Finding “me time” as a single mum can be tricky; there’s always something that needs to be done, and it can be hard to prioritise self care over housework or the myriad other things on that endless to-do list.
It’s important to take time for yourself each day though. When we don’t manage this, we can begin to feel run down and burnt out, and mental health issues can soon follow. Self care is not only having a bubble bath or a manicure; it’s about taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
1. Take time where you can get it
You don’t need a weekend away or even a whole afternoon in order to do something rejuvenating to help you to feel yourself again. If your child is at a birthday party for a couple of hours, take that time for yourself. If you only have half an hour while they’re watching a cartoon in the mornings, use that. My daughter knows that on weekend mornings she is allowed to watch TV in exchange for Mummy getting half an hour uninterrupted to read a magazine and drink coffee. And then we get on with our day!
2. Know what replenishes your energy
For an introvert, an hour alone in silence can be absolute bliss. For an extrovert, not so much. While introverts need quiet, alone time in order to replenish their energy, extroverts actually need to be around people in order to feel that. This means that for some of us, the best way to get “me time” is actually to meet a friend for coffee. For others, that can be just an added strain on an already fraught nervous system and we need some complete down time.
3. Switch the TV off
Settling down to watch a movie or a box set can feel like a great way to get some me time – but actually, it’s not so great for us. Watching TV is a passive activity, and many of us will end up half-watching the TV while we’re also scrolling through social media or even doing housework! There’s nothing wrong with watching TV sometimes, but if you’re looking for me time, TV is probably not the best way to feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
4. Get up earlier rather than staying up later
At the end of a busy day, when we’ve finally done the bedtime routine with our child, all we want to do is flop onto the sofa and watch TV. As mentioned above though, this is not a great way to actually replenish our internal resources. If you can manage instead to get up early before anyone else is up, you can have a glorious half hour to read, to meditate, to do some yoga, to drink a cup of tea in peace. These are all restorative things that can help you to start your day feeling great.
5. Get creative to make pockets of time for you
I’m self employed, and if I’m not careful I can find that my day becomes school run – desk – school run and nothing else. A while back I started putting my daughter into Breakfast Club at school three mornings a week. It’s only an extra fifty minutes, but this allows me enough time to get in a short run after the school run, before plonking down at my desk for the day. If you can’t do this, look for other ways to create small pockets of time. Can you make an agreement with another mum to alternate school runs for each other? Can your child join an after school club or an evening group like Cubs or Brownies so that you get an hour of down time?
When you’re feeling tired and run down and fed up, exercise can seem like the most ridiculous idea ever. The thing is though, it can actually help to improve your energy and your mood! I really didn’t want to admit it, but it’s true. I relish my fifteen-minute run in the mornings, and my weekly yoga class is a non-negotiable.
7. Have a firm schedule
From a very young age, my daughter had a firm bedtime. That didn’t mean I wasn’t up and down the stairs to her several times a night when she was small; it doesn’t mean she doesn’t occasionally go to bed a little later now that she’s a bit older. What it does mean is that we have a firm boundary, which we stick to more often than not. I’m very lucky in that my child is an avid reader – so I can send her upstairs to get ready for bed and read for up to an hour before her actual bedtime. I know a lot of parents struggle with bedtime, and it’s not always been a walk in the park for me – but I know that I need that hour on my own once my daughter is in bed in order to feel human. So I stick with it and do my best to make sure I get my time.
8. Prioritise me time
If it’s not a priority, it won’t happen; it’s as simple as that. If you wake up in the morning and think I hope I get some time for myself today you’ll probably be disappointed; but if you wake up thinking right, where can I plan in time for myself then it’s more likely to happen. Make it a priority to schedule in down time for yourself on a regular basis, and it will become a habit for you. Perhaps more importantly, your friends and your child/ren will notice this too. As I mentioned above, my daughter knows now that Mummy gets half an hour to drink her coffee on weekend mornings; she doesn’t question it, and if she does wander in asking to go to the park or do painting, I respond with ok, but let me drink my coffee first and she is happy with that – because it is just what happens in our house. Make it so that you getting time to yourself is just what happens in your house too!