My husband and I sometimes joke that I’ve been working 24 hours a day for about the last five years, right around the time my oldest daughter was born. But it’s one of those jokes that isn’t really that funny.
Some of that time I was working outside the home full time. And some of it I was a work at home mom with fewer paid work hours, but no help with childcare.
When I was working outside the home, whenever I was at home, I was taking care of my daughter, cooking, cleaning, getting up with her at night.
Now that I work from home, I work at nap time or in the wee hours of the morning. And I cook, clean, play with kids, squeeze in paid work when I can. And the thing that has made this a 24-hour gig for much of the past couple of years is getting up with kids at night.
All in all, it’s tiring. And there aren’t many breaks, even mental ones. It’s been a long time since I did anything that would be considered self care. Because it’s hard to find time to be yourself as a mom.
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Working From Home Was Actually Worse
My problem actually intensified when I started working from home as a freelance writer and virtual assistant. When I worked in an office, after I got home and my kids were in bed, I felt like I could take a break, assuming all other household chores had been accomplished no matter how half-assed they were done.
But once I started working from home (which I love by the way) I felt like every spare minute my kids were sleeping or busy I needed to be at the computer, writing, applying for jobs, and learning new skills. Every. Spare. Minute. And the truth is, I made good money during this time.
But my life sucked.
And I was still waking up with my youngest at least once a night at this point, usually more.
There are some bloggers and online entrepreneurs that live this way and advocate it as a road to success. I can’t even disagree when it comes to growing a hugely successful business fast, putting in every minute you can is bound to help.
But I can’t live like that.
Motherhood is a 24 Hour Gig
If you have kids, no one has to tell you that motherhood is a 24-hour gig. Even when your kids aren’t with you, they are still taking up mental space in your head, thinking about them, worrying about them.
And when you are with them, it’s a hands-on job. You’ve gotta be in there, alert, watching them, caring for them, cooking for them, soothing hurts and wiping butts. Even checking out mentally is difficult.
Adding work to that either at home or away means you feel the pressure to use your time, with your kids or without them, for maximum efficiency.
It’s hard for me to think about my own needs. What I want and need to refresh myself mentally and physically. But the truth is, pushing yourself to your limits all day every day is how you burn out. At work. At home. In your life.
Finding Time to be Yourself
I’m not going to tell you to hire a sitter, have a date night, a massage, or a weekend away. You probably should do those things, at least sometimes. But I think you already know that.
I’m talking about a more sustained solution. The kind of things you can build into your everyday life as a mom to give yourself a break. A timeout where you are just YOU. Not mom. The part of yourself outside of your mom identity.
Self care as a mom doesn’t have to be a weekend away, getting a facial, or meditating. It can just be taking a break. And doing something that you love.
For me, it was a return to reading.
I Heart Reading
For as long as I or anyone else can remember I have been a reader. I’ll read just about anything from magazines to the back of cereal boxes, but of course, my first love is books. And speaking of love, it’s romance novels I’ve always loved most.
When I was a teenager and young adult I could read a book in a day. And often did. Ever since I became a mom that reading schedule slowed down to a book a week, or a month, or a year, or never. And for a reader like me, that’s sad.
My Books are Back, Baby!
Over the last couple of months, I’ve made it a point to do a little reading at least once a day, I read part of a novel. Not a parenting or self-improvement book. Nothing about blogging or freelancing. A novel. A good book. For fun. Remember fun? That thing you did before you had kids?
Choosing this means taking time away from something else in your life. But the trade off is so worth it. Maybe your spouse can take 15 minutes with the kids while you go and do your thing for a while. Or maybe instead of cleaning house during your child’s nap, you dedicate the first 15 minutes of time to your hobby.
If you look for it, most of us can find time for a short break to do something we love. At least a couple of days a week. You need it. Just as much as you need a clean house or to work on your blog or to do all the things you do for your family. You can be a better mom if have the chance to take a break from that role and refresh during the day.
There are days I don’t get in more than five minutes of reading time. But during those five minutes, I feel like myself again. The version of myself that doesn’t go by “Mom”. I need that. We all do.
Benefits All Around
Starting to read for fun again has been great all around. For myself, I enjoy it like almost nothing else. I love the escapism and I love that it creates an adult space in my head for thoughts unrelated to my kids or family.
For the kids, I’m happier. I have more to give them when I replenish myself. And I think it’s important for kids to see their parents pursuing interests and joys that don’t revolve around their role as mom or dad.
What’s the Missing Piece?
What’s your equivalent to my love of books? Is there a hobby or interest you’ve put aside since becoming a parent that part of you yearns to pick up again? Running, knitting, a favorite TV show?
What’s stopping you? Can you carve out some time from your busy days to make it happen? Even a few minutes pursuing something you love every day that doesn’t involve parenting can add to your life in a way that might surprise you.
Have you had this experience? Or do you want to? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Is there a hobby or interest you want to start again that’s just for YOU? DO IT, MAMA! You need a break!