Open up any women's magazine or scroll through a few of the mommy blogs and you're bound to come across articles about "Me time", or "finding time" for yourself. Taking the time just for you. Sounds good, right? Of course it does! I mean who doesn't want a little rest and relaxation? The thing is, this isn't really the season of my life for a whole lotta "me time", and I'm okay with that.
I work from home sorta full time, especially on weeks like this one where I am putting the magazine together. I am working, from home, with two in school and two at home. My "work day" ends when the big kids get home from school because there is probably a ballet class or playdate drop off or something going on that needs shuttling to and from. Then it's just a quick zip through homework, dinner, bathtime and wrangling them all into bed and I am DONE for the day. No staying up working more for me, it's just not physically possible being seven months pregnant. I'm lucky if I get to watch fifteen minutes of a show before I fall asleep and start the process over again the next day. Me time? Not happening. I work in a shower here and there, and roughly twice a month I have a couple hours at my beloved Book Club with some friends (I find snippets of time to read at night, usually after one of the kids has woken me up about chocolate milk or a nightmare or about a scratchy blanket), but beyond that "me time" is non-existent, and I do not in any way, shape, or form try to "find" more time for myself alone or make it a priority right now.
Most, if not all, of my life is infiltrated by children. In the photo above that was me, trying to take a nap, until the four year old wanted to join me and offer suggestions for what we should call baby #5 (Rainbow, Sunny, Kitten, all solid choices). I laugh at the "take a long bath" suggestion for "me time" because unless that bath tub is located inside a hotel room where my family is not also staying, that ain't happening. The sound of water running in the bathroom is a magnet to young children, and they will come in asking questions and needing something signed or requiring a referee for the game they made up. No sooner would I pour the fragrant bubbles in than a pajama-ed child would find their way in to ask me deep questions about the universe and where hail comes from and if Santa and the Easter Bunny know each other. It literally does not matter where I am going, if I am leaving the house at least one will ask to tag along. We are a togetherness family, and I like it that way.
Now, before you get all on my case, I'm not saying it isn't important as women, as human beings, to find time to slow down, take a few deep breaths and recharge. It can be absolutely vital, and it really is on a case by case basis how much time you need to have to yourself. In my own case, the reason why I don't search out me time or carve it out of our already overflowing family schedule is, I chose this.
I chose to be surrounded by little people who need my attention, I chose to be pregnant once again for the fifth time. I chose to be a mom, and I chose to stay at home with them, and I am lucky for all of those things, and grateful. If I wanted ample time to get my nails done and pursue a hobby or travel without children, I probably wouldn't have had any, because with my current budget and my schedule, those things aren't doable, not RIGHT NOW.
That's my other point. I'm in the "grunt years" as a parent. The years that you don't get a break. Where if you turn your back the toddler has pulled the loaf of bread off the table and is ripping each slice apart. The years where you have a baby in a sling and aren't getting much sleep and have a million tiny pairs of underwear to fold and school forms to sign. The real thick of it mom years, where your focus, even on a minute to minute basis, is on these little humans. And the thing is, those years FLY BY. Ask any mom. Any of them will tell you. Better yet, ask a grandma, ask your own mother. Ask how quickly it seemed to go by, you were just in diapers, and now you are a parent yourself. I look at my third child, four years old now, four years has gone by in a blink. While I get so excited to watch him learn and grow, there is also a deep sadness at the realization that he is growing away from me, as he should be. He will go to school in a year and a half and he will be a big boy out in the world. These years at home are just that: years, measured in finite time. There will be a point when they won't need as much of my time, as much of my focus. And in the grand scheme of things, that time is very short, so I really don't care if I'm missing out on a little bit of me time here and there because of it.
So it's okay to say screw it to me time. It's okay to acknowledge that all of your time and attention is focused on children. It's okay to sacrifice things you thought you would never sacrifice because you are a mom now. That doesn't take away from who you are, or "were" as a person. It doesn't make you a martyr. It makes you a mom.
Does that mean I never need a break from my kids? Of course I do. And in that cruel joke on all moms everywhere, I miss them terribly when I am away from them. But with everything else I have chosen to have happen in my life, what I don't need is someone telling me that in addition to earning income and raising small children I should also be making time for myself on a regular basis. This time, it's just not there. Yet. I'm not saying don't make yourself and your own health a priority, what I'm saying is if you don't, as one website suggests, have time to "Take a bubble bath with soft music, candles, and a glass of ice-cold sparkling cider in your best crystal flute" because you are busy hanging out with your two year old, you aren't damaging yourself as a person. This is just the stage you are in now.
Sometimes it helps to just embrace the chaos and go with the flow. Maybe you need a break from the craziness of your schedule but don't have a sitter, take the kids to the park and just sit back on the grass and let them run wild. Me time. With them.
And sometimes, you also just have to remember that none of these stages as a mom are going to be permanent. You might feel like you are stuck in this toddler hell where you might scream if you have to watch another episode of Caillou, but it will pass, and time will open up again. You might barely have time to talk to your good friends on the phone without being interrupted to open up another organic yogurt tube, but one day those little voices will be grown up, and there will be quiet again.
So right now, I'm going to relish the craziness I have taken on. Because I will surely miss it when it is gone. I'm spending my me time with them, and that beats a bubble bath any day.