Learning to Embrace Me Time
Making time for ourselves makes us happier, healthier and less stressed as parents, and isn't that what we want for our kids?
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Ask me about me time, and I’ll tell you it involves dishing with my girlfriends over drinks, or splurging on a spa pedicure instead of letting my 9-year-old paint my nails. I might not mention nightly Netflix binges after the kids are in bed. Late nights exhaust me because I still need to wake up early. Plus, I couldn’t tell you what I watched last night because there were endless to-do lists running through my mind.
I chatted with a bunch of moms, and they all agreed on one obvious thing: Heck yeah, me time is important! And more than a few women mentioned that it makes them better moms.
Jennifer Bronsnick, LCSW, a Florham Park mom of three daughters and CEO of The Mindful Family, practices what she preaches. “I have an entire business around supporting moms to take care of themselves! Every Monday is blocked off as me time, and my self-care always goes into my calendar first,” Brosnick says. Guilt? Forget that. “I like to think that when I’m giving my love from a full cup, it’s received so much more. This helps me put myself first.”
Prioritizing Me Moments
We’re not talking just manis and margs. Boot camp, girlfriend getaways, snuggling with the dog, band rehearsal, catching up on your DVR, painting, hitting Target or the supermarket sans-kids, monthly massages, therapy and going to the bathroom alone (this was mentioned more than once), are just a few ways moms enjoy seriously-needed me time. When it’s done well, me time benefits everyone in your orbit. “Doing things that ‘feed’ you emotionally, physically and spiritually, ‘feeds’ your children and family too,” says Montclair-based therapist, Amie Wolf-Mehlman, PhD.
Frances Greene, a West Orange-based mom of one, catches me moments whenever she can. “I’ve learned me time can happen in short spurts or in afternoons of being productive,” Greene says. “Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting next to my husband on the PATH train, but not talking or interacting...just doing what I want for those 20 minutes to help me recharge for the evening.”
Naturally, as moms we’re sometimes conflicted, given all our kids’ needs. “I feel energized when I do stuff for myself, since it’s usually all about my kids and husband. I know I deserve it because I work hard, but often my own needs and wants aren’t prioritized,” says Ann Marie Guanlao McCaughey, a mom of one in South Orange.
Janel Morey-Sassano, LCSW, an Audubon-based therapist specializing in women’s issues, frequently addresses the complicated concept of me time. “This is something that comes up with all my clients,” she says. “Not just new moms, but all moms are strung out trying to do too many things. We’re always three steps ahead in our mind[s] and [it takes] a toll on our mental health.” Meaning me time isn’t simply a want; it’s a need.
Debunking Me Time Myths
So, what actually qualifies as me time anyway? According to Morey-Sassano, there are three me time myths. The first is that you can simply fit it in whenever, after your endless checklist is completed (which is never). “It needs to be one of your top five priorities each and every day.” Yes, every single day. The second is you need a lot of time. “Most women don’t have two hours in their day. Me time can come in 20-minute spurts because the goal is simply to recharge,” says Morey-Sassano. The third myth is that a night out is all you need when the truth is, restorative downtime is really important, too. Quality me time should be about freeing space in your mind to take charge of your emotional state. “Clearing the mental clutter won’t be helped by going out for drinks or the hairdresser,” she says.
Instead of potentially draining (though still fun) activities, Morey-Sassano suggests meditative and restorative ones. Things like yoga, nature walks, reading, prayer, journaling or even taking a long, hot shower can lower cortisol and slow down the nervous system so we can focus better internally. Concurrently, asking reflexive questions such as “What am I feeling?” and “Where am I holding tension?” further helps the process. Even moms who can’t get a break for financial or logistical reasons can find 20 minutes a day to tune into themselves. “When they start to do it, their lives turn around. It can be life-changing,” Morey-Sassano says. For those needing a little help getting in the zone, she recommends meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer and Buddhify to get into a more serene frame of mind.
Just to be clear, no one’s knocking the value of girls’ night out, learning to paint or sculpting a yoga butt. These types of self-care and identity-building activities are vitally important to our health and happiness, and absolutely fall under the me time umbrella, says Morey- Sassano. It’s simply that meditative activities clear the mental load and allow for space to be created to maximize time for yourself.
“I’m a full-time mom, a CEO of a multi-million dollar company, I speak publicly around the country and yes, I take me time,” says Livingston mom of two, Sejal Lakhani-Bhatt. Despite her busy schedule, she plays tennis, works out and makes time for evenings with friends while prioritizing learning new things (singing and guitar are next on her list). “Without me time...I’d never be able to do what I do.”
Jennifer Kantor is a lifestyle writer living in Maplewood with her husband and two kids. A devotee of me time, she tries to indulge in Netflix binges, luxurious naps and DIY facials whenever the stars align.