You know that saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too?” About a week ago I got a parenting newsletter with an article about “Me Time.” I’ll admit, my first reaction was, “Yes! Someone else is going to confirm that I need some space!” I began to devour the article, until, wait… what?! The author was actually suggesting that “Me Time” is not beneficial. As I continued to read, I started to feel angry. How dare this ‘expert’ say that I can’t have my “Me Time?!” But you know that nagging feeling that you get when you think someone might be right but you really don’t want to hear it? Yeah, I started feeling that. Damn Jimney Cricket. The author was saying that the problem with Me Time is that it really isn’t ever enough. You wait all day long to get your one or two hours of Me Time, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t enough, and now you have to go back home. No cake for you.
In the Clinical Psychology program that I was in, the director insisted that we partake in “self-care.” Being in the helping professions, it was vital to replenish our spirits before giving our energy to clients. I found value in having self-care as a therapist but this is motherhood, this is different. It’s different because Luca is a part of life now. He’s not a client who will temporarily be in my life. Luca is a part of me.
In the article I was reading, the author gently suggested that maybe the problem wasn’t a lack of Me Time, but a lack of finding ways to find refreshment with our families. Maybe we need to learn how to recharge without escaping. I knew she was right. Since Luca turned one month old, I’ve tried to take an hour a day to myself (per our Pediatrician, mind you) and it hasn’t been going well. The hour either never feels long enough or it doesn’t happen and either way I feel resentful. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are times when it feels satisfying…though I can’t think of a specific time, except for one. (Les Mis, woot woot!)
So this article really ate at me for a while. I had the author’s voice in my head and the voice of my Grad Psych Director too. Who was right? I decided to do what I always do in these situations, google it. Sure enough, a lot of people had things to say about this subject. A Christian Mom Blogger wrote a very interesting article about the importance of taking-care of ourselves. However, she also spoke of many women whom she has seen pursue “Me Time” as a type of mirage. It seems so beautiful and fulfilling but it just never satisfies. If you are a believer, it’s worth it to read her thoughts.
Then, I read an article by a British Sociologist, Frank Freudi, who had researched the subject. He said that his findings wouldn’t be popular. He too, found that the problem wasn’t the lack of “Me Time.” The problem was that we have too many demands on us as parents. We are simply trying to do SO much that it leaves us withered and down. He also suggested that we learn to find ways to refresh with our families, not apart from them. Of course, he didn’t say that we shouldn’t ever have time apart, but to feel like we NEED it is a trap. That really hit me. It’s like anything in life… money, time… there’s never enough. It’s sort of cruel when you think of it… We wait for our special time, we’re sure that everything will be better when we get it, but it’s either not enough or the cycle just begins again the next day.
What if we lived in such a way that we didn’t NEED “Me Time?” I laughed at one of the suggestions Freudi had. He basically said that our kids will live if you have to put them in front of the TV for 30 minutes while you clean the bathroom. Ha! It’s crazy when you think of how intense all of the “experts” are about: NO TV!! QUALITY TIME!! EDUCATIONAL TOYS WITH NO BATTERIES ONLY!! DON’T LET YOUR KID BE BORED!! For crying out loud, maybe we need to chill out. No wonder we’re begging for our “Me Time.” Parenthood has become a skill to be mastered rather than a life experience to grow into. Maybe it’s time for some grace. I highly, highly recommend you read the article by Freudi. It was very encouraging. (He also talked about an idea floating around called: benign neglect. It means that you let your dang kid hang out and figure out how to entertain themselves for a little bit. Fascinating. Ok, I’ll stop writing about the article now, you need to read it.)
So what does this all mean? How is this hitting you? Do you want to punch me now? It’s cool if you want to but please don’t. I’m actually hoping that this might relieve some pressure off of us parents. Don’t look at it as robbing you of your “Me Time,” look at it as permission to relax a little bit and parent in such a way that you won’t feel sucked-dry at the end of the day. We’ll always have hobbies and things that are separate from our families and that’s ok, I’m not saying we should never have alone time. However, I think our expectations on the quantity and quality of “Me Time” are a set-up for disappointment. Let’s be real about what will truly benefit us. Let’s relax in our parenting approach. Let’s show our kids how to refuel without escaping from relationship. Yeah? Who’s with me? (Please comment or else it’s like leaving me hanging with my hand in the air waiting for a high-five. Awkward.)
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