I’ve been re-reading my advance copy of Jessica Turner’s The Fringe Hours. I enjoy her blog (The Mom Creative) and have enjoyed reading her voice and view of the world at more length than a blog post can allow. The subtitle of the book is Making Time For You, and in it Turner explores how she, who works full time in health care marketing, and has three young kids, makes time for scrapbooking, blogging, and other passions (like writing a book!).
Much of the book is written for the woman who believes she just doesn’t have time for personal pursuits or self-care. While I have no doubt that this is a common belief, I realized, while reading The Fringe Hours, that this isn’t true for me. Like Turner, I have a reasonable amount of me time in my life. I have more or less, depending on the age of my kids and how many deadlines I have pending, but it’s never nothing. Some of this is due to life circumstances (e.g. self-employment, having a partner, and having disposable income) and some is due to conscious decisions about my time. While these won’t work for everyone, here are seven strategies I employ to create more me-time in my life.
1. I embrace the “sunk cost” mindset. I love getting massages, and have tried to get one during particularly busy or stressful times during my life over the past few years. However, it was always a one-off thing. Then I went to Massage Envy a few times. If you’ve been, you know they push the membership packages pretty hard. I’d always said no, but after using a gift certificate for a pre-natal massage there last month, I finally said what the hell. I’d found a therapist I liked. The membership price buys you one 60-minute massage a month, and others at discounted rates. Now, getting 1-2 massages per month is about getting my money’s worth. Interestingly, Turner is a member too. Massage Envy knows its market!
2. I make it a habit. I love running. I’ve been doing progressively longer walks as I recover and I’m looking forward to taking my first short jog in another week or two. Exercise is subject to less me-time guilt because it’s really something you’re supposed to be doing, like going to the dentist. I don’t think people feel guilty about going to the dentist (do they? I know people don’t go but probably not because of guilt that they’re doing something indulgent). I like to run during the day, and being self-employed does help with that, though in my few office jobs, I’ve generally used my lunch break for walking or going to the corporate gym. The new ‘mill will enable early morning runs or post-kid-bedtime runs. In any case, it’s such a habit that days don’t really feel right when I don’t exercise. I’m willing to structure my life around this.
3. I assume 50-50. If you’re partnered, then ideally both parties are committed to giving each other space for your own interests. Of course, some people are better at reading signals than others. So I find the best approach is to ask. If my husband has been traveling a lot, then I ask for time on weekends to do my own thing. After all, it is possible that he’s watched a movie or two while on planes…
4. I hire extra childcare. If you’re in a dual-income family, or if you’re a working single parent, then you’ve likely got paid childcare. Even people who have the resources, though, often feel guilty about paying for any extra childcare beyond what is necessary to cover work hours. I understand that, but I also know that adding just a few extra hours can make a big difference in my mood. See above about the hubby traveling issue, and the assumption of 50-50. If he’s gone for four nights during the week, then having a sitter for one night isn’t outsourcing me, it’s outsourcing him.
5. I make use of evenings. In general, parents go to bed later than their kids. This is not always the case with me and my 7-year-old, currently, but the rule is he’s supposed to stay in his room. In any case, late night time is easy to use for TV or internet wandering, but it can also be used for things that feel more like indulgent me-time: paging through a magazine while sipping some wine, taking a bubble bath, etc. I often use this time to work, but I’m trying to put a limit on it, and not do it every night.
6. I seize time while the kids are occupied. I’m OK with screen time. Not eternal screen time, but it’s not evil, either. If the kids all want to watch a show, and I want to do something else, I do. That something is usually not picking up their toys. The toys will just come out again in 30 minutes, but I’ll never get that time back. I know this one will be harder in the next few years as I’ve got a baby who’ll need to be watched, but things have been relatively easier the last few months after kid #3 turned 3 and didn’t require as much supervision. So I’m only 3 years away from that being reality again.
7. I don’t fill time. My kids could be in a lot more activities than they are. I could be a lot better about scheduling playdates. I look through the church bulletin sometimes and see various volunteer opportunities that I’m sure would be fun and meaningful — but there’s a limit to how much I can add to my life right now if I want to invest adequately in my career while raising four kids and trying to stay sane. More margin equals more ability to have down time if I want it.
What strategies do you use for creating me-time?
Photo: Current consumer of some quantity of me-time. He kind of looks like a little lumber jack…