So desperate for ‘me time,’ I scheduled surgery

Me time. All alone. No kids. No husband. Just me, lounging around, reading, having my food and drinks brought to me, having my pillows fluffed. And pain killers.

Does it sound like a dream vacation at a beach resort? Oh no. It’s not, but I couldn’t wait to get there nonetheless.

It’s a hospital and I was looking forward to the surgery I’d be having there that I built up this fantasy in my head. (Don’t worry, the surgery is relatively minor for Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome, when the calf muscles can’t expand properly during exercise)

OK, So I would have had to have the surgery anyway, but what does it say about me that I was actually looking forward to having someone drug me up and slice open my leg.

The desperate search for solitude

I’d scheduled the surgery, postponed for more extensive testing, and then nearly a year later actually had the surgery. You may think I’m crazy, but in that year, I’ve seen this same exact thought from not one but two of my friends who have had surgeries:

“Is it bad that I’m actually looking forward to going in so I can get some ‘me time.'”

Yes, it’s true. Surgery and hospitals and illness are all serious business. Sad things happen there. Sad things send us there.

But can we take a minute to think about what this actually means–that mothers across the globe are so devoid of regular intervals of self-care, time without someone demanding things of them, hanging on them, boogering all over them, that the most germ-filled place on Earth becomes a refuge.

Google ‘me time’ and hundreds of millions of responses pop up. You’ll find even more women wondering how the heck to find it and squeeze it in and not feel guilty about it. The fact is, most of us can’t mentally make me time a priority. We know it would be helpful, but there’s just so much crap going on around us, we can’t stop mothering.

Me time matters

But me time allows us to refill our stores of patience, to take a breath and let our shoulders down. When we’re alone, we can touch base with the person inside that doesn’t have a title. 

This study found that moms get just 17 minutes of me time a day. I don’t know about you, but most days it feels more like about 17 seconds–the approximate time it takes me to fall into bed and get my pillow just right. 

Speaking of 17 minutes. According to this story, researchers have discovered that the perfect formula for productivity: work for 52 minutes, break for 17. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. 

Our brains are muscles that fatigue with overwork. We need breaks and we need vacations. Not just for ourselves to have some fun, but for ourselves to be healthy and to be productive parents and to not want to kill our offspring.

Now, to be fair, this past year I have been more successful at planning and getting me time. My recovery plans for dealing with anxiety and mood issues help me see the need even more starkly.

Yet somehow this surgery still felt like a mini break. Forty-eight hours of having to watch over and worry about and answer to no one but the people asking me if I wanted more drugs. My brain was so addled by anesthesia hangover that I couldn’t (if I wanted to) think hard about anything.

I watched Netflix. For hours. I finally watched The Big Short. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend. If I could have focused on words on a page, I’d have read a book. But the thing that mattered was that I was off the clock.

So moms, please, hear me now. Me time matters. If you find it in the most bizarre and desperate of places, you are not alone. Let go of the guilt. There are hospital beds across the land filled with women just happy to let someone else clean up the crusty oatmeal from your kitchen table.

How to do it

My therapist once told me, when I was feeling guilty about wanting to focus on time to write: “The brighter your light shines, the more light you have to share.”

The brighter your light shines, the more light you have to share. #parenting #walkingonmom Click To Tweet

Doing things for yourself, things that make you happy, will not only help you but also your family. So, here’s how you can do it. 

  • Remind yourself. Tell yourself every day that me time is important. Fight for it, if you have to. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and say: I really need to do this.
  • Get help. If you aren’t sure how to fit it in with your partner’s schedule, look through your weekly plans and come up with three options.
  • Give it time. Don’t let the adjustment to regularly scheduled me time scare you off. It may feel awkward, you might feel waves of selfishness. But keep reminding yourself why it’s important. After a while, you will feel the benefits and it will outweigh all of that.
  • Trust your partner to watch after the kids. They will be fine. It will be good for your partner to get some alone time with them. And you will be better off. If you need to find a babysitter, check your area schools or even the local Red Cross to get leads.
  • Start small. If you’re nervous about going to far, start small. Go for a 45-minute walk around your neighborhood or nearby park.
  • Get inspired. Start a reading list. Check the movie theater schedules. Scout out some coffee shops or get recommendations from your friends on social media groups. Organize a girl’s night out to a play or a dinner. Just looking at the possibilities will get you excited about me time.

When you get home from your me time, notice how your patience level feels refreshed, recharged. The more you get used to setting aside this time, the more that will become apparent.

Would love to hear your suggestions for getting some me time. What are your favorite things to do when you go off the clock?

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me time, you need it, how to get it

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Showing 10 comments
  • Tamara
    Reply

    Us Moms are not alone, Tara. A man in my environment who works a lot once told me he was just thinking “what if I hit the breaks a little later than I usually would and slammed into the car in front of me? They would probably take me to the hospital for observation, and everybody would leave me alone for 24 hours.”

    I agree, me time is essential. The older the kid(s) is/are, the easier and more guilt free it gets. So much that sometimes you actually wait for them to come home 😉

    What I liked to do when C was younger: we would go to the mall, have donuts and coffee, and then he would spend an hour at childrens’ paradise while I went shopping or did some writing back at the coffee shop.

    Playdates at other people’s houses are great, too. Of course you will eventually return the favor, but it’s worth the extra quiet time!

    How are you feeling?

    • Tara McLaughlin Giroud
      Reply

      Feeling good, thanks! I had a boss once who never took time off, came in early, worked late, and was always working, not just pretending. I once asked him why I got emails from him when he was supposed to be on vacation, he said, well, what would I do at home? I could think of a million things.

  • Claire
    Reply

    Hope the surgery is successful. My husband and I often say as a half-joke “Enjoy your ME TIME” when one or the other goes down to the laundry or the local shops for milk !

  • Miki Nava
    Reply

    These are thoughts that were going through my head just yesterday… I am so bad at trusting others, even my husband, to take care of the kids that I never seem to get a break. Yesterday I was giving myself a lecture on how i NEED to trust more and once in a while be selfish and have ME time! 😉

    • Tara McLaughlin Giroud
      Reply

      It’s so hard to do! Little bit at a time, though and it will start to feel more normal. Good luck!

  • Bryce Warden
    Reply

    I ran away from home yesterday stating we needed groceries….I got a pedi instead.

  • Jon Z.
    Reply

    An exceptionally well-written article…. 🙂

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