Me-time? What’s that?
Before having a family, I didn’t use expressions like “personal time,” or “work/life balance.” Then we had kids and Sandy asked me if I was “managing to carve out some time for myself.” By then, I appreciated her choice of words: when you have young children, getting a few hours to yourself can feel like trying to slice a hunk of granite with a teaspoon…
What do you do?
I invited the parents in my circle to weigh in on the subject of work-life balance. On my Facebook feed, I asked: “Work, life, recreation. If my next word was ‘balance,’ would you laugh?” I wanted to know, how do local parents manage (or not) to preserve their mental and physical health around the demands of parenting, working and running a home?
“Running” turned out to be the operative word for Ema. “I either get up at 5am and go for a run or I'll run home from work - the really long way around.” Katherine’s day also starts very early, with yoga at 5:30am.
Another disciplined mom, Megan explained that as a single parent, it’s hard to find time alone to run. Instead, she said, “I work out at least 4 days per week right after I drop the kids at school and before I go to work. If the kids have the day off they go with me!”
Finding a trainer
Geniene’s children are old enough now that the older ones can take care of the little ones while she exercises. “I finally have the time to work with my trainer. Best mental health break I have ever had.”
Keeping it simple
Karen suffers from chronic illness, so her breaks are low-key. “Because of my health, I have times when I have to tell the kids to leave me alone. I've found it is much easier to get the quiet time if I do something with my kids for even 10 or 15 minutes - fully present and focused on them. No screens. Currently flipping through a National Geographic is my go-to.”
Vicki also builds personal time into her daily routine. “The drive home after dropping my eldest off at school also counts as 'me' time.” She plays music while the kids are getting ready for bed too. When you think that this could take 10 or 15 minutes, even this time is valuable; you can make a lot of progress in only 15 minutes a day, if you stick at it. As Vicki said, “10 minutes here, 20 minutes there - it's enough,” even if it’s a few minutes of quiet while folding laundry, shopping on your own, or gardening.
Sometimes we can’t take off on our own. Erin gets her exercise in thanks to a cunning plan involving candy bribes, cell-phones and fungus. “I love forest walks as I have an interest in mycology and foraging. Kids get candy delivered by the mysterious candy monster. I receive texts from said 'monster' ahead of time of his location. The candy is planted along the trail ahead. Candy is limited in our house but my sanity and inner peace are worth it.”
Making the commitment
Whether these parents were talking about physical exercise, intellectual stimulation or spiritual fulfillment, a common thread ran through all of their stories. It came down to one thing: commitment to take care of themselves, whether it meant writing down these commitments in calendars, commitments to other people or courses run by local organizations like North Vancouver Recreation & Culture. As Jennifer said, “Make it a non-negotiable!”
Enjoying the rewards
The flip side of commitment, of course, is the reward we get for making that commitment. And that’s the thing with self-care: there’s always a pay-off. Whether that means becoming a better singer, ukulele player or writer, improving one’s breaststroke or cycling time, or simply enjoying the benefits of 15 minutes of meditation or quiet prayer. Even if we do so over a pile of folded towels or while following in the steps of the candy monster, it’s all to the good.