“You need to get more time for yourself! You need some ‘me’ time!” I didn’t miss the irony when, earlier this week, a health care practitioner remonstrated me about the busy nature of my life, then in the next breath advised me to sign up for the extra classes he offers. Didn’t he know that in order to get to this appointment on time I had to start preparations the day before? Dinner had to be easy so that I could feed the family before I left. I worked out when it should be served, counting back the hours on my fingers to determine what time it should go in the oven. My husband agreed to go into work early so he could get home in time to stay with the children. As soon as his bike swept into the drive, I dashed to the car, slammed the door and sped to the appointment.

I was on time! It was a triumph! I breathlessly walked into the office and sat down, my heart racing, sweat dripping down the small of my back. When he gave me his prescription (more me time, plus an extra class to fill that me time) it took enormous effort not to roll my eyes to the ceiling and wonder at this man’s failure to understand the reality of my life.

Daisy St F

Only this morning the four year old upended a bag of lentils onto the sitting room floor, a tide of orange wholefood goodness spreading across the wood. Only this morning my daughter in her frustration screamed at me so loudly that my ears ached and rang in the moments that followed. Only this morning I emptied and filled the dishwasher, prepared all three of our day’s meals, wiped the surfaces and the floor in the kitchen, gave three children three lessons in fractions, subtraction and number formation, listened to the 8 year old read, applauded the 11 year old when she played her latest clarinet piece, hung washing on the line, took it off again when the rain came down, mentored each of my children in their self-led projects, got us all out the door to the library (paid the overdue fines) then piano lessons (only 3 minutes late, thank you very much), and… I breathed. I took a sip of cold tea. I thought about all I had done. I closed my eyes and slowed my breath. Phew.

We all make choices about the way we live. My choices include being a stay at home parent, working part-time outside the home. I home educate my children and from birth have chosen to keep them close to me. These are my choices. There’s not a lot of room in my life for me time of the sort most people suggest or seem to think a mother is due. This means that I am tired most of the time, that I carry out mundane tasks for much of my day, that many of my friendships have fallen by the wayside. I have, for the moment, put aside my career aspirations and many of my personal interests. What I choose to do with my time has changed. I have to be choosy; I have to get the most bang for my buck. I prioritise those things that nourish me the most.

I don’t go on spa weekends.

I don’t have romantic meals at fancy restaurants with my husband (well, I did once, back in 2010).

I don’t have any local relatives who could lovingly spoil my children while I spend time developing my interests or go shopping.

I don’t get large swathes of time. I accept the small morsels that fall from the family table and I learn to savour them. Mussing then smoothing my son’s lemony hair; the feel of the tiny bones within my daughter’s pliable hand; the glint of sun on my eldest’s dewy freckled cheek. I store away these little moments and allow them to nourish my heart. They are gifts that I receive every day.

Of course I want time without the children too: to concentrate on my own projects, to sit quietly in meditation, to have a run on a country road. Without it, life feels off-kilter and resentment builds. But I can’t wait around for an hour or two of free time to miraculously arrive. Because it won’t. Me time is reading a book before bed. It’s staring off into space and counting my breaths for a few minutes once the littlest one has finally fallen asleep beside me in the evening. It’s ten minutes of Yoga postures and ten minutes of meditation every day, in spite of the chaos and noise. It’s a few extra minutes of hot water pouring down my back in the shower once my ablutions are complete. It’s watching through the kitchen window as the birds peck at the feeder as I surreptitiously sneak chocolate into my mouth.

Now and again I get a long run or a few hours to write. I make the most of these occasions, but they’re not the norm. I accept that this is the way my life is right now. A time will come in the not-too-distant future when the amount of time I have to myself will grow. I can see it happening already. Right now, I’m making the most of what I have, stolen pockets of time and plenty of tender moments and I’m savouring it.

And guess what, Mr health care practitioner? I’m not going to that damned class.

©Lisa Hassan Scott 2014.

With special thanks to Amanda Mays for her helpful comments on this piece.

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18 thoughts on “Me time

  • 20/03/2014 at 8:35 pm
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    Nodding my head. I do get a little more time now than I used to, depending (and that “depending” is HUGE–depending on the schedule, illnesses, my husband’s work schedule and travel–*you* know). It’s puzzling that so many health care practitioners don’t understand what you describe here. Or people in general.

    About 5 or 6 weeks before my youngest was born I was hospitalized overnight with contractions–after the 34-week birth with my second, they were rightly being cautious. So the next morning, the covering OB, whom I knew but he wasn’t my normal doctor, came in my hospital room (where I was alone, because my husband was home with our boys) and went through his spiel of how he wasn’t putting me on bed rest but I needed to take it easy (I was h’schooling my 6yo and had a 4yo too), so I should call my sister (who lived 90 minutes away) or my mother (dead) for some help, and I just nodded and tried not to cry because it wasn’t even worth trying to explain.

    • 20/03/2014 at 8:39 pm
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      Amy, YES. That feeling that it’s not even worth trying to explain, because your listener won’t really be listening, won’t value your priorities, just won’t understand what your life is like. That is just what I was trying to get at in this post.
      I love it when you visit and comment. Thank you,
      Lisa

  • 20/03/2014 at 9:11 pm
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    Oh boy, don’t get me started on health practitioners “getting” what it’s like. I once saw a therapist with post partum ennui and she told me to have sex with my husband more because if I don’t, he’ll leave me for someone in the office. I didn’t even go in there with issues with my spouse! (I sure wish I was making that up.)
    Thank goodness we mamas have each other!

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:00 pm
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      Amy, that is definitely a coffee spitter! What kind of advice is that? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard such an absurd story, but I find it shocking and am shaking my head with indignation on your behalf!

  • 20/03/2014 at 9:56 pm
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    This is so good, Lisa. Of course, as you say, it’s all about owning those choices. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes need to put our head in our hands and say “Aaargh, it’s hard!” It’s just finding the right people to say that to!

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:02 pm
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      Definitely. When I came home from the appointment I felt defeated. But then I realised that he just doesn’t have any sense of how things are around here. Knowing that made me stronger– I’ve chosen this and guess what? I’m happy. 🙂 (Though if given a choice I wouldn’t have a sea of red lentils all over the floor)

  • 20/03/2014 at 10:27 pm
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    This is very very good. I would have rolled my eyes 😉

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:02 pm
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      I definitely did it internally. I might have sighed dramatically. Can’t be sure…

  • 20/03/2014 at 11:04 pm
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    “…as I surreptitiously sneak chocolate into my mouth.”

    Ha ha! I hear you! And reminds me that I’ve recently been wondering about the ethics of hiding chocolate away… Good thing, bad thing? Hmm…

    Great post, as usual. Thank you 🙂

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:03 pm
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      When you write that post about the ethics of hiding chocolate away, definitely send me the link!

  • 21/03/2014 at 1:00 am
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    Wonderful. I am the oldest of six. Mom loved us all dearly and could tune out all six of us like a champ when she retreated into her book.

  • 21/03/2014 at 1:45 pm
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    i wonder, sometimes, if the *helpful advice* on the necessity and acquisition of the sacred Me Time focuses (incorrectly) more prominently in terms of the *quantity* of time rather than on, say, the effectiveness of the activity/non-activity, the choice in *when* that Me Time happens, the frequency of it, the possibility that it changes. i find people are very willing to offer ideas of how much and what i *should* be doing with my Me Time but are far less likely to want to know what *I* prefer and what works for me.

    sometimes my Me Time includes being in the same room as my husband or children while we separately engage in our own quiet activities. people have a hard time seeing this as Me Time because i am actually With Other People instead of Alone. but if my need for Me Time is fulfilled by being in the silent, comforting presence of those who love and accept me, then who is anyone to say that i’m doing it *wrong*?

    maybe if we abandon offering prescriptions for Me Time in a generalized sense, making the assumption that what works for one will work for all, we direct our attention to asking and listening to, “what do you feel you need? how can i help you get it?” i do believe it can be so much easier and more effective to address these things together rather than alone.

    • 21/03/2014 at 5:56 pm
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      This is such a good reply! I totally agree.

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:10 pm
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      Bravo, Dawn. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I would have loved to have heard “what do you feel you need? how can I help you get it?” instead of being given an impossible-to-achieve prescription. Your way of doing it empowers, whereas the latter has the opposite effect.

  • 22/03/2014 at 8:58 pm
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    I love your candid post, and I relate. The choices we make add up to the lives we live, and mama, aren’t there some precious gifts to be savored, right now, in these busy moments. <3

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:12 pm
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      Yes, and it makes such a difference to everyday life if we can recognise those gifts, rather than focusing on what we’re not getting.

  • 23/03/2014 at 3:46 pm
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    I LOVE this. Especially the details of all the things that happened “Only this morning.” I also agree with Dawn’s comment, the focus on quantity vs quality. I don’t need much me time and I don’t mind eeking it out in creative ways, it just needs to be quality, soul-filling time.

    • 24/03/2014 at 4:13 pm
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      Quality, soul-filling time. Absolutely. And as Dawn points out, only you can decide what fills your soul. Only you.

      Glad you liked the new paragraph. Your comments on the piece pre-publication were so helpful.

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