I work; I’ve got two small children and I’m writing a book. I don’t get a lot of down time. My husband works all the time, so I don’t ask him to babysit much. My moments of “Mommy Time” are precious, but until now, my resource utilization was sub-par.
I live for nap time. Rose naps every afternoon, and, lucky for me, Christian’s afternoon nap usually overlaps hers by an hour. Right after I had Christian, I would use that time for my own nap. I must admit, between recovering from the pregnancy, midnight feedings and early a.m. wakeups, it was months before I could go without that mid-day nap. Even now I still nap if I’m tired enough. Sleeping is one of my favorite things, and I always feel better when I’m rested; so I never feel I’ve wasted my time. But I still had that nagging feeling that I was missing something.
So on the days when I was awake, I’d spend my time watching “All in the Family” on TV. I love the show, but I still had a niggling feeling that my mom time could be better spent. Then I discovered reading an actual grownup book. Before that, reading books was my treat at the gym. But a quiet naptime was the perfect time to read a book. And sometimes I’d just close the book and revel in the quiet.
But I didn’t discover the best use of my time until now. Last week, while both kids were asleep, I realized I still needed a shower, but I wanted to lie in bed and meditate, watching the trees dance in the wind out the window. It was the only chance I’d have for a shower, so I opted for a long, hot, luxurious shower, then I put on my soft terry robe and laid down on the bed to watch the woods. Ahhh, now this is what it’s all about, I thought. I feel like I’m at a spa.
A couple of days later, I’d already showered by naptime and didn’t want to get wet again, so I thought, What would be luxurious enough to feel like spa time? I decided to crawl into bed, read my book and eat Lindt chocolates. And it was good.
Over the weekend, my husband and I had one naptime free, and we went down to the man cave so the kids couldn’t hear us. We cuddled on the couch a while, then we played darts. We had so much fun that it felt like a real date. We almost cracked open a beer, but Christian woke up and it was over. But in the absence of a babysitter, we discovered a new way to use our alone time.
I have a close friend who’s been caring for ailing parents for almost a year, and dealing with a lot of stress. Before she started to crack, I tried to convince her to take time for herself. She was spending all of her time working or running errands for her parents or taking them to doctors, so she argued that she didn’t have time. Once she did crack, she listened to me. She used the spa gift card I’d sent her; she made plans with her friends and now she’s planning a vacation. But even when she “didn’t have time” for herself, we discussed things she could do. All she needed was 20 minutes for a bath, 40 minutes to make cookies, or 45 to sit outside and read a book. Even 10 minutes spent with a coloring book would have relieved a lot of stress.
One thing I discovered from all of this is that everyone has time to take care of themselves. The other thing I learned is that with some creativity, I can make better use of my down time. I will continue to “play spa.” My friend will keep taking time for herself and my husband and I will think of mini-dates when we’ve got a few minutes. No excuses. And I hope that sharing our discoveries will inspire more people to take better care of themselves. If you get creative with your down time, please share your experience. I, and everyone else, I bet, would love to hear all about it and steal a few ideas.