Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Finding Me Time: WOHM Edition

How to find time for yourself when you barely have time to fully chew your food.

“Me Time” is a very rare commodity for me these days, just like all moms. Stay-at-home moms have plenty of challenges, I know—I was there, once upon a time. (And when you’re done here, see Caroline’s Finding Me Time: SAHM Edition, the sister post to this one.) But now, as a WOHM (work-outside-the-home mom) I have a somewhat different set of challenges.

Working outside the home means spending an awful lot of time away from my family. More than I would like, to be honest. I mean, I enjoy my job. I like going to work. But I do not like leaving my kids. I don’t enjoy the feeling of missing out on so much. Which means, when I’m not at work I want to be doing stuff with them. Building forts. Playing outside.

Also, I’m not prepared to fully relinquish all the family tasks, which means I still do a lot of birthday-party-planning and swim-lesson-chauffering and parent-teacher-conferencing.

You don’t need graduate-level Calculus to do the math on this one. There just isn’t a lot of time leftover for little old me.

Here's what I wrote on Twitter this past December:

I know it’s sad, but I wasn’t even kidding when I tweeted that. After looking at my calendar and noting the upcoming dentist appointment, I thought gleefully about all the things I could do in the waiting room. All by myself. I could read. I could flip through InStyle magazine. I could listen to my iPod. I could, well, I could do just about anything with a little guilt-free chunk of time like that. And while they’re cleaning my teeth, well, by god I could actually watch TV.

The other night, I came home late after a particularly grueling shift at a walk-in clinic and within five minutes of arriving home, I was drawing a nice warm bath.

Not for me, that is.

Nope, it was bath and bedtime for my boys, of course. They’d all eaten dinner without me, and hubs was at the end of his tether (you can see it in the eyes—I recognized the look) so I took over, balancing dinner—a grilled cheese sandwich—on my knees while they splashed about. No, the days of coming home to immediately flop on the couch and decompress with a glass of wine and a good book, well, those days are gone. For now.

And how about mom guilt? Yes, you could say I’m in touch with that emotion.

“You going to work again, mummy?” says my son. (Cue sad face, eyes like Puss-in-Boots from Shrek.)

“Yes, sweetheart, but I’ll be back later today and we’ll have fun then,” I say. (Cue cheerful/upbeat tone and pasted-on-smile.)

And then I walk out of the house and to my car. (Cue sobbing into coffee cup.)

But this isn’t a pity party. Maybe, at this point, I should offer some solutions?

Well...I can’t pretend this is something I’ve figured out. Because I haven’t. But here are some of the things I’m working on. And, if you’re a mom who has a job outside the home, maybe these are some things you should consider, too:

Stop considering your own health to be a luxury item. Eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep—these are not negotiable, and not things that need to get shoehorned in amongst all the other stuff (or, worse, left off the list altogether).

Accept that “me time” is probably going to be brief, for the time being. For me, this means not feeling sorry for myself about this. Instead I need to just deal. Five minutes here, five minutes there, it’s so much better than nothing.

Cultivate the skill of relaxation and brief meditation. It is possible to relax in five minutes. It just takes a little practice.

Try to align tasks. My 7-year-old needs to get more exercise. I need to get more exercise. Solution? I jog while he rides his bike alongside me. We tried this a little while ago, we jog/biked down to the ocean, hung around watching the waves for a little bit, then jog/biked all the way back. It was perfect. Of course, we have yet to repeat it...so I can’t be *all that* smug about it, but we’ve got plans to make this a habit.

Delegate. I recognize that a certain amount of this situation is self-imposed. I have career ambitions, yet I also want to be a fully hands-on and involved mom. I could make life easier on myself if I let a couple of the less-important things go. And, likely, so could you.

Use the time when kids are sleeping efficiently. If you’re a night-owl, that’s after they’ve gone to sleep, of course. If you’re a morning person, it’s early in the morning. Because, as I’m sure you all know, sleep time is guilt-free time. They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, and you’ve got your own time. But be intentional about it. Don’t just mindlessly flip through channels on the TV. Plan these precious blocks of time to their best effect.

If you’re in the market for some belated New Year’s Resolutions, join me on this one: putting yourself on the priority list.

Maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to wait for my next teeth cleaning to carve out a little Me Time.

Now it's your turn. Do YOU have any solutions to finding “me time” as a WOHM? (or any other mom-acronym for that matter.) How do you create a little space for yourself? I’d LOVE to hear your ideas and solutions.