Mothers, more than any other group of people it seems, are repeatedly told that they need to prioritise ‘me time.’ And for good reason – you cannot look after your baby if you are feeling under-nourished yourself.
However, especially if you’re sleep deprived, ‘me time’ can feel a bit daunting. One new mother said to me recently, “I don’t actually know what I want to do? I know I’m meant to use it to nourish myself, but I just feel a bit stuck. I’d rather do the laundry, or something that feels productive. I just can’t relax enough to read a book or a magazine and I feel as though I haven’t really got anything to say to my friends because I’m so tired, so I don’t want to call anyone.”
This can be a bit of a vicious cycle, as the less you enjoy things you used to do, the more tired you feel and the less you are then able to enjoy life. Breaking that cycle can feel difficult and it’s especially hard if you find you are unable to do things that you used to enjoy.
Many women tell me how upsetting they find it that they can’t physically do activities that they enjoyed before having a baby – sports such as running or activities such as going to the cinema or out for meals crop up a lot. Even if your body is able to do these things again, finding enough time and energy to do these things can feel like a herculean task. It takes an especial amount of energy to get back into a habit that has been lost, so it’s not surprising that finding this energy is especially hard for tired new parents.
And I think that the crucial thing to remember in all of this is that word ‘energy’. Before you had a baby, you probably had developed routines and structures that reduced the amount of energy needed to do things that nourish you – you had built them into your life so you didn’t need to think about them so much. For example, once you have been to a gym class once or twice, it’s much easier to go back. You know where you are going, where to park, what to take and what to expect. It requires less thought to do it.
Having a baby disrupts both those energy-saving routines AND your sleep. A double whammy to your energy levels.
So when you’re thinking of ‘me time’ it might help to think that it takes energy to enjoy ‘me time’. It takes more energy than it did before you had a baby, because you can’t take it regularly. It might take more energy because you might not have something to easily slot into the time you have available. It might take energy to consciously let go of the neverending list of chores. It might take energy to rid yourself of the anxiety about leaving your baby with someone else. IT TAKES A LOT OF ENERGY!
I’m aware that might all sound a bit hopeless, and you might feel like you want to give up now! That’s not my intention. If you recognise that it is going to take energy to get that much-needed nourishment, then it makes it easier not to be disappointed if you are given an opportunity to have some time for yourself and you don’t know what to do with it. If you find that you’re struggling with ‘me time’, please don’t see that as a failing. That sense of not knowing will pass again.
As ever, I advocate being kind to yourself and figuring out what is going to help you soothe you, emotionally and physically. If you’d like to talk to someone to support you to figure out what would most help you to relax in those precious moments, a solution-focussed, one-to-one session or two might just be what you’re looking for. I’d be happy to chat if you get in touch.