A year into this motherhood gig and what I've found to be the most challenging part of the job is how little uninterrupted, unplanned time to myself I have. I think back to before we had Dashiell and marvel that we had whole weekends, as in TWO! FULL! DAYS!, in which we could do what we wanted. I could curl up on the couch and devour a novel; I could leisurely run errands and browse at Target; I could get my hair cut or my nails done on a whim; I could decide to try a new recipe and spend the afternoon in the kitchen listening to podcasts. The funny thing is that I felt so busy then too; I had no idea! Busyness is all relative I suppose.
Before having Dashiell I mentally prepared myself to put my needs on the backburner for awhile. Dashiell needed to be my number one, two and three priorities for the first few months and I was happy to make it so. But over time I started feeling the need for time to myself, especially as Dashiell became more engaged and required more of my energy.
To recharge I don't always have to do something totally relaxing or even by myself. Working on my creative projects, like this blog, and spending time with Chris is really rejuvenating. I've learned that I'm the best mother I can be when I regularly find time to recharge in these ways and little by little I'm learning where I can find it.
My free time looks very different than pre-Dashiell days and I'm more intentional about where I find it but making this time for myself is more important than ever. Truthfully, there many weeks where I don't feel that I have quite as much time to myself although, slowly, I do feel that I am starting to find better balance.
In our current routine, this is how I'm finding time for myself:
+ On my commute
Recently, Chris and I were carpooling and he remarked how much he hates having to drive so far to work everyday. I used to feel this way too but realized I look forward to my commute now! There's hot coffee from home, I don't have to worry about Dashiell becoming fussy in his carseat (after I've dropped him off at daycare), and I queue up my favorite podcasts or catch up with my mom or a friend (via hands-free bluetooth in my car).
I also get to use the HOV (carpool) lane because of my Prius so I'm never in stand-still traffic. It's actually pretty relaxing! And yes I am laughing at myself for calling my commute relaxing. You gain some interesting perspectives in becoming a parent, that's for sure.
+ After Dashiell goes to bed
Ater I nurse Dash at about 7 p.m. I'm essentially off for the night since Chris takes care of the rest of the bedtime routine. Now that Dashiell consistently sleeps through the night (I'm thankful for it every single day) I have this time to work on the blog, record or edit a podcast, play dice or cards with Chris, read or even run to Target. I used to love going to bed by 9 PM but since the hours after bedtime have become my free time I find myself staying up later.
+ Before Dashiell wakes up
Similarly, if I can get up by 4:30 or 5 a.m. I can have about an hour to myself, Dash has been waking up around 5:30 lately. This is usually the best time for me to fit in a workout so I'm trying to make it to the gym a couple times a week, go jogging or walking or do a yoga video. It's also a great time to have a cup of coffee and work on the blog or podcast or read. Lately I've been setting my alarm for 5 a.m. or earlier, that's how precious this time is to me!
+ At work
Of course, most of my time at work is taken up with, um, work. But I do have my lunch hour and I've realized it's kind of awesome to use it for "me" time, at least a couple days per week. During my lunch I can start a draft blog post, meet a friend for lunch or even run to the post office. Not that the post office is the greatest place to spend "me" time but accomplishing an errand helps my mental sanity.
+ Weekend nap times
More recently Dash is taking fairly consistent weekdend naps, sometimes as long as an hour and a half to two hours. So that's a consistent chunk of time that I have to myself. During one of these weekend naps is actually when I started this post!
+ Scheduled time on the weekends
Pre-Dashiell it was easy tell Chris, "Hey, I'm going to work on my blog all afternoon," and not worry that it would affect his plans. Now, of course, my afternoon of blogging means an afternoon of Dashiell-watching for him. Both of us are happy to take on a few hours of watching Dashiell solo while the other takes time for themselves but we need to plan ahead to be respectful of each other's plans.
Even though my free time is more structured and occurs in chunks rather than blocks I appreciate it more than I ever have. I feel incredibly motivated to make the most of my time, whether it's being productive or completely disconnecting and relaxing. Motherhood has certainly taught me how precious time is!
I'd love to know how other mamas are finding time for themselves in your busy lives and what helps you to recharge the most.