Can you really catch ‘me-time’ when you’ve got a baby? Or is the idea of me-time a selfish one?
I was surprised to find that among my friendship circle (and my circle of two beautiful sister-in-laws), the answer was mostly ‘no’. Me-time just isn’t possible. Or maybe it’s just that we need to think about the concept in entirely new ways.
Here is the best advice – and the most insightful ideas – that I collected:
Michelle: let your partner learn alongside you (and buy a breast pump!)
“My number one tip is do not undermine your partner’s confidence to bathe, feed, clothe, burp and put your newborn to bed. In fact learn together. You must trust them to do theses things without your supervision – this will translate into your ability to pop out for lunch, go to a movie, take a nap, or go for a walk.
“My other tip: buy a breast pump. Get the milk and freeze it. Food is now available while your breasts are at the movies!”
Josie: accept that your only job is to care for your newborn
“My honest answer is that you can't [have me-time]. It’s not about you anymore. Keeping your newborn alive, fed and functioning takes precedence over everything – even showering, eating and sleeping yourself. I think the best approach to this phase of life is accept that your only job is to care for your newborn and everything else like yourself, cooking, cleaning, shopping, is out the window for a short period of time.
“Then when your baby is maybe three months old and you come out of the haze and confusion of living with a newborn, you can start to think about yourself. But even still, your 'you' time will undoubtedly involve you and your baby attached to you. For example, you sitting at a cafe while your bub sleeps across your chest in a baby sling; you alone at home having a cup of tea with your baby asleep on your chest at 4pm (because that’s the earliest you can possibly take time to put the kettle on after all the other baby-related shenanigans); or you going for a walk in the early morning and watching the sun get up, while pushing your bub in the pram.
“I was really lucky in some respects to be able to go back to yoga nine weeks after labour; I could express milk right before I left the house for a class, and my husband could feed the baby while I was out. And that was the best 'me' time ever – although incredibly difficult at the beginning, the first few classes I was wracked with guilt that I had left her and I felt like I was missing something. I even had a few tears during class. But progressively it became easier.”
Jacqui: set times when your partner or mothers group can look after your baby
“My husband had total control over our baby from about 5.45am until 7am, which meant that I could either choose to get up and go for a run and shower in peace or use the opportunity to sleep in (yes, 7am is a sleep in when you have a newborn!) or enjoy some breakfast in bed each morning. The trick was not to let the baby see me though, because if he did it made things very difficult for my husband.
“Once our baby started enjoying baths (at about four months of age) most nights my husband was able to get home to give the baby his bath. This was nice for everyone involved: the two boys got time together each evening and I got a break.
“From about 10 weeks, my husband would look after the baby on a Friday evening and I'd go out to dinner or for a drink or a dance with my girlfriends. This helped me feel like I was more in touch with reality. I'd express milk in advance.
“My mother's group also came up with an idea of having a roster where one of us got a morning off a week to do whatever we wanted (get our hair done or do the groceries baby free) and we left our baby with the other babies and mothers for a couple of hours.”
Olivia: me-time becomes possible with baby two
“With my first newborn there was an overwhelming feeling of total responsibility. I didn't make any time for myself. It actually felt irresponsible to do so: like I had made this decision to have a baby and be at home to devote my full attention to it, so how could I possibly do anything but? So, no joke, I greatly anticipated things like going to the dentist. With number one I was okay to devote that kind of time. Not happy to do it; I was pretty miserable a lot of the time, but there was also other circumstances like a non-existent husband, new city, no friends. But I felt good about taking my commitment seriously and doing what I thought I had to.
“However with my second newborn I was out the door to soccer, yoga, book club, pretty much anything any chance I could get – a result of knowing more, not caring as much, and the exhausting demands of my two-year-old (the newborn was the easy part) and finally wanting a part of myself back.”
Cecila: appreciate the still moments
“The short answer is I didn't [get me-time]. The only time I took was to sleep and occasionally to wash my hair.
“I read something very early that I kept reminding myself: it was that the time would go so fast, so treasure it.
“During the countless nights awake (and you know I have had lots of them) I have always tried to find the moments I can look back on fondly: like the quiet stillness when she FINALLY fell asleep in my arms after hours awake in the night. And the slowness and intimacy of breast-feeding when most of the world is operating at a different, hurried rhythm.
“These are indeed the things I look back on with warm nostalgia – I don’t reflect on how I managed to find time for myself.
“That said, I did try to go for a walk everyday while she would sit or sleep the pram. Those days stopped long ago, so again, it's another little thing to treasure as a new mum!”