By Carolyn Hecken
I must admit that I feel like a bit of a fraud writing this because it is a frequent, if not constant struggle of mine to find this elusive “me”-time. Anyhow, here are just a few tips, tricks and tactics I’ve learned through my experience as a mom to three children under the age of seven.
- Fill your cup. Think about what it takes to keep your cup as full as possible. Mentally, or on paper, brainstorm a list of activities and hobbies which help you to feel calm, balanced and satisfied. Include absolutely everything that comes to mind – even if it seems unattainable at the time. Explore on your mental timeline where you can place the hobbies and activities vital to your health. Plan ahead and create time for yourself. It’s surprising what a little planning can make possible. It also allows your friends and loved ones to support you and can especially help your partner if s/he can expect to be taking a stroll every Thursday evening.
- Pursue your passions. Sometimes it’s your passions that pull you through those rough times as you negotiate how to best reconcile motherhood with your previous life and attempt to find a new balance. Pursue these passions in whatever form you and to whatever extent your situation allows.
- Get help in the home. Ask a friend or family member to plan a meal train (try this free planner) or ask a friend or relative to help out with run-of-the-mill house chores: folding laundry, doing the dishes, vacuuming, holding your little one while you shower/rest, etc. If you can afford it, and see it as beneficial to your mental, physical, and emotional help, enlist the services of a cleaner to do all the (bi-)weekly deep cleaning. Take it from me, in the long run, it’s much more affordable to hire a cleaning service directly than to arrange babysitters several times a week only to get half of the job done in twice the amount of time.
- Schedule regular periods of free time: Have Dad, Grandma, your best friend, etc. take your little one for a walk, to the park, to do the grocery shopping, etc. Take care of whatever you need to in order to increase your and your little one’s comfort during your separation – regardless of the distance or how brief it is. Do what feels right for you, your child and your family. What may work for one family won’t necessarily work for yours. You are ultimately the best judge when it comes to determining what is right for your family. Don’t hesitate to state your expectations clearly for those helping you. After all, it is only truly a help if you can rest assured that your wishes regarding the well-being of your child are fully respected.
- Find your momma clan. Connect with like-minded mothers who understand you and are in tune with the madness of modern parenting on a daily basis. Local “Mommy and Me”/Gymboree groups are a great place to start as well as La Leche League of Munich or baby development/massage classes such as those offered by English midwife Lynn Darbyshire of Pippagina. Don’t know where to find other groups of awesome, inspiring moms in Munich?! Try your luck with ToyTown Munich and Facebook groups such as Über Moms, Parents in Munich, International Parents of Munich, little munich black book, diverse pregnancy groups, local toddler meetups, etc. These new friends will help to keep you company and keep your sanity.
- Be inventive. For those times when getting away from the kids just isn’t in the cards, get creative. Fill his/her little cup so you have time to fill yours. Set an egg timer for 15 to 20 minutes in which you give your wee one your full attention. Toddlers are more content to play on their own for short intervals of time once their cups have been filled or as the Germans say, they’ve done some “Mama tanken”. I know, I know, we spend nearly the entire day doing things with and for them, but let’s face it, sometimes we’re not always doing these things with our full, undivided attention.
After you’ve filled her little tank, give your little one an activity/discovery box with age-appropriate household items (some yarn and a straw, a wooden spoon and mixing bowl, make a ramp for cars to go down, set up a water or rice station, etc.). Most of all, be prepared to accept the trade-off of having to clean up a bit of a mess in exchange for this precious quiet time.
If all else fails, or quite frankly it’s simply one of those days, a short amount of screen time isn’t going to permanently harm your child. In the modern world where we are often separated from our families and friends, it comes down to the choice between a little bit of technology and the chance to rest for twenty minutes and a collective family melt down because no one’s needs have been met.