Back in April, I met up with a friend that I’ve known for a long time. She also has a young child, and was going through a lot of the same ups and downs that I was, of being a first time mother. She asked me a pretty simple, but quite important question:
“What do you do for you?”
At first I thought – well, I go to work, I spend time with my family – I don’t have time for anything else. I had returned to work when my son was 4 months old, leaving him at home with my husband, and it had been a chaotic few months since then to say the least. Between starting a new busy job, getting up in the night to my son, expressing milk so he could have bottles during the day, my relentless commute and then trying to spend time with son and relieve my husband – I was pretty spent. And yet she insisted, “No, what do you do for you?” – and as I pondered that, I started to think about what she meant. Before my son, I had been at the gym, out on my bike or running, going to yoga or pilates, catching up with my girl friends – even going away for girls weekends, and often spending time at home reading, experimenting in my kitchen or even scheduling in some time for a spa afternoon. So I tried to take on her comments, and try it out in my life to see how it felt.
I started with a regular pilates session – I booked in with a local instructor one evening and on Saturday morning each week. And even though those sessions were only an hour – they gave me a chance to really connect with myself, to focus on how I really felt and work on those aches and pains that had just become ‘normal’, and to spend an hour thinking about me, rather than the needs of a little human being (albeit an adorable little human being) who had landed in my life and become the center of my world. But it certainly wasn’t easy. Each time I was away from home I felt guilty – guilty about leaving my husband to deal with yet another ‘arsenic’ hour at home, guilty that I hadn’t seen my son as much as I want to, guilty that I had to walk out of the office right on the dot of quitting time, guilty about all the things that were left undone at home…
But I continued to show up, and then slowly it got easier – I began to see when I came home that my husband wasn’t a frazzled mess, and my son was happy to see me. And I began to be able to be more present, happier, calmer and more ‘myself’ because I’d taken some time out for me. Because, lets be honest, going to work is not ‘me-time’ – its hectic, full of meetings and deadlines and deliverables. While it might involve a cup of coffee to myself, or lunch without crazy toddler antics, a day at the office is certainly not a day I spend time doing as I please. By focusing on me, even just in a little way, this practice began to snow-ball into other areas – I was able to really focus on what is important to me, was able to think a little clearer and that weekly pilates practice bloomed into other goals that I wanted to achieve – I was able to start running again, I focused on my diet and I began to really focus on how I wanted to feel in life. It all started with committing to two one-hour pilates sessions each week and showing up consistently…..
As December heats up, and life starts to get hectic – I’m going to try to remind myself to take time out for me. That even though I’m busy, giving myself some time for me allows me to be calmer and enjoy the busy social calendar that bit more.