Wanting more time for yourself and having more time for yourself are two different things. Time management plays a huge factor in how we prioritize ourselves as mothers and stick with plans we make for ourselves.
There is plenty of research that indicates that women have been seen as caregivers. Black women specifically have been characterized as such since the beginning of our American history. The idea of being caregivers is quite engrained in us women (not to say men or nonbinary people are not caregiving because they are). Historically speaking, women have been seen as those who ensure everyone (i.e. kids, elderly, friends, church members, etc.) is taken care of.
So, to ask a mother to take a break from caring for someone else to focus on one’s personal needs is often met with criticism, guilt, shame, and embarrassment. These emotions are steeped in beliefs about time, what motherhood should look like, and other antiquated ideologies. When mothers evaluate whether or not they have time to do something for themselves, they may think…
- There is just not enough time.
- I am the mother and I should be caring for the kids and household
- There is no one to continue to care for X (kids, household chores, elderly family members, job-related responsibilities, etc.)
- It is easier if I do it because I don’t have to explain how it is done.
- Just sacrificing my own time will lessen the opportunity to be invalidated
- Moms are superheroes and can do it all.
- I have more resources that other women, therefore I should be grateful
Yes, these statements can be true. It may be easier to complete the task yourself, keep going through the routines you have previously set up, and you may have more resources that another mother, but that does not mean you should not care for yourself.
Actually, when we ignore our needs, we are perpetuating psychological invalidation. According to Regain, an online relationship counseling platform, psychological invalidation is “the act of rejecting, dismissing, or minimizing someone else's thoughts and feelings. It implies that a person's experience is not important, wrong, or unacceptable.” When you think these thoughts bulleted above or something similar, you are continuing to do what someone has done to you. Someone has invalidated your feelings and you are now accustomed to it. The upside is, there is hope. With mindfulness practices like therapy, journaling, and meditation, you can retool your brain and focus more on your worth and personal needs. You need a break. You deserve a break. You are worthy of being whole, seen, validated, respected, loved, and whatever else you are in search of. You can do this. It may not be very easy, but you can create the life you want.
Breaking though decades of doubt and invalidation, is tough. That is a lot to break through when you are thinking about trying to implement a self-care routine or just spend time alone. There is a constant pull to break the “norm” of what motherhood and womanhood looks like today but we are constantly met with the over emphasized idea that we need to be doing something to be valuable and worthy. We are also constantly shown images of mothers who can do it all and still have time alone. These images make those of us who have difficulty maintaining that image feel as if we are not worthy of time to relax, breathe, or just be.
So to break through all of that, let’s examine how we can find more time within the day to fit ourselves into the equation of being emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically well.
6 Ways to Find More Time
- Shift in mindset – Just because something has been done a certain way does not mean that it must be done that same way forever. Our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, and other caregivers did (do) what they knew to do at the time. If you are feeling the urge to have alone time, let’s create the space and opportunity. Women have not always had the right to vote, but we can and fervently do so today. So, when you have the thought that you “shouldn’t” want more, acknowledge that thought and take 5 minutes to do something you want.
- Decrease multitasking – People that multitask may be able to get more items checked off the checklist while they also increase the level of stress placed on the body when forcing it to overperform. We are in a culture where overperformance is praised, rewarded, and placed in high regard, but it also can do detriment to your overall wellbeing. So, take a step back and try to multitask less. Which also means try to reduce the things you say “yes” to.
- 85% works too – We have been taught to give 100% at all times (or at least try to). One day, my therapist asked me if I had to give 100% to all things. She then listed a few tasks like meal prep, doing whatever made the kids happy all the time (with boundaries of course), and honoring my husbands desires. I pondered for a bit and concluded that I did not have to give 100% of me at all times. As an example, I decided that I would devote 100% of my attention to my toddler for two hours in the morning followed by one to two hours of independent play where I could watch him and do something else (prepare lunch, check/respond to emails, do a few rounds of deep breathing to clear my mind, etc.) By doing this, I am multitasking, but differently.
- Clean up the to do list – Sometimes we will add everything and anything to the to do list because we have a lot to do. Recently, I started a 2 point to do list. I took stock of the time I actually had to work on my to do list and realized I had about one hour each day that I could get stuff done. So, I started with routine things like grocery shop, wash laundry, fold laundry, organize meals for the week, etc. I added each routine task to a day of the week and scheduled a specific time to try to get it done. This was not a part of my one hour window to tackle my to do list. That immediately cut my to do list in half. Then, I added other tasks throughout the week during that 1 hour time frame. This helped me mentally process the things I needed to get done and decrease my frustration because I was not adding too many things and never getting to the end of the to do list.
- Unplug – Many of us love social media. We will scroll for hours. I personally can get lost on social media because I find some many interesting perspectives and things.
Personal story: I did a Facebook detox during the summer. I did not log onto the platform for 2 straight months. Now, I normally log onto the platform multiple times a day and scroll my feed, group feeds, and pages for hours. So, I made an agreement with myself to not log in for any reason for 2 months. Poof! There was the time I needed. Time for my early rising and early bed time.
- Be realistic – Taking time to do something you want and/or need does not have to be some big elaborate ordeal. You may not have an hour. Thirty minutes works too. Five minutes works as well. Starting small is the best place to start. If you realize you can easily find 10 minutes, then 10 minutes is how much time you devote to yourself until you are able to figure out how to carve out more time.
Time Management: Scheduling your day
Now that some time has been found it is vital to intentionally structure your schedule to best serve your needs and goals. This is where time management really comes into play as time management is the art of intentionally structuring your schedule to best serve your needs and goals. You might want to grab a cup of tea and journal before continuing.
- Intentionally schedule your day – In an article published by Harvard Health Publishing, Dr. Joseph Crocker, MD at Massachusetts General Hospital says that it is important to “Intentionally create ‘shutdown’ time in your schedule.” By doing so, you are more likely to maintain the agreement you made with yourself. It is important to be realistic with your schedule. Try not to add too many new tasks to your schedule at once. I’d recommend looking at your current schedule, and finding a few minutes that you can devote to self-care. Literally, schedule this into your phone with a reminder. Check out our Self Love: 7 Ways to Create the Perfect Marriage with Yourself and Stick With It for a step-by-step guide to mapping out your day.
- Early rising – I know, I know. Who wants to get up earlier than she has to, right? Well, waiting until the end of the day leaves more room for the break you desire to get pushed to the side. So, waking up an additional 15, 20, 30 minutes will be ok. Try to set push yourself to select a bed time (not a sleep time, but a time to get in bed so your body can start to relax and prepare you for the next day.
- Daily reflection – At the end of the day, as you prepare for bed, think about the time you were able to carve out for yourself today. Ask yourself the following questions…
- What worked well with today’s “me time”?
- What didn’t work?
- Do I need to make a small change tomorrow?
- If you missed your “me time” forgive yourself and try again tomorrow. It is ok. This is a new practice you are learning to implement.
No need in writing this down unless you like to write stuff down. You can quickly have a chat in your mind as a way to keep yourself on track with honoring yourself and make necessary adjustments to ensure it continues to become routine for you.
We all have the time. We may just have different amounts of time, but who is comparing? Comparing yourself to another mom is defeatist and detrimental. You are worthy of everything you imagine for yourself. Dr. Adia Gooden's Ted Talk on Self Worth is awesome. She eloquently breaks down how we can really dig into self worth and do the things you want most.
Now, go steep a cup of Mothering Tea, grab your journal, and jot down your thoughts about why you feel as if you don’t have time. Look at that list and place an “X” beside all the things you absolutely do not have to do. Can you delegate them? Can you remove them from the list completely? Could they be scheduled on a certain day of the week to complete?