The last time I really had enough time for myself was before Little Bit was born. That’s probably not a surprising statement, especially if you’re a mom. Society tells us that having kids means no more time for yourself for at least 18 years. Kids take a lot of time and energy, after all.
But I don’t think that’s actually an inevitable conclusion. It really is possible to find time for yourself as a mom, and I don’t think the kids are actually your main obstacle.
I think the main thing getting in your way is… YOU.
Here are six things that keep you from having time for yourself (and none of them are your kids).
#1: The world is really distracting.
Maybe you jump on Facebook to send your bestie a quick message, and forty-five minutes later you realize you’re still scrolling and liking. Or you crash on the couch after finally tucking your little monsters into bed, intending to watch an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But suddenly it’s five hours later, you’ve finished the season, and you’re going to be too tired to function the next day (oops).
We’ve all been there. Social media platforms (and streaming services to a certain extent) are designed to keep you engaged longer and more often. They use unpredictable digital treats such as Facebook likes to keep us coming back, again and again, to see if we’ve gotten anything. Gamification, like Snapchat ‘streaks’, encourage daily use, and infinite scroll literally keeps us scrolling. Auto-play on streaming services does the same thing, removing the signal to your brain that it’s time to stop.
How To Fix It: Create your own stopping cues. A really easy way to do this is to set a timer for the amount of time you want to spend. Something as simple as a ding can break your concentration, giving you a chance to disengage from your distracting activity.
#2: You need to finish before you move on.
I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time stopping something in the middle. TV show episodes, chapters of books, Bavarian cream-filled donuts, writing this blog post… It’s hard to stop before it’s done.
It turns out this is a learned pattern of behavior, based on society’s message that we should always do our best. So we wind up putting too much time and effort into things that don’t require a high level of quality, or we push ourselves to finish (perfect) a project when we really don’t have time right now.
How To Fix It: Break projects down into smaller pieces, and focus on finishing a particular part. When that part’s done take a moment to estimate how long the next part will take to finish. Do you have time right now, or should you wait and work on it again later?
#3: You’re overcommitted.
Do you have trouble saying no to other people? Maybe even to yourself? You might be trying to do too much at once. You have a limited, unchangeable amount of time every day, so you literally can’t do all the things. But it’s hard to remember this when we think about all the things that need to get done (or that we want to get done).
How To Fix It: Limit the number of things you have on your plate at any given time to no more than three. What three tasks do you want to get done today? What three projects will you focus on this week? You can always add more once those three are done, or change your focus next week (or next month, or whatever).
#4: You have trouble delegating responsibility.
You know that feeling you get when someone else does a chore for you, but they do it wrong? It’s what keeps you from delegating most things in your life because you know that if you want it done right you have to do it yourself. But it’s also keeping you from having time for yourself because you never let anything go.
How To Fix It: Make a list of things you usually do that really could be done by someone else. Then let someone do something small for you. And you don’t get to fix their work, even if they do it “wrong”.
#5: Your to-do list doesn’t match your priorities.
Maybe you’re constantly getting things done, checking things off your to-do list, but it never feels like you’re getting any closer to accomplishing your biggest goals. The problem here is most likely that the things you’re busy doing aren’t aligned with your biggest goals and priorities. You’re so busy doing the things you think you “should” be doing that you have no time left for the things that really matter to you.
Before I had Little Bit I wanted to be an attachment parenting kind of mom. I had done all kinds of research and decided that it sounded like the best thing for my kiddo. It felt like something I should do, but I forgot to consider whether or not it would really be good for me.
My extreme introversion means that one of my biggest priorities needs to be quiet, alone time. I can’t be a good mom without it. But I tried to ignore that because I had it in my head that attachment parenting was best for my baby.
How To Fix It: First, take a few minutes to daydream. What do you really want your life to be like? How would you spend your day if there was nothing standing in the way? What’s most important to you right now? Then ask yourself: does your current to-do list align well with your biggest priorities? What can you do to make it a better match?
#6: You don’t think YOU are a priority.
You’d love to take some time for yourself, but there are always other more important things that need to be done. Laundry, dishes, kids’ activities. Maybe the kids even get to pick what’s on TV whenever it’s on.
Women are generally taught to nurture and care for others, and this expectation is even stronger when it comes to our kids. We feel responsible for keeping everyone else in our family happy, even at the expense of our own wellbeing.
And if you don’t take care of yourself, eventually you run out of steam. Exhausted and worn down, it’s impossible to keep being the kind of mom (and person) you want to be.
How To Fix It: Start small. Set aside 30 minutes a day (or even 10 minutes if that seems more manageable) in which you get to do whatever you want. Write it on your calendar or set a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget. Be intentional about planning time for yourself, and protect that time.
Are you ready to find more time for yourself?
Enjoy your new-found time!