I always loved hip hop and rap music, and that didn’t change when I became a mom. The only problem is, it’s not very child friendly for the minivan. So when I looked for a way to spend some alone time, the recreation guide listing hip hop class for adults leaped out at me. Here was a way for me to enjoy my favourite music, while also having an outlet to dance.
So, leaving my one-, four- and five-year-old girls with dad, I made my way to hip hop weekly for one month. It was time well spent. I had a break, my husband spent time with the kids, and everyone benefitted. Things weren’t always that easy though; I used to feel overwhelmed with the demands of mothering three young children. The driving, activities and day to day busy-ness could become too much sometimes. I managed to find some balance eventually, but what about you? How can you be a great mom, and still get some me time?
“If mom’s happy, everyone’s happy,” says Esther Kane, a registered social worked based in Courtenay, B.C. She says that mothers are no good to anyone if they don’t make some time for themselves on a regular basis.
Esther says that moms have to put their needs at the same priority level as their kids, not below. If moms’ needs aren’t met, how can they meet the requirements of their children? Here are some ways to help nurture your own needs while you nurture others.
Over the years I’ve realized that exercise is one of the greatest ways for me to get alone time (my gym has childminding) as well as making me feel good. When I pick up my children after my workout, I’m much happier.
On the mountains of North Vancouver, mother of two, Natasha, finds solace in regular bike rides. “The added bonus is that keeping fit and healthy helps keep stress levels down. I always feel like I’m ready to take on the day after a good workout or bike ride,” she says.
Exercise is a great way to feel good both physically and mentally; it causes the secretion of hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine and growth hormone, which affects many aspects of human function. Increased levels of these hormones improve the body’s capacity for handling physical and psychological stress – something we moms experience daily.
Do whatever type of exercise makes you happy: walking, kickboxing, Pilates. Esther suggests yoga as a relaxing form of exercise, but any kind is going to help you feel good. Beverly Beuermann-King is a Canadian stress management speaker and wellness expert and is also a parent. She believes in having a fitness program and tried karate; she loves the challenge as well as the workout.
Esther recommends moms give themselves some real downtime at least once a month in the form of personal care, such as getting your nails or hair done, or getting a massage. “Something that’s just for you and makes you feel special,” she says.
Beverly agrees that it’s important to carve out time for your own personal pleasure. She says, “recharging strategies are as individual as moms are. If you want to feel special then getting your hair or nails done might be right up your alley. The key is to find those things that work for you.” As a mom, she finds a bubble bath boring and instead prefers a fun and exciting day at an amusement park riding roller coasters, but most of her mom friends don’t want to join her.
Are you getting out of the house at all, besides to run to the grocery store or to take your kids to activities? It’s time to get out and have fun!
“Hang out with other women; go for a coffee, to a movie, or just to talk,” says Esther. It’s so important to keep up connections with friends and share in your mom adventures. Chat about your day, your milestones and your accomplishments and enjoy not being interrupted for the umpteenth time.
Allison, a mother of three from Grande Prairie, Alta., used to get her kid-free time at the grocery store, but was finding it less than fulfilling. Now she makes time to go to dinner or movies with friends, as well as playing roller derby. Hold up – roller derby?
“I play flat track derby and I can’t even begin to tell you how fun it is. This ain’t your mama’s roller derby where it was all fake; this derby is a real sport, from the hits to the points.”
Not only isn’t it fake, but it’s full contact and there are a variety of women playing. “We have executives, professionals, stay-at-home moms, students, grandmas, you name it. I like to play because it lets me be aggressive and unapologetic. Where else can you get highfives for knocking another girl on her butt with an awesome hip check? Derby is a great stress reliever; you get the whole ‘team bonding’ thing, the skating is great cardio, and I’m constantly learning and improving my skills. I can see myself playing for a long time.”
Ditch the guilt
Guilt is a huge part of any mother’s life. Accepting a dinner invitation with a friend, going for an afternoon bike ride alone or reading a book when you feel you should be cleaning – all of the things that are worth doing can make you feel guilty that a) you were enjoying yourself, and b) that you should have been doing something else that contributes to the household or family.
In eight years of being a mom, it’s only been in the last six months or so that I’ve stopped feeling guilty about going out. I used to feel bad even telling my husband about plans I wanted to make, and once I’d gone out, I’d feel guilty about being out of the house because I thought I should have been at home helping with the kids. They needed me to put their pyjamas on and brush their teeth, didn’t they?
Now I know that getting out of the house makes me happier, and that translates to me being more patient and loving with my kids. Esther says that moms need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of others, and that everyone (including the kids) is happy when they have a break from each other for a little while.
Let someone else look after the kids
Now that you’ve decided to get out of the house and have made plans to meet friends for coffee, what do you do with the kids? If dad is home, why not let him spend the time with the kids? Just because you might have a routine, or a specific way of doing things, it doesn’t mean that he’s going to mess it up.
Christine, a mother of two in Port Moody, B.C., has felt anxious when she wasn’t home with her kids. She used to feel like her husband couldn’t do as good a job as she does, but is finally coming to terms with it. “I know it’s not the end of the world if my son doesn’t get his crusts cut off his sandwich the way he likes it, and it is fine if he goes to bed a little late,” she says. If your partner is not around, grandparents or local teenagers can be a great help.
What are you teaching your children, about being a healthy, happy adult? “ ‘How thin can I spread myself before I no longer exist?’ is a favourite quote,” says Beverly. She urges moms to make sure that they are both mentally and physically fi t to be the best they can to take care of their families.
“It’s important as well to be clear about the choices you make and why you make those choices, in order to keep the guilt at bay,” she adds. She reminds moms that choosing to do something for themselves is not about being selfish or devaluing their family members, but instead is about staying healthy in order to have the energy and patience to properly handle the family when she is with them.
Natasha has no problem leaving her kids with her husband while she goes for a bike ride. “I don’t feel guilty for occasionally spending time away from my children,” she says. “Kids need time alone with dad, without mom hovering around making sure dad does everything just right.”
Some moms seem to have it all together; happy kids, happy marriage and the perfect home. Stress may seem to roll off their shoulders, or they just might have a little secret: they regularly carve out time for themselves that doesn’t involve their kids. And when they come back, those moms really are put together. A happy mom equals a happy family.
Nicole Palacios is a mother of three girls in Vancouver, B.C. She is a freelance writer but makes sure to take time off from work and parenting to hit the gym. She still likes listening to hip hop – with headphones.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2012