Wednesday 10 August 2016

Switched on / switching off - making time for me time

For some of us, making time for ourselves is a challenge. I'm talking about real me time - not the kind of free time that we decide to 'put to good use' to tick things off our to do list, involving housework or anything else relating to our children, husband or our working lives either.

It's natural for us to put others before ourselves; it's something we're actually told to expect as soon as we show the slightest interest in having a mini me. People, including other parents, are all too quick to tell us that we should "make the most of sleep / free time before the baby comes - you'll never get that time again!" and it is true; having a baby and bringing them up automatically puts them at the top of your list of priorities now and forever more.

Well, most of the time.

I agree with the facts of this statement and do find myself saying - in my head - that my friends, no matter how understanding and accommodating they are, will only truly understand what it is like to have a child and to care for them 24/4, 365 days a year, for now until they're grown up, and how much time and attention this takes. It's totally worth it but it really is a game-changer when it comes to your routine, how you plan things in and what you can do as a parent.

It does change you / your life. You can decide by how much and you certainly learn to adapt and even to relax over time. But the change is there; you're responsible for another, so they must always come first.

That's why it can be so hard to 'switch off' and indulge in some well-deserved 'me time'. Because just a few days or weeks into this whole parenting malarkey, you're used to different priorities (supermarket saver deals on nappies over summer sales on strapy sandals) and you've realised quickly that you're always switched 'on'.

I've noticed it quite a lot recently, how 'on' you have to be. As Ethan's grown up, the level of 'on' I have to be has gone up - and down, too. We're used to him being quite an independent toddler and at home, he can go about play as he wishes as we've set things up so we know he's safe. We have a safety gate blocking the kitchen and back door, all harmful things are out of reach and with wooden stairs, we can hear as soon as he goes to walk upstairs himself. He's more capable now, but with that I know I need to be more 'on' again soon, as he's working out how to get around things - like moving a chair to stand on to reach something otherwise out of the way.

Out and about, we don't use the pushchair any more and haven't for a long time. Ethan won't even sit in the trolley when we do the food shop. He wants to walk everywhere and is all about exploring the world, in his own time, on his own terms.

But when we're out, be it at a family BBQ or a wedding, we have to be 'on' all the time. We give him freedom to run around and play, of course, but in a split second, he could do something that might cause him harm. Touch a hot BBQ. Run under someone's feet. Have a tantrum when asked to get off the dance floor so the newlyweds can dance their first dance.

Quite specific examples, and recent too, and most of the time, nothing does happen or go wrong - but being a parent, we have to fear the possibilities. We have to be 'on' all the time.

And that is perfectly understandable and acceptable - but oh so tiring too.

Hubs and I take turns to do the bedtime routine and even if we don't do anything specific when it's not our turn, just having some time to not have to be 'on' is a small relief and gives us some time for ourselves.

And it can really make a big difference.

Switching off isn't easy, be it from parenting duties or work, but we all need to try to make a little time for ourselves. It can be hard work in itself but I've found a few ways to make it work for me.

* Plan it in - I love my planner (don't know if I've mentioned this before...?!) and I have a section every day for home life / 'me' related activities. I don't always fill it in but it is a daily reminder to thing about myself and see if there's anything I want to make time for.

* Even 5 minutes is enough - 'me' time doesn't have any set time limit and you really can give yourself a mini break even during the busiest of days.

* Think of things you enjoy - if you like a cup of tea, curling up with a book, binge watching Friends re-runs or Netflix in general, having a bath, going for a run, walking the dog, putting on a face mask... see this as 'me' time. Even if it is a brief window of opportunity in your day, just recognising it as 'me' time makes it feel all the more important.

* Make the moment count - little touches make all the difference. Light a candle, play some music or have a dance while doing the dishes. Find ways to make the every day that little more special. I love candles, but won't burn my 'special' ones very often as I don't want to use them up. Which is ridiculous really - they're meant to be enjoyed! What I'm saying is, if you enjoy something or can find a way to add in something you like to something you have to do, you'll get more out of the moment and feel like you're doing something for you.

* Give yourself mini rewards - I'm a task orientated person and I will mentally give myself rewards after completing something or a list of jobs. This can be as simple as reading a favourite blog or having a window-shop on the Cath Kidston website - just something that I'll enjoy once I know I've got a few things done.

* Try something new - pick up a new book, join a gym class, start a hobby, start a blog even - a new outlet for your interests and passions could make all the difference if you feel you're in a rut. I've recently joined a leisure centre, in fact we have as a family, and it's changing my way of thinking. It's not just about being more active (although it is, for myself and to be a better role model for Ethan); it's about making time for us as a family and for myself too. I love steam rooms and find them relaxing, as well as good for my skin, so having one I can use now any time I like is a real treat. I'm enjoying classes too and each week pick a couple to suit our schedule - whilst adhering to the following point, and not putting too much pressure on myself to pack it all in...

* Don't panic - the worst thing you can do is turn 'having some me time' into a chore; something else to worry about. It is hard to make time for yourself and room for your interests - who says you'll be in the mood for yoga just because you assigned some time for it on a particular day? - so don't make it another thing that falls off your to do list. If you'd rather keep on working because you know you'll be able to truly switch off the next day, go ahead. Just make sure that you are always on your list.

I can always think of things to do and it can be hard for me to sit still, particularly if I have these things on my mind, but I know myself and I try and plan my time so that I can see when these things will get done and when I can chill out too.

Everyone defines what 'me' time is to them, but ultimately, if you're taking the time to switch off and to do something that's more about you than anyone else, then you're doing it right. And it's ok - everyone has to have an off button they press now and then.


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