1. Let the housework wait
As soon as you have met your child’s basic needs, it is time to meet yours. In the early days, me-time could simply be taking the time to sleep and eat well, to have a shower and get dressed (as opposed to spending the day in your pyjamas). Remember, the house does not have to be spotless and most guests are capable of making their own tea. Once you get those basics right, everything else will build from it.
Allow yourself time to get used to the idea that you are a mother. It might not sound glamorous, but it is vital to value your needs; they will be very basic at the beginning. This does not mean that you will never do all the wonderful things you enjoyed before; it just means that you are adjusting to a new, and exciting, life situation and responding appropriately. Thinking about things this way will leave you feeling stronger and more energetic.
2. Indulge in the moment
“Now” tends to sound scarily permanent when you are in a new life situation. It is like viewing your life under a microscope – everything appears more significant than it really is in the larger context of your life. Sleepless nights and teething troubles will be replaced by feeding or potty-training, but they’ll be lots of laughs and loving moments along the way, too.
When you are the one staying at home looking after your child, you might feel like you will never get back on the career ladder, or have enough energy left in the evenings for pilates, let alone partying. Remember: it is just a phase. If you feel overwhelmed, inferior or anxious – as most mothers do at some point – ask yourself whether it will still matter in 20 years’ time.
Will it still matter that you had a couple of months or years without going out much, not being at the office, or without having read a book? Chances are that for most questions, the answer will be no and without changing anything about your life, or acquiring any additional time for yourself, you will feel much more content.
3. Turn we-time into me-time
Although the function of me-time is to recharge your batteries and do something for yourself, there are great ways to have me-time with your child. The first is to tweak activities. Decide what you would like to do and then see if there is a way to do it with your child. You could, for example, cycle with your child in the bike seat, listen to audio books while pushing your baby in her buggy, or dance with your child to your favourite music in the kitchen.
There is also a growing selection of classes that focus on you, but where your child is welcome too. These include family yoga, mother and baby singing, exercise classes, classical concerts, cinema screenings and personal development classes. To find classes, ask other parents or look for adverts in the local newsagents or community centre.
4. Draw up a dream list
When a valuable slot of free time comes up, it is very easy to fill it with non-essential activities, such as pottering around in the kitchen or aimlessly surfing the internet.
Make a list of all the things that you would like to do, how much time each of them requires and whether you can do it with your child, do it while she is asleep, or do it without her. That way, when you have free time you can use it to do something you truly enjoy, such as a spinning class, reading a book or having an undisturbed chat with a friend. Planning your free time does not necessarily mean you have to be active – being a bit lazy is good sometimes too!
It is okay just to have a nap, catch up on your TV viewing or simply watch the sun set. In this context, planning only means to consciously fill the free time you have with something you enjoy – something that you do just for you to recharge your batteries. The same principles also apply to working parents. If you commute to work, make the most of the travelling time. Instead of grabbing a free paper at the station out of habit, listen to some soothing music or an audio book, read a novel or your copy of Junior, or just spend the time daydreaming.
5. Manicures are a must
On the subject of daydreams, a haircut, or anything that makes you feel good, whether it is a facial or a massage, need not be the stuff of mere fantasy. Thanks to an ever-growing collection of mobile hairdressers, beauticians and other service providers, there is no need to spend hours in the salon or spa – many will happily come to your home. Those offering such services tend to work for mothers a lot and are used to children running around and babies who need feeding.
In my view, this is an excellent and stress-free way to treat yourself. If the idea appeals, you don’t have to stop at haircuts and manicures – whether you need an osteopath, yoga teacher or bra fitting, go mobile and have a pampering treatment in the comfort of your own home. You could also book an evening appointment if you want your child to be asleep during your treatment so you don’t have to worry about arranging a babysitter or being rudely interrupted.
6. Let others do the dirty work
The good news is that you do not have to do everything on your own. Don’t be shy to ask for help and accept any offers you receive – something a lot of mothers find hard. Take all the help you can get from your partner and family, be it with paying the bills, running errands, doing the chores or looking after your child.
If you do not have family nearby, or they are not in a position to offer help, then babysitting circles and skills swaps with friends and neighbours are another way of banking some extra me-time. Alternatively, consider paying for help. Cleaning, ironing, cooking, DIY and childcare are just a few examples of services that you can buy. No matter where the offer comes from, take it if it would help, and give yourself permission to use the additional time for yourself. Don’t feel obliged to do something “useful” – the fun and fanciful things in life are important too. This can be a difficult lesson to learn, but will leave you with much more energy.
7 Bin the Blackberry
New technology, such as smart phones and iPads, combined with social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, make it very easy to be distracted.
Research into optimal wellbeing has found that people are at their happiest when they are completely absorbed in an activity. Whether you are spending time with your children, partner or on your own, try to be fully present in the moment. Resist the temptation to assess your activity’s suitability as a witty Facebook status, and do not post while you are doing it. Even if telling all your friends that you are going to the gym only takes 30 seconds, it will take you out of the activity and that, in turn, leads to a less intense and satisfying experience for you.
Do one thing at a time, especially during your me-time, enjoy the moment fully and take that joy you gain into the rest of your day. It will give you strength and a happy, smiling face to share with your child… and you can always fill in your followers afterwards