And it’s up to us to take the time — not wait for it to be given — with zero guilt attached.
3. Proper self-care makes us better mothers.
This one’s so true — and yet, it’s something we so often forget: Our own self-care benefits everyone around us. There was a time in my early mothering years when I never asked for help; I never dated myself. My youngest was 5 the first time I spent the day alone. That was almost 9 years of parenting without a real break to connect with myself. To say pieces of me were lost in the process is an absolute understatement, and it wasn’t until I started making the time to get to know me again that I was fully aware of that fact.
4. Make it be about you.
“Me time” looks different for everyone — so if you just want to browse a book store one afternoon, or binge-eat french fries at a fast food joint in sweet, blissful privacy, you should. Make it about you. Give yourself uninterrupted time to regroup, even if it’s only for a half-hour.
5. Give yourself permission to evolve.
Just because we have kids doesn’t mean we stop growing and changing ourselves. Sure, it gets put on hold but if we don’t continue our journey and feed our own souls, what will we have as we watch our kids grow and feed their own? I want my kids to see there’s more to me than just being a mother. Just because that’s been my most important role yet doesn’t mean it has to be my only one. Because yes, that may take center stage right now, but when they’re grown and flown that won’t be the case.
As mothers and as women, we have carried, birthed, and nurtured; wiped runny noses; laid awake at night worrying; forgotten our own names; and pushed our own needs aside time after time. We do this of our own volition, because it’s what we love to do: care for those we bring into this world. But all of that deserves a little down time — a little alone time. Trust me: Even if you just take a drive to your favorite spot and stare out the window, you will leave feeling more in touch with yourself than before and that is a gift for your whole family.