My last post was loosely focused on ways to relax and take care of yourself when you have a little ‘me time’ on your hands, and this time I’d like to talk about a related subject. Namely, how in the NAME OF GOD we can find that elusive ‘me time’ when we’re so busy taking care of kids and earning a living and running errands and trying to keep our households from collapsing into pet-hair-choked ruin?
Before having Riley, I remember enjoying all kinds of free time, time that could be filled with books or matinees or leisurely dinners—or hell, just staring blankly off into space contemplating the mysterious career choices of Samuel Jackson. O, how things have changed. As most of you know, the first thing you jettison when you have a child (well, after “personal dignity” and “toned thighs”) is that whole “doing what you want to do, when you want to do it” thing. It becomes harder and harder to find more than five consecutive minutes to call your own each day when you’ve got 2958185 demands to deal with, and oh my god, it’s not even noon yet.
So, what to do when you’re trying to balance everything in your life, and the scales are off kilter? How do you make room for everything you want to focus on, so you don’t lose sight of some of the—gasp!—non-parenting things that make you happy? How can you carve out time for the hobby you love, the project you’re interested in, the activity you never get to do any more?
It’s a complicated and nearly universal problem for all parents, I think, not just moms. I don’t have any silver-bullet solutions, but I can tell you what’s worked for me:
• Trade off. My husband loves to scuba dive; I love to scour used bookstores. Both are activities reserved for the weekends, both are best when experienced sans toddler. We take turns giving each other time to get out of the house and do these things we enjoy.
• Outsource. I hemmed and hawed about getting a housecleaner for a long time—so expensive! Shouldn’t I just be doing it myself?—and now I consider it one of the best investments we make on a monthly basis in terms of sanity and time-saving. If you can afford it, I am telling you, go for it. (I recommend Angie’s List for finding a cleaner in your town, we had a great experience finding a service through them.)
• Prioritize. Is it more important to keep your house Martha-perfect, or are you able to let it be a little messy and use the time for other pursuits? Can you use your lunch break to run errands so you don’t have to do them later? How about setting your alarm just a little early, so you have the house to yourself? Ask yourself some hard questions about what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things that are important to you. In my case, I tend to let my house go to hell during the week so I have my evenings available for writing—I’m not exactly ready to entertain company at a moment’s notice, but I do have a couple hours every night to call my own.
• Get good tools. Seek out the stuff that supports your hobbies and helps you make time to devote to them. For me, that meant a laptop so I could do various computery things without being tethered to a desktop machine. Would an exercise machine motivate you to work out at home? Could a dayplanner help you stay more organized? I’m not advocating spending money on crap you don’t need, but if it can streamline your life, it might be worth it.
Finding balance is definitely an ongoing effort in parenthood, but I’m a firm believer in never losing sight of the things that make you tick, that make you happy and relaxed and fulfilled.
Now that I’ve rambled way past my word limit for this post, please do me the favor of sharing your own tips for finding time for you in your busy day. I’m sure I could learn a thing or twelve.