Me-time as a working parent: luxury or necessity?

by Liz Marchant

As a working parent it can often feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions. From packing lunchboxes to drop offs, then straight into meetings and conference calls, there’s rarely much time left just for you. Psychologist Kellie Cassidy believes that self-care or ‘me-time’ isn’t a luxury like many of us tend to believe; it is, in fact, a necessity.

In one of her many articles about parenting she says, “Prioritising self-care as a mum can be hard. First you have to deal with the guilt of taking time out for yourself and second of all you have to actually find the time to fit it in. When I speak to mothers about this I often use the analogy of the safety talk on an aeroplane. The cabin crew instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. Why? Because you can’t help anyone if you are dead. Being a mum is much the same. If you do not take the time care for yourself and maintain your own wellbeing, then you won’t be able to take care of your family.”

Dr Cassidy reminds us that our children are always watching. They’re taking their cues from us when it comes to self-care, and being kind and compassionate towards ourselves. Therefore, we must remember to set the right example for our children.

It may not be possible to spend uninterrupted hours on a beach, reading books, or bingeing on Netflix. It is possible (not to mention crucial) to weave self-care into your weekly routine. Dr Cassidy says, “often, it’s the tiny ways we show ourselves love that are most powerful”.

Here are six simple things you can do, even with a busy schedule, to keep you feeling healthy, happy, and sane.

  1. Go for regular check ups
    Trips to the doctor and dentist are vital for maintaining your wellbeing and making sure you’re in the best possible shape to stay on top of the daily grind. Even if you’re feeling completely healthy, it is still advisable to visit your GP once a year, according to a recent article on the VIC Government’s Better Health channel.
    It says, “Women are recommended to have a general check-up with their GP every year. Part of the check-up will involve talking to your doctor about your medical history, your family’s history of disease and your lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise habits and whether or not you smoke or drink alcohol. Seeing your doctor for regular medical check-ups will help you stay healthy and pick up early warning signs of disease or illness.”
  2. End the day with a treat
    The end of the day is often one of the easiest times to factor is some much needed me-time and also a nice time to practice some self-care. Whether it’s a face mask, 10 minutes of meditation, or even just a cup of your favourite tea, enjoy this time when the kids are asleep and the emails have stopped pinging (hopefully), to just relax and do something you know will make you feel calm and happy.
  3. Read or listen to a book
    Reading is one of the best forms of escapism, making it the perfect way to take your mind off the stresses of daily life. Even if you can just squeeze in 15-20 minutes a day on your commute home from work or before bed (or while the kids are at soccer practice), reading can be a great way to either relax before work or unwind afterwards. It’s so easy to download books to your smart device these days with the likes of Apple Books and Amazon, so you don’t even need to find the time to get to a bookshop. If you drive to work, consider trying an audio book or listening to a podcast about something you’re interested in.
  4. Go to bed earlier
    The end of the day (after the kids are in bed) can often be one of the most relaxing times when you’re a working parent. For people with partners, it could also be the longest stretch of time you’ll get with just one another, so it can be tempting to stay up late. However, a good night’s sleep is one of the most critical elements of self-care and maintaining your wellbeing, so try to aim for at least seven hours of sleep if possible. A great way to help you nod off at night and generally unwind is to read a book for 10 minutes. So, dim the lights, curl up under the doona with your favourite author, and relax.
  5. Take a little time for yourself on the weekends
    This isn’t always easy, especially if your weekends consist of ferrying kids between sporting events and social activities. However, if you can find a little gap in your schedule, whether it’s just 20 minutes or an hour while your partner or a family member watch the kids, make the most of it! If help isn’t readily available, why not set them up with some colouring in or a favourite game while you can relax with a coffee, a book or a call with a friend; anything that will feel like some well-deserved me-time.
  6. Factor self-care in to your daily routine
    Whether it’s during your morning shower or the end of the day when you’re scrubbing off make-up, try to factor some self-care or even a little pampering, into your daily routine. Sometimes the little luxuries like a favourite soap, scented candle, or fancy moisturiser can feel indulgent. It may not sound like much and, sure, it’s not the same as three hours at the salon (those were the days!) but it’s a start. Just fit in what you can and remember Dr Cassidy’s advice about the small ways we show ourselves love often being the most powerful.