The amount of times I’ve looked at my nails and thought: “I’ll paint those in bed tonight” and not found the time is ridiculous.
It seems silly but it’s become symbolic about the person I’ve become recently.
There were days when I’d spend hours doing things for myself whether it was exercising, socialising or pampering and while these days I manage to find hours to iron clothes, go on nature walks and cook, I can’t find 15 minutes to paint my nails.
That’s why I was interested in the results of a new American study that found being a mom is equivalent to two-and-a-half full time jobs.
The research, commissioned by the juice company Welch’s, which examined the schedules of 2000 working moms with children aged five to 12, revealed the average mom works an astonishing 98 hours per week.
That explains why I hit the sack and choose sticking labels on my daughter’s uniform over painting my nails – my ‘mom schedule’ doesn’t allow for breaks, even before bed.
Researchers found that even in their ‘free time’ moms tended to be busy with tasks and many reported having just one hour and seven minutes of “me time” daily much of which is spent in the bathroom trying to get a quick solo shower.
For moms, these facts come as no surprise. Indeed most of us won’t remember the last time we went for a run (pacing around the grocery shop doesn’t count) or decided the ironing could wait because we really needed to just pop round to a friend’s for a chat.
But Doctor Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist at Lighthouse Arabia says we shouldn’t see time spent focusing on ourselves as a treat, rather it’s crucial to our health.
She says: “On the airplane they say: “In times of emergency, secure your own mask before attending to your children”. This is because people can only give what they have. If mothers are sacrificing their wellbeing for the sake of their children, they are doing a disservice to their children and to themselves. They will have less patience, less creativity, and less energy to give to their parenting duties when they are running on empty.
“Prioritising relaxation or time out however, often requires a mind-set shift for mothers. This is not just about getting a massage, this is about you prioritizing your health so you can bring yourself to the demands of life. Mothers feel guilty when they are take care of themselves but there is a difference between being selfish and self-care. Selfishness is when there is only one person winning and the others losing, whereas in self-care, all parties are winning. Taking time out of your day to tend to yourself is a win-win for you, your children and your family, and prevents you from 'care-giver burn-out'.”
As the survey revealed that 40 percent of moms said their lives felt like a series of never-ending tasks, Dr Afridi stresses that it’s essential moms show their children what give and take looks like in a relationship. Otherwise, there’s a risk of moms starting to resent their role.
Delegation and planning
If delegating tasks fills you with fear that nobody can do the job as well as you, take some time to train that person so they’re well equipped for the task. And learn to accept that while they may never meet your standards, it will probably be good enough and in a life packed with demands, that’s better than you burning out.
Through careful planning, moms manage to accommodate everything they need to do to meet the needs of their family. So planning time for respite may be an idea, suggests Dr Afrifi – but really put some effort into your schedule.
She adds: “If we do not put it in a timeslot, time to ourselves will usually get pushed down the to-do list by other things that come up. For example, instead of saying “I will walk 30 mins a day”, you should say “I will walk 30 minutes a day on the beach after I drop my son off at school”. When making a schedule, be sure to factor in travel time, shower time, and other tasks that take time but we wouldn’t usually put in our diary - it allows for you to not be rushed and helps in long-term commitment.”
At the end of the day, a machine only functions with correct fuel and maintenance. Us mom machines need to realise we need some TLC too!