When I became a mother over 16 years ago, my mother sat me down for an important conversation. She wanted to discuss the importance of self-care and “me-time” in motherhood. My mother was an amazing and nurturing mom to my brother and me, and she never missed a beat helping us personally develop, make important friendship and participate in enriching hobbies. However, my mother did not take care of nurturing herself. She lovingly and dutifully took care of her family, yet she ignored her own life.
When I was six months pregnant with my first son, my mother told me to promise her that I would always “date myself” and make time for my own life independent of motherhood. My mom had gotten lost in the minutia of motherhood and did not want me to repeat this pattern in my life. My mom explained that in order to be a great mom and to sustain that greatness, you must also be good to yourself. I said, “Yes” to my mother’s request without truly knowing what to do for “me time” dates. Sixteen years ago, “me time” wasn’t a buzzword and moms weren’t openly discussing work/life balance. I did not have a blueprint to follow for what to do during my alone time, so I made up my own.
I joined a mothers’ group while I was pregnant and was the only mom who did not yet have a baby. As I met with these mothers each week, they all said the exact same things like, “I don’t have any time for myself,” or, “I feel guilty for taking time alone,” and “My spouse doesn’t really understand or support me when I say I need help.” After listening to these moms, I decided to commit to 90 minutes of alone time each week and create systems for my self-care.
I immediately told my husband what days and times I would consistently practice “me time.” I played with so many scenarios during my 90-minute power outings, including going to the local Barnes & Nobles to read a book, or Panera Bread or Corner Bakery Cafe to have a cup of coffee and salad. I booked tickets to lectures series, wine tastings and cooking classes, and eventually used that time to write my first book, Time for Mom-me: 5 Essential Strategies for A Mother’s Self-care where I outlined the most important steps to begin to honor your own self-care.
The process of self-discovery and building personal relationship with myself while being a mom was paying off because I felt fulfilled as a person. I didn’t feel defined by my work or any role that I played like wife and mother, business owner, volunteer etc., I benefited directly from the experiences I had in each part of my life because I liked my life and myself. It’s been 16 years since I made that commitment to myself. I now have three children and I have dated myself once a week since the beginning.
I often laugh when I listen to stories about how women feel the need to “strike a balance” in their lives, because a major point I’ve gleaned from my alone time is how to learn from my imbalance. It has been the imbalance in my life that has told me what I need to ask for from others, the boundaries I need to set or the type of additional systems that were necessary for me to stay sane. I have a black belt in self-care rituals and most of what I learned came from realizing how I benefited when I did things for myself while also taking care of my children. This is the most efficient way to practice what I call ritualistic self-care.
My commitment to “me time” dates for the last 16 years has taught me to trust the choices I’ve made in my life and to be clear about what is most important. I never saw “me time” opportunities as maintenance moments like getting a pedicure or massage, although I do enjoy those things. Instead, spending that time was more about doing something to enrich my life vs. just maintaining it. Spending time alone has allowed me to understand that imbalance is the greatest gift in my life because its symptoms tell me exactly what I need. For example, when I feel tired, I know that I need to create a routine that allows me to rest more. When I find myself in the car all the time the imbalance tells me that it is time to do less. These moments alone have taught me to treasure and truly listen to the imbalance in my life.
I am so grateful that I have a mom who was compassionate enough to request that I take care of myself instead of telling me to “do it all.” My mother knew firsthand the price of doing it all and the personal toll that this illusion creates for so many mothers who get lost in motherhood. I’ve learned that when you know who you are as a mother because you are in touch with yourself, your children have the opportunity to truly get to know you also. Every time I go to an event, participate in a race and do something that I enjoy, my children benefit directly. They will not grow up not knowing who their mom is as a person.
One of the best ways to enhance any relationship is by dating. Think about your most meaningful relationships with your friends, partners and spouse. Did you date them frequently? Dating yourself does exactly the same thing and when you date yourself, you add value to the relationship that you are a part of.
Today, I host annual Time for Mom-Me Retreats & Experience™ weekends to support moms in building substantive systems in their lives to support both their personal and professional growth. I believe that when women get clear about themselves they choose so much more powerfully in every other area of their lives and for others. You can learn more about my Time for Mom-Me Retreats & Experience™ weekends.
If you are on the fence about what “me time” can do for you I simply want you to take 90 minutes for you for six weeks. Join one of my support groups for free atwww.timeformom-me.com and learn a simple system to commit to taking care of yourself.
And Grandmas (or soon-to-be grandmas)… I implore you to share the importance of “me time” with your daughters and particularly your “new mom” daughters, and help them get clear about taking care of themselves so that they don’t lose themselves in motherhood.