Me Time: An extract from Toddlers: An instruction manual - a guide to surviving the years one to four (written by parents, for parents). Buy it in paperback, or download for kindle.
“Me Time” is one of those maligned phrases that has come to be derided as much as it is desired. It can feel like yet another obligation to add to your list – a list which is probably already full to bursting with things you don’t have the time or energy to get round to as it is.
So how achievable is it the parent of a toddler to have some time to yourself, to have a life away from your child? Is it worth the bother?
When I was writing my book and asked parents of toddlers this question, they looked at me as if I’d gone a bit squiffy in the head and wondered if I was feeling alright. “Me Time, what’s that?” just about sums it up.
And yet, if you dig a bit deeper, some parents do carve out pockets of time for themselves. Some run or go the gym, some get crafty and make things, others blog, join book groups, get involved in charity work or simply relax with a glass of wine in the bath at night. All of them are just as busy as you, so if some people can do it, it must, by definition, be at least possible. But with more than enough on our plates already, why should we bother?
Look after yourself
I believe that taking care of yourself is part and parcel of taking care of your child. Children, even little babies, are very sensitive to their environment. They’re like a barometer of your life.
So if you’re stressed, worried or rushed off your feet, they will know about it, even if they can’t say it (To be fair, they may be the cause of it). If your relationship is troubled, even if you never argue in front of your child, they will pick up on it.
This is why, when your attention is elsewhere, your child’s behaviour may react against this. They sense that your attention is not with them, so they want it back.
So given that our child’s moods and our own are so intertwined, it makes sense to see taking care of yourself as being part of taking care of your child. You’re not being a better parent if you sit on all your needs, and end up feeling unfulfilled. Happy parents = happy kids. It’s all interlinked.
I’ll just sort out this laundry...
Your child will never thank you if you martyr yourself to them, and make parenthood your only interest. And don’t use lack of childcare as an excuse, because there are always ways around that – apart from paying a babysitter, you could do childcare swaps with another parent. Or you could take up an interest that doesn’t require childcare – anything from reading, playing video games to running your own online business. And if all else fails, there’s always drinking and sex. (not at the same time though, unless you are particularly ambidextrous).
And don’t make housework an excuse either because that one’s never going to go away. There will always be more dust to hoover, but in the scale of things our lives are pretty brief.
I believe that the time we spend away from our children is what helps us be better parents when we are back in the bosom of our families. Even if it’s only a few minutes with the bathroom door locked, you need that breathing space for the sake of your own mental health. You need time when you’re something else other than someone’s mum or dad, and don’t have to think about whose bottom needs wiping.
"Me Time" isn't just time for you - it's time for all of your family.
Joanne is a freelance parenting journalist, a life and career coach and a parent of two. You can also find Joanne's blog here.
The book brings together tried and tested practical, down-to-earth tips from parents who've survived the toddler years.
We'd both love to know your thoughts on "Me Time". Do you manage to carve out enough time for yourself? If so, how?