Thursday, December 29, 2005

Guilt-Free Mommy Time

Many new moms make the mistake of spending all of their time focusing on their babies. As the mother of an infant son, I understand that desire. You believe that he needs you to be there every minute of everyday, so you try it. I did. I would run to the bathroom in a rush before he could get around well. Now, well, I would love to go to the bathroom by myself. What I have learned over the past year, however, is that my baby needs his Mommy to be healthy, too.

Part of that Mommy healthy comes from me taking time out for myself. I believe that many women are under the impression that they have to feel guilty about spending time for themselves. I have noticed a trend, which may very well have been around for a while but outside my experiences, that many women find themselves slaves to their children instead of being the parents.

While it is a soapbox issue for me, it is the most important piece of advice that I have for the mothers of infants. Take time for yourself. There are plenty of ways you can do that, and here is a sampling.

First, you need to set aside time for yourself. There is no way around the initial guilt of this decision. If you stay at home, you have probably told yourself that you have a fairly leisurely life. You are lucky because you do not have to balance your children with a full-time career; your children are your job. If you work outside the home, you tell yourself that you do not want to spend even more time away from your children. Neither is true. You need time for yourself so that you will feel that you are living your life, instead of being a participant in your baby's life.

Once you have a schedule, stick to it. Think of it like an appointment and make sure that you keep it. If you are tempted to get together with the American Cancer Society fundraising team during your me-time, do not give in! This time has to be yours, and everything else has to come second. If you begin to give it away, you will never stop.

You can make things that you love part of the family's life, too. When my husband and I lived in the city, we shopped at a wonderful outdoor market, and I always loved seeing people bring their babies and small children there. They could experience art, music, and culture all in one place while Mom and Dad took care of grocery shopping.

Also, try making your hobby something your baby can enjoy, even if it means stretching your imagination. If you love the theater, for example, make some sock puppets. Babies as young as six months can watch you give performances. While they will not be Shakespeare (although they could be), you and your baby will have fun together. If you play guitar, play for your children. That way you are nourishing your soul while you are giving your baby something to enjoy, too.

Indulge yourself with some down time. Buy a couple of movies or CDs you love and keep them around. When you have had a bad day or the baby has exhausted you, relax. Sit back with a good glass of wine and listen to some music or watch a movie. Read a novel. Do not feel that you cannot have down time or that you must schedule every minute. Give yourself the time to rejuvenate.

Life is not worth living if you have no fun. Do you remember Susan Sarandon's character's breakdown in The Banger Sisters? She lost herself in taking care of her husband, her daughters, and their dog. You will lose yourself, too, unless you take control of your life now. Do not let anyone, from your parents to your husband, make you feel even remotely guilty for needing time for yourself. Good moms know that sometimes they cannot handle their children, and they make their lives work with that in mind. There is no need to be a super woman; just be the woman you already are.

By Julia Mercer

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