Being a mother is like being on an airplane when the pressure is dropping and the oxygen masks pop out from the overhead panel. "Please secure your own mask before assisting others," flight attendants remind frequent fliers before every takeoff. It's common sense, really. A person can offer no help to the passenger beside him if he's gasping for air. Nor can a mother raise a child if she's gasping for air.
Every mother wants to be Supermom, spending all her time with and on her children, and if she's not with her children, she feels her remaining energy should go to her husband. But it's crucial to a woman's physical and emotional well-being, not to mention her sanity, to get a break sometimes. Physicians are not allowed to work more than 30 hours in a row, and for good reason: they could seriously hurt or even kill someone if they don't get a break. Well, isn't that true of mothers as well?
That's not to say you can take a break from parenting every 30 hours, but you should try to get a little "me time" in at least once a week to keep from going crazy. Not only will you feel better, but your kids and your husband will notice the difference too. After all, who do you really think they'll prefer to be around: a cranky, exhausted, overworked wife and mother or a refreshed, relaxed, happy wife and mother? The answer is simple. A stressed out mom makes for a stressed out household and a happy mom makes for a happy family.
A lot of times when moms are home on maternity leave, they start to go a little stir-crazy, missing their daily routine and grown-up conversation. By the time those few months are up, they're practically climbing the walls to get back to work. But when they're no longer around their kids 24/7, these same moms find they actually have more patience and appreciate and enjoy being with their children in a way they weren't able to before. Similarly, getting away even just for an hour or two can refresh you and give you a whole new perspective on life (or just enough energy to make it through till next week).
"Time for mom" does NOT mean the two minutes of privacy your kids allow you in the bathroom (if you're lucky). There are a million things you can do with a little "me time" - and a nap doesn't count either! Napping doesn't recharge your sanity. You might be a little less tired when you wake up from a nap, but you won't feel energized and refreshed like you will if you do something that truly makes you happy. Once in awhile you need to know you have a life outside your kids. So try out that new sushi place with the girls. Take up a hobby like scrapbooking or learn to master an instrument you've always dreamed of playing. Join a pilates class. Take up photography. Get a mani/pedi, a facial or a massage.
Unfortunately, budget has to be taken into account and a lot of moms complain that between the price of babysitters these days and the cost of whatever club or class they want to join, extracurriculars are just not an option. Well, no one said a happy mom needs to be a broke mom! There are plenty of things you can do that don't cost a cent and don't require you to fork over cash to a babysitter every week either. Try one of the following tips for moms:
• Take a luxurious, candlelit bath (with or without bubbles).
• Read a book. You can even start a book club that meets at your house once the kids are in bed!
• Start a journal or a blog.
• Work out to an aerobics video or groove to some tunes on your iPod.
• Draw, paint, or create a collage.
• Take up sewing, knitting or crocheting.
• Invite a friend over for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
And if you really want to learn to play that flute, get creative! See if you can work out some kind of barter arrangement based on skills you have - offer to tutor the instructor's child in math, for example, or perhaps draw up an ad for her business if you're skilled in graphic design.
Too tired to go out and do anything fun by the time you get your kids in bed? Enlist your husband, your parents or a friend to help out with dinner, bath and bedtime once in awhile so you can check out early. If evenings are too difficult, send older kids off to a playdate one day a week, reciprocating the offer so the other mom can get a break another day. And there's no shame in asking your husband to give you a couple of hours to yourself on the weekend. This is a great opportunity for him to bond with the kids, and when he sees how refreshed you are when you come back, he'll be glad he obliged.
Even Supermom needs a break once in awhile to fly off to her Fortress of Solitude, be it at the North Pole or at the local yoga studio. So instead of feeling guilty for not being the perfect mom, embrace what you might see as an inherent flaw and use it as an opportunity not only to pamper yourself, but to actually make yourself a better mom.
There's a phrase that can be heard by women at happy hours everywhere: A happy mom makes for happy kids. So get yourself to that happy hour, and make your kids happy!