Putting the "MO" in MOFO since 2004

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Monday, September 18, 2006

 

Say, for example, Peter and Paul get into a fistfight and then turn on you...

According to a recent study, mothers who work are spending more time on work obligations AND more time on family and child-related obligations. This of course, leaves very little time for themselves (if any). Being stressed out and overwhelmed, it turns out, raises cortisol levels, and high cortisol levels have scary health-related ramifications.

You can read the article about women and down time on cnn.com, and you can find it here. The author emphasizes the importance of “Me Time” for all women, particularly mothers, and particularly mothers who work outside the home.

I struggle sometimes with “me time”. I try to carve out time to have dinner with friends and family, sans my two-year old. I have a pretty active social life, and I hate to miss out on ANYTHING, but frankly, most of the time I feel like I am doing most things in a depressingly half-assed fashion.

It’s hard to be a good friend when, not only do you have very little free time, but when you do, your mind is so numb and frazzled from fielding obligations around the clock that it’s hard to put together a coherent sentence.

As my sister Julie once said, it’s possible to be a good mother and a good employee, but rarely if ever on the same day. I will take that a step further by saying it’s possible to be a good friend, a good wife, a good sister, a good mother, and a good employee, and good to myself, but never, ever, all on the same day.

This is where the GUILT comes in. With their SEVERE lack of time, working mothers are forced to steal from Peter to pay Paul. This leaves us with an angry and disenfranchised Peter. Except it’s not Peter that’s getting stolen from . It’s your kid, or your husband, or your best friend, or your boss that’s getting the heave-ho in order to make room for something else.

If I spend three hours taking in a play on a Saturday afternoon, that’s three fewer hours to spend with my daughter. That leaves me feeling incredibly guilty, so I bail out on the monthly get-together with the neighborhood ladies. And so on.

When I get too busy and distracted (which is often), I feel like the worlds WORST mother. It is so hard to live in the moment when you are constantly rattling through a mental to-do list in your head. When I say constant I mean CONSTANT. The to-do list. It never stops.

There are days when I feel I am failing everyone, including my child, and myself. I am doing it all, just not very well. It begins to make a person feel like they just suck. I feel terrible for my friends when I check out mentally, because then I start doing rude things like not returning phone calls or e mails, because I am so crazed and overwhelmed that by the time I finish the dinner dishes I can hardly even speak. The best I can manage is to put my daughter to bed and stare mindlessly at Law and Order reruns.

Oy.

Here are my questions:

First off, I am looking for commiseration. I want your sob stories.

Then, I want to talk solutions.

How do you find “me time”, and when you do, what works to bring mental peace and clarity?

What are your challenges to “me time” and how do you make it (and keep it) a priority?

15 Comments:

Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

This will sound terribly unfair, but when I had a job that I loved - it WAS "me time". I had friends at work, time to go out to lunch with them, time to chat about non-work related topics, and time to work with good people on interesting projects.

It also helped that I had quality child care - people who loved my child and whom I trusted. That factor also goes a long way toward alleviating stress and guilt.

That said, when I was working full-time, I did feel guilty about taking time in the evenings to go to the gym, even though I enjoyed it and it was good for me. On the weekends, we typically got together with other couple friends of ours who also had children. If I wasn't at work, I wasn't spending much time away from Tacy.

Now that I SAH and have more time with the girls (and have more "me time" thanks to pre-school), it's easier to let myself take a couple hours on a weekend to go for a bike ride, or to go to Bunco one Friday night each month, or to take an afternoon to go shopping with my friends.

But I also think of my "me time" as an opportunity for the girls to have time with Daddy. Most kids tend to glom on to Mommy whenever she's available, so sometimes it takes LEAVING for the kids to really focus on Daddy.

And since too many daddies out there still view caring for their children as "babysitting" or "helping" (not Jim, not Kyle - but plenty of others), insisting on a little "me time" just might have the result of a more responsible, more accountable parenting partner.



How do you find “me time”, and when you do, what works to bring mental peace and clarity?



What are your challenges to “me time” and how do you make it (and keep it) a priority?

3:40 PM  
Blogger Jerri Ann said...

I don't work outside the home, however, I am a mom of two boys who rarely gets any me time. As a matter of fact, my oldest is 3.5 and I have had me time, maybe, honestly, maybe 3 times. I can't say that I don't need it, but I get by without it. I don't go out with friends, I don't go out with my spouse that often. We do 99.5 % of our activities as a family down to afternoon four wheeler rides.

Actually, when I said I get no me time that is incorrect. Occasionally I go to my mom's alone in the afternoons, just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. I guess that is as good as it gets for me time.

But to answer your questions:

How do you find “me time”, and when you do, what works to bring mental peace and clarity? AFter my boys go to bed, I surf and blog read, that is my me time, mental peace....awwww..the internet.

What are your challenges to “me time” and how do you make it (and keep it) a priority? My challenges are that I don't like to be alone, and I have no real life friends that have schedules that coincide with mine. So, it is me and my husband and the boys...that's just how we live

6:08 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I am the woman you describe in your blog entry. I work full-time outside the home and full-time inside the home. I have two little boys, ages 8 and 5.

This summer was pretty sweet. We took a fantastic family vacation. We spent weekends camping or hanging out a home together. Of course, it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine. My boys play sports, which means mom and dad had after work commitments almost every night of the week. The only break we got was in the month of July when no one was enrolled in anything.

Now that school is back in session (for my husband and I as well as the boys), time has become a precious commodity. Working all day, running our oldest boy to and from football practice four nights a week, making time for the library, squeezing in homework and housework...those are my days. Last night I sat up in my son's bedroom way past his bedtime listening to him read because that was the first chance I had to actually sit and listen to him.

Working, schooling, and parenting are difficult tasks to blend together. In the midst of the daily chaos that is our lives, when do I find time for me? Good question.

-I shut my door and close the blinds in my office during lunch. I either read or surf the web. That's me time...as long as it doesn't get interrupted.

-I scrapbook with my family and friends. Sure the kids may be there 90% of the time but since I'm doing something I enjoy, it's still me time.

-Every now and again, my girlfriend and I plan a movie night. We leave our kidlets with our hubbies and take off for dinner and a movie. This works exceptionally well because our husbands hate the kind of movies we love.

-I plan at least one weekend getaway a year with my fellow scrapbookers. No husbands or children allowed.

-I read. I read a lot. I even read while I make dinner.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Oh yes. (pulls up a chair.) I hear you.

Here's my sob story, which will probably sound familiar: up at 6:00, dressing the kids in between my shower and dressing myself for work (my hubby helps greatly, but there's still a lot I have to do.) Out of the house by 7:15-7:30. Daycare dropoff, 15 minutes. Eat breakfast during 1/2 hour commute with hubby.

Work 8 hours in a tiny cubicle, staring at the computer for 8 hours. If I'm lucky, leave the building for lunch (run errands or maybe get a fast food lunch with a coworker). 45 minute commute home, 'cause traffic is worse in the evening.

Daycare pickup: 15 minutes. Home by 6:00. J makes dinner while I clean/do laundry/play with kids. Eat, clean up, check e-mail and blog while kids watch Sesame Street for a little bit (downtime for us.) Play with kids, more chores. Phone calls to grandparents.

8:00 is the little one's bedtime. Big girl goes down at 9:00 and we're not long after that.

Weekends are a little more unstructured, though we have soccer on Saturday AM and usual friend commitments/playdates. In between I try to make order from chaos in the house.

What's missing from this picture? Most activities are family based, so there's little time for girlfriends or personal activities. J and I have not been out alone as a couple since I-don't-know-when because we don't have a babysitter or family nearby. (This is a problem we know we need to rectify.) Lately I have had trouble sleeping because my mind is already on to what I must do the next morning.

My husband is good about giving me breaks when I really need them -- even if it's an hour on the weekend to just run to Target. I try to reciprocate by giving him breaks too, but neither of us is consistent about taking time away. I do need to build in regular "me" time to exercise, to write letters to friends, to read paper books, to window shop. I'm hoping I'll get there at some point. But right now I am still struggling each day to make it happen.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me present a different approach. I have lived the life of working mom, some would say supermom with a FT+++ job sometimes 7 days/wk, husband with zero child-care skills and long erratic work hours 24-7. I have raised two terrific kids who are off in the world doing wonderful things (in China and Bolivia aged 24 and 25 yo). I drove them nightly to music lessons in choir, clarinet, drums, piano, orchestra, band, competitions etc, and spent every down moment every weekend with them while performing my civic obligations on several working boards, quality time with my spouse and LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

It is all about expectations. Guilt-free.

My focus was family, church/civic and work. Now YOUR top three areas of focus may be different, but choices need to be made. It is great if you can multi-benefit your time such as a social event combined into a family event or I would take the kids to the office and give them activities while I worked on a Saturday, etc.

When I was 44 I discovered the need for me-time in the area of exercise. I found a trainer who came to my house at 4:30a-5:30a because I told her that was the only "open slot" I had. I laugh now when I think about it, we make time for what is important.

In my case, I love my work, I love my husband 30 years after saying I DO and I love time spent with my kids -- I still find them facinating.

I reflect back on those days and wonder how in the world I did it all..... I was probably helped by the no-TV rule and a drug -- I drank caffiene in those days. smile. pjindy

4:54 PM  
Blogger Krisco said...

I was stay at home for four years with two little ones and just went back to work this summer.

I have WAY more time for me now than I did before, because before I had NONE. Now just sitting at my desk I can at least complete a thought in my head, whereas I didn't have that luxury before.

Plus before, we fell into the trap, and I think a lot of people do, of thinking the stay at home has SO MUCH time on her hands - so I got every possible home chore. Whereas in fact, I had no free time and little help with everything else at home.

Working is definitely not the answer. Would we could afford serious hours of childcare help (or cooking/cleaning help) and not have me work, that would be ideal, but it's an either/or at this house.

It's a struggle to find a good balance. So - nothing helpful from me I'm afraid.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

Mothergoosemouse has a point. Work may be done for someone else or another company, but it's productive mind time that makes money and earns you a public face and an opportunity to use words with more than one syllable.

As for the gym, etc...I hope you've got a supportive husband who takes his fathering role seriously. That always helps.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Danielle said...

My solutions? Keep healthy (sound diet and regular exercise--include your kids). Also, attitude is everything. Think of your life as a chore and it will be; think of it as a blessing and it will be much better. Between parenting, work, and school, I don't expect to have much 'me time'. Someday...;)

7:35 AM  
Blogger Prego said...

My 'me' time is hockey. That's about it. I call my friends at least once a week...

I like your sister's point about it being impossible to be a good mother (father), and employee on the same day. I never bring my work home as a result - I even leave my college coursework on the back burner... but sh*t. I did that before I had kids.

Good luck with the juggling, Laura. Maybe Willie can drop by with some of that Walnut Grove schmee.
(mgm, it also chafes me when dads refer to hanging out with their kid as 'babysitting' - I correct people tell me I'm 'babysitting' my own kids.

"We're hanging out like gentlemen.")

5:29 AM  
Anonymous melissaS said...

I'd email this. I think I'm watching the House Hunters episode you're in! Ellison sisters? yes?

7:17 PM  
Anonymous melissaS said...

It was you! Pregnant...drinking a beer! (I'm kidding I remember you saying it was a root beer.)

7:37 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Once a month I go out to dinner with the girls. Come hell or high water I go. I also get a pedicure every 2 weeks. If I do not get these two precious times just for me I would hate to see what kind of person I would be.

This is all the time I can spare. I have a very active 11 yr old who I shuttle to football practice 4 days a week and games on Sundays. I also have a 4 yr old who is slowing following in his brother's footsteps.

DH and I rarely have "us" time. Our last "us" time was spent this weekend painting our new home. This is the area that I need to work on the most. Carving out "us" time.

Working full-time does put time restraints on time. All we can do is try our best and not let it cause too much un-needed additonal stress.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Hey, Megan - I just did a post about this very same thing at my blog. It is the never-ending debate - where can I find more time?

Let me know if you get any answers from your readers, will ya?

Love your blog.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous dawn said...

My therapist told me all the time to try to maintain balance. When I would tell this to Terrance he would snort and tell me how much HE was doing around the house and how much I wasn't doing - why did I need Me time....

Which is why I stabbed him.

No, seriously. But I should have.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditch the TV. I suspect this would add lots to your life.

Also, prioritize....I know it sounds prescriptive, esp. coming from someone you don't know, but face it, this season of your life is *not* about you!!
....not if you have small children. Or, another way to look at it, is it's ALL about you: you, the Mom and wife....not you the Writer, you the Person WIth Important Job Outside the Home, you the Best Friend, you the Toast of the Neighborhood, you the Special Special Lady who Needs Me Time....

9:44 AM  

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