The Importance of 'Me Time' for Mothers' Mental Health
Does your life constantly revolve around your children without any time for yourself? If yes, then it's time to pause and reflect.
By Kavita Kumble
The great omission in life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit.
– Marya Mannes, author and critic
Last week, I met my friend Suruchi after quite a few years. While growing up, she had been one of my closest friends. We had attended the same school and college.
However, she had gradually lost touch with most of her friends once she finished college, got married and had two kids.
So, when we met and started talking, I realised she had changed a lot. In college, she used to be a sharp and talkative person. She had liked to keep herself updated on current affairs and had aspired to become a journalist, which of course, eventually she had never pursued. Having been a stay-at-home mom for the last 21 years, her children and tending to their needs is all she can talk about. Her children are both adults now.
When I asked her to join me in an all-women’s trip, she refused stating that she couldn’t leave her kids alone. She added that every moment of her day was about them and that she did not have the time for anything else.
Listening to Suruchi, made me think how most mothers often felt their lives meant all about their kids only. And then, when their kids fly the nest, the mothers suddenly feel empty and fall apart because they have no idea what else to do with their lives and time. Yes, they experience the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. This is the story of so many women, even today.
As a new mother, you are expected to give up your work and life outside home, and concentrate solely on the upbringing of your children, or so, dictates society. It is presumed that you put your child first and not care about your own physical or mental well-being. And, if children are not raised by the standards set centuries ago, society ensures you feel guilty. But aren’t mothers supposed to take care of themselves first to be able to better raise their children?
That being said, it is even harder on mothers who have attempted to get back to work after having children. They are constantly juggling household chores, office deadlines and raising children, and find it hard to even dream of stealing a little time for themselves. And, above all, they are judged for it mercilessly.
The importance of ‘me time’
Being a working mother of a 15-year-old girl myself, I sometimes crave for some exclusive ‘me time’, which is ever so elusive. These much-needed moments of solitude are quite hard to come by. And which mother doesn’t go: “If only I had a couple of hours more in a day!”
However, I feel it is important that mothers try to find those ‘couple of hours’ for themselves every day. This is necessary to maintain your sanity and vitality, and to keep you healthy and happy. After all, a healthy mind and healthy body go hand in hand. And you can spend your ‘alone time’ however you please. It does not have to be anything elaborate. Read a book, do some yoga, sip a cup of tea, walk by the beach or simply stare into the wide expanse outside from your balcony.
Also, find something that interests you, a passion or hobby long-forgotten, because of marriage and children. It can be anything like gardening, painting or pottery. Or you could even take some time off for a nice spa, to attend a meditation retreat, to shop for a nice dress, to enrol in a dance class or to go trekking.
Forget the guilt
Today, I can say this, because 15 years ago, as a new mother, I went through an extremely stressful time, thinking of how I will juggle work, baby care, self-care and household chores. Luckily, I had ample family support to tide through this phase. I resumed work within three months of my daughter’s birth. However, I used to be constantly worried and anxious even as my mother tended to my little girl. But what made me pull through was my manager’s pep talk.
She was also a working mother and told me that while she understood how crucial the next few months would be for my child, it was also important that I did not give in to the idea of quitting my work that I enjoyed so much. She told me that I might be thinking I was a bad mother and was neglecting my child, but that children are quite adaptable. “They will manage on their own, adapt and grow up to be more responsible and independent as they will follow your example,” she had said.
What helped me 15 years ago, still holds good today and could help you too. Tell yourself periodically that you are a good mother and that by giving yourself some time, you do not have to feel guilty about neglecting your child.
A holistic approach to life
According to Dr Jamuna Rajeswaran, ParentCircle expert and Professor & Consultant of Clinical Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at NIMHANS, Bengaluru, it is very important to understand that parenting is just one aspect of our life. A holistic approach to life comprises many other aspects as well.
“We cannot let those areas of our life suffer in order to be perfect at one. Once this is understood, every mother would also acknowledge the fact that apart from having numerous responsibilities including parenting, she also owes some responsibility towards herself. This is called self-responsibility,” she adds.
The significance of solitude
It is important to spend time alone, as solitude gives you the opportunity to discover yourself and find your own voice. It is an opportunity to revitalise your mind and body at the same time. It will give you a chance to clear your mind, focus and think more clearly, which will help you in managing both household and office work effectively.
Despite realising the benefits of ‘alone time’, to find that exclusive time can be a challenge in itself. Here are a few ideas to help you go about it.
How to find the ‘me time’
Share household chores: It is possible to get adequate ‘me time’, if we get our kids and family members to do things independently and divide household duties systematically. For example: Don’t feed into your children’s expectation that you will be ready to hand out towels or a pair of socks every time they ask for them.
Disconnect: Set aside some time every day to ‘unplug’. Turn off your cell phone, your Internet and your TV. You will be amazed at how much more you can get done when you are not distracted.
Get up or get in early: Wake up half an hour earlier than everyone else in your house and use that time to do something creative, problem-solve, meditate or whatever makes you happy. This strategy also works if you can get back home from work before everyone else arrives.
Close your door: It is simple but can be effective. I know someone who puts up a signboard on her door when she wants to be left alone. It reads: ‘I am editing or writing. If the police are here, the office is on fire, or George Clooney calls or stops by, you can interrupt me. If not, please hold all questions until my door opens.’
Hopefully, the ideas I have shared here will leave you inspired and motivated to find ways to make time for yourself. So, give yourself a gift that will keep on giving… TIME!
This is a guest post by Kavita Kumble, mother to a 15-year-old girl. She is a banker by profession and an avid traveler by passion.
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