Getting Ruthless About Giving to Myself: 6 Ideas for Mom Life Balance

I am no Mother Theresa, (and my whole family says, Amen!) but it’s relatively easy for me to give, especially to people I love. When my kids are passionate about a sport, I will drive them to and fro for hours each week to make it happen. When a friend asks for a favor, happy to help. Our church community has a need, Yep! What I have been utterly failing at, for a long time, is taking care of myself.

When I reached the end of this past school year, I recognized the familiar symptoms of burn out – forgetfulness, incoherent sentences, a diet entirely based on convenience, and zero energy. I have given myself to the point of exhaustion.

Sadly, I have noticed that when moms are encouraged to recharge or take a break, the reason that is given is so they can better take care of other people. “Put the oxygen mask on yourself so you can then put the oxygen mask on your children!” If you’re dead, how will everyone else survive?

Okay, I am being a little dramatic, and I do love being a mom, but this is a messed up perspective. Are we only as good as our ability to support other people? Of course not. My family members are the most important people in my life, but I have purpose and passion that extends out beyond them. And I have needs for quiet time, for downtime, for creativity, for fun that is just for me, not so I can have enough steam to make dinner, but because I am making an investment in my own soul.

Achieving a semblance of balance is not for the faint of heart. In order to make time for my own needs, I have to be ruthless about prioritizing it. Here are some best practices for this season of life…

Say No.
It’s the hardest and most effective thing. Fewer obligations means more margin in life. More margin usually equals more peace, space to think and dream, and rest. And when life inevitably creeps in too close, I have to purge. I have to cancel things. I have to disappoint my kids. It’s not fun, but it’s the right thing for all of us.

Lock the doors.
I don’t have babies anymore, so when I take a shower I lock the door. When they inevitably yell at me through the door while I shower and want me to solve all of the world’s problems over the noise of the water, I say “I’m showering” and only that. I don’t answer questions or intervene in arguments. My shower time is important to my well being. Eventually they get the message and learn to wait. When they were younger I put them in a safe playpen of some sort and cranked up the music. You may not mind your kids gawking while you shower, but whatever it is that helps you feel rested or to start your day off right, make it a priority.

Create small Me times.
When I need to decompress, I tell the kids, “I need some alone time for x amount of time. I want you to do such-and-such during that time and only interrupt me if you’re bleeding lots of blood.” Again, my kids are a little older and I realize this won’t work with toddlers so much. The point is – figure out how to make it work. Barter childcare with a friend if you have to – everyone needs a break. If your kids won’t leave you alone, try practicing this alone time until they can comply. You are modeling good boundaries for yourself and they are learning how to respect them.

Don’t apologize.
One of the challenges of “me time” is figuring it out with your significant other. He needs his own time too. Sometimes there is conflict. I mean, not in my house. But I hear it’s common. (Haha). Here’s the thing – hobbies, friends, exercise, downtime are actual needs that we have. And they are often neglected. Negotiate that time with your spouse in kindness without apologizing for it.

Schedule it.
Value your needs enough to schedule your rest or fun times instead of giving yourself leftovers.

Value the daily practice.
It’s just not practical for most people to get regular massages or girls’ weekends. If you can do those things, fantastic! Please be my friend! But most of us can create routines that help us recharge. It might be a weekly coffee date with a friend, a nightly walk, or a long bath. Whatever it is, it may be more important in the long run than the big event you’re hoping for. Plan for both.

Of course I’m not advocating for anything extreme or selfish. Most of my friends just don’t have that problem. They are on the burn out side of the pendulum, not the lazy one. They are making the world go round. And they need to know that it’s okay to drop a ball sometimes, it’s okay to let someone else be the volunteer, and it’s good to say no. We are incredibly valuable and our needs are worth taking care of. It’s what we would want for our daughters and sons. We will never find the perfect balance but we can keep trying.

What do you do regularly to try to stay balanced? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Reply Bonnie January 10, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    OH my gosh, Angie! I was pretty good at this (with a lot of hiccups) when I had kids. I made a rule after a disastrous year on PTA board that I wouldn’t volunteer for anything unless I was doing that “thing” with my kids. I learned to say “no” for a period of years, and then would learn again after slipping up. But I am HORRIBLE at this self-care thing now that I am the sole caregiver for my mother and daughter. Honestly, I can barely make myself go for a walk on the beach…as in months pass without me doing anything for me. Thanks for the reminder. I have had lots of people talk to me about it, but I didn’t associate it with the way I could handle burnout with kids before. You are one smart cookie. Now I hope I can figure out how to do this better. sigh.

  • Reply Angie January 11, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing Bonnie. I have the same pattern of saying “no” and keeping my life manageable and then adding too much and having to purge again. I do hope you make more time for yourself. You are an incredibly selfless person.

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