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The "Me Time" Misconception

by phenske (follow)
Is the idea of “me time” really helpful?. Or does it sabotage our mental health by creating this expectation in us that we need and deserve this time to ourselves and when we don’t get it then we can’t cope.

Relaxation alone. Image thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

One thing I’ve noticed, especially since being a parent, is the all-out importance of “me time” that we all expect to get, and is weighing on our minds constantly. We see it in TV shows, magazines, the Internet all seems to contribute to this idea that we all need time to ourselves, alone. It seems to consume us, people will be out getting their “me time” already thinking of when they’ll get their next fix of “me time”.

One such example of this is the multitude of magazine and internet articles surrounding date night to help keep a marriage alive. To me this is a weird concept, to keep your family together and your marriage alive you need to stress yourself out by finding a babysitter, organising everyone and calling in favours to go spend money on a meal that lasts around an hour, to get away from the other members of your family so you can keep your family together? Talk about irony.

Enjoying time together relaxing as a family

Up until a handful of years ago I was also on this bandwagon and under the misconception that “me time” equated to “alone time” where I needed to do something I enjoyed to recharge my batteries away from my children. Thankfully a friend opened my eyes, and asked me why I felt I needed the time out and especially why that meant that I needed it to be time away from my children.

Up until that point really I had never even thought about it, it never even occurred to me that there was an alternative and that perhaps I truly didn’t actually need the time out. After the light bulb moment I really started to think on it all and look back, some of my darkest and most frustrating moments in my parenting life were because I felt trapped, like I was doing a job with no break. When I wasn’t able to get the “me time” it caused my parenting skills, housework and, mental health to lapse. Huge amounts of frustration and resentment towards my children would build up, because I “needed” a break from them yet couldn’t get it, because they were what was trapping me. In truth I was what was trapping me, me and me alone.

Me taking time to enjoy something for me, with a baby strapped on and surrounded by kids.

I understand that there are many people out there who need time alone, time to not have responsibility and time to just do whatever comes up once in a while and I’m also one of those. But is leaving your family or getting to go out and do something fun the only way to get some “me time”? My “me time” looks very, very different to everyone else’s, I rarely have time away from my children (by choice and circumstance). My mental break is gardening, reading, cooking, cleaning, day dreaming while watching my birds, anything and everything that are things that ground me and make me feel whole again. As we choose to unschool our children they are always around during these times, they run around in the background, watch TV, go on the computer, anything they want really. Slowly they’ve learnt we all need time to potter and do things for ourselves and have identified that sometimes mum just needs to be in her own mind doing her own things, which has helped them to develop an understanding that Mum is human with feelings and needs just as they are. For me my major saving grace is that while I’m reading I can switch off, I’ve taught myself to ignore outside noise (well except kids screaming because they’re hurt) and to let go, to realise perhaps I don’t need to have my nose constantly in their business and they can handle themselves while I’m doing something else.

So how can one stop the frustration and change the mindset that “me time = alone time and going out time”, ask of yourself the following?

Be more flexible with ideas of how much time you’ll need, why do you need half a day? An hour? Why not 10 minutes of doing something that settles you again?

What do you really enjoy doing? Can it be adapted to happen while your children are around?

Are you still stuck in the pre-parenting mind frame? Is it time to move on?

So what are some questions to ask yourself about alternative ways of getting “me time” while around the kids?

Is there something that your children really enjoy doing and will do quietly and solo while you do what you enjoy?

What do you do when your children are asleep? Can that become me time?

Prioritize, does the cleaning really need to happen right now? Is getting the floors mopped really more important than your mental health?

A big thumbs up from Miss Cheeka!

We are all so very important to the structure and running of our family and our mental health is paramount, but it's time to scrap the frustration behind the idea that "me time" means time away from the family and kids because it's counter productive to our end goal - a happy family!
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