The Myth of “Me-Time” or I Want My Cake

Layered chocolate cake.
Layered chocolate cake. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.)

If you liked this post, you may also like:

The Madonna-Whore Complex and Me

When Your Baby Displays “Stranger Danger”

Turning We-Time Into Me-Time: An Experiment


18 thoughts on “The Myth of “Me-Time” or I Want My Cake

  1. In the documentary, Babies (which I love), the juxtaposition of the different cultures points out certain things. As I read your post, I was reminded of the African baby and her mom. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll explain why. They don’t wear diapers, or anything, out there.. so, during one scene the little infant pooped, the mom casually wiped the butt off on her knee, and that was that. There was just a very evident practicality to things.. the mom takes care of the kid, she talks and spends time with friends/relatives, and when she needs to take care of other things, the kid survives without her for a bit. I don’t have kids, of course, but as you mentioned with money, I don’t see this as an issue of motherhood, exclusively, but more an issue with grasping at a social ideal and dealing with reality when that ideal fails to be met. There are plenty of businessmen who could probably write a similar post about their own lives, replacing certain words with “job” or “career”, though I’m sure it wouldn’t be as life-changing as motherhood is. You sound like you hit a sound resolution through this post, so I wish you luck in maintaining that calm 🙂


    • I LOVE the documentary “Babies!” I was intrigued by the differences in parenting throughout the world. One scene that particularly struck me was when they showed the African baby playing in the dirt and then they immediately cut to the American baby being frantically picked-up off the carpet as the dad vacuumed and then placed her back down. Ha! Yeah, we’re a little paranoid sometimes.
      I do feel that I’ve reached a resolution, now the trick will be to find the appropriate balance as I try to actually apply it!


  2. I have learned that my 2 1/2 month old feels when I’m trying to get away from her. While holding her I was thinking “ok baby, mama needs to do this or that so self sooth or fall asleep please”. She responds to my energy with more needs. She become fussier and more clingy. She needs me like I need air! She cannot suvive without me her behavior must be a survival tactic.
    This is obviously counterproductive and I have learned to be apply the philosophy of “Be Present”. I try not to think if what needs to be accomplished only to enjoy my baby. Things will get done. The world will not fall apart. I have learned to do many things with baby with me (thanks to my trusty baby carrier) like attend to my older child, cook clean and yesterday even chaperone a group of kids at church all while attending to my babies most basic needs.
    I have learned to incorporate my baby into my life not have her in a part of it. I am still learning and trying to balance my new life.


    • Kelly, thank you so much for your input, I can’t imagine how hard this concept would be with multiple children! I too, have no idea what ! would do without my Moby! I love what you said about “Being present.” I am amazed at how Luca can tell when I’m preoccupied. It seems that trying to multi-task just makes things worse sometimes. Thankfully he does love being in the wrap. He seems fascinated with chores!


  3. Jaclyn, this is going to sound crazy but in all the years I’ve been blogging/read blogs I’ve never thought of “Me Time” like this. Thank you. I needed this, especially today, as it’s been a more challening one and all I want to do is being alone with myself but the baby keeps waking up and the 3 yr old too and…sigh, you are right, I need more ‘together’ time.
    Interestingly, today, whilst on the verge of a breakdown, I somehow (God’s grace!) was able to decide and sit down and read with the 3 yr old instead of running away and just sitting with him for a little while made all the difference. It doesn’t alway work, and we do still need our own times but like you said, we need to be more realistic about it and more accepting.
    My favorite line: Parenthood has become a skill to be mastered rather than a life experience to grow into. I can totally relate to that, it’s a daily struggle.


    • Wow, thank you Erika. I’m so glad that this post impacted you in such a meaningful way. This new perspective has really moved me as well. After writing the post, I feel a long journey of negotiating me time/we time is ahead of me. I plan on writing about my future efforts, I’m sure it will get interesting 😉 at times! I’d be interested in hearing how it works for you too! Keep me posted!


  4. I think I have totally lightened up as time has gone on. I felt like I wasn’t entertaining Darcy enough, absolutely no TV, etc.
    But sometimes the only way to get some relaxation or to spend time with Cory is Back to the Future! Like you were kind of saying, the TV isn’t babysitting but a few minutes isn’t going to kill her and it’s a little sanity for me.
    It get so much easier when they can entertain themselves. I put Darcy in her bouncer with toys and get a pretty good shower most days. It’s glorious!
    I’ve tried to let go of the tight facade of perfect parenting. It can get down right depressing.


    • The existential implication of your comment is mind-blowing. Back to the Future! Why didn’t I think of that?? Doc always leaves me feeling refreshed. What better way to realign my values than to kick back have some popcorn and fantasize about my future hovercraft.
      Ok, joking aside, thanks Lindsey for your comment. I totally agree that it can get depressing to try to live up to an unrealistic ideal. I’m glad you’ve let that go! I’m trying to, Maybe as my friend you can help to hold me accountable to that, eh?


  5. Kind of funny, I just heard (today) about a book called Simplicity Parenting that sounds similar in concept to what Frank Furedi had to say. It’s about having less and doing less- on purpose. I haven’t read it yet to say whether or not it’s worthwhile, but I definitely plan to check it out.


  6. “Let’s show our kids how to refuel without escaping from relationship”

    ^^this! Thank you for this. I’m totally with you. Now if only I knew how to do it!


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