Why ‘Me-Time’ is Both a Blessing and a Curse
‘Me-time’ : ‘Time spent relaxing on one’s own as opposed to working or doing things for others, seen as an opportunity to reduce stress or restore energy’. The Oxford Dictionary formally recognises ‘me time’, but do you?
So many magazines and websites for women and especially mothers, feature articles that focus on the concept of ‘me-time’. We read about why we should have more of it, how best to get it, how to stop feeling guilty about having too much me time or not enough of it. The act of simply taking time out has become an emotional minefield for the modern women.
The concept of ‘me-time’ is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, ‘me-time’ dialogue is contributing to a better understanding of how motherhood, career aspirations and women intersect. When we discuss ‘me-time’ we are acknowledging that women spend an exorbitant amount of time working and doing things for others and should remember to take care of themselves as well. However, what is alarming is that ‘me-time’ is almost exclusively used to describe a rare, indulgent break taken by a woman. We have to ask ourselves, how does the mainstream media choose to describe rare, indulgent breaks taken by men? The famously satirical Facebook page ‘Man Who Has It All’ often highlights this ‘me-time’ imbalance in its scathing posts.
Let’s explore this dichotomy further ….
Why me-time is a blessing
If you’re a mother, you know how easy it is to get caught up in the microcosm of family life. You may be working full-time or part-time, you may be at home with your kids WHILST working full-time and the combinations today are endless. But as you know full well, the stress of a busy schedule isn’t the only thing you have to cope with.
Unfortunately, there is still stigma attached to all these choices. If you return to work, you’re an absentee mother who is selfishly neglecting her children in order to fulfil your own career aspirations. If you remain at home to care for your children, you’re a 1950’s throwback who is oppressed by the patriarchy and betraying the Sisterhood by not smashing enough glass ceilings. Raising children and having to contend with the judgement of other family members, child ‘experts’ and magazines is more than enough to send anyone round the twist. This is where ‘me time’ can make a positive difference to your life. Being reminded that we need to take care of Number 1 by our friends and family, our favourite literature or Instagram account can be the wake-up call we need. It’s true what they say. The thing about burning the candle at both ends is that you’ll eventually burn yourself right out!
Why me-time is a curse
However, the concept of ‘me-time’ is a double-edged sword. Charlotte Whitton famously said that ‘Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought of as half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult’ (plot twist: sorry Charlotte, it is actually quite difficult). Therefore, it’s crucial for women to take time for self-care.
But giving this self-care its own distinct term is problematic. ‘Me-time’ is routinely depicted as a luxurious, indulgent activity that a woman should painstakingly schedule into her diary once a month or even more frequently. If you trawl through articles that well-meaningly suggest ‘me-time’ activities, you’ll begin to see to what I mean. A trip to the movies is described as ‘decadent’. The simple act of sitting down to drink your morning coffee is listed as a perfect way to ‘treat yourself’ (is this real-life, ladies?).
The danger of ‘me-time’ is that the ordinary activities of everyday humans end up perched on a pedestal for mothers. If we begin to idealise the normal social events that mothers participate in even though these events have no significant meaning when our partners or friends without children enjoy them, we are asking mothers to settle for less and be grateful for the bare minimum.
Give Yourself a Break
Regardless of how you feel about ‘me-time’ and how it effects your life, that fact remains that all human beings need to take time to relax. All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy! If you’re a busy mother and are not used to making time for yourself, you may feel slightly guilty or selfish for orchestrating your own break. It sounds blunt, but you must train yourself to ignore those feelings. Plan your breaks confidently, knowing that you are well within your rights to do so.
In 2018, there are even apps that have been created with the sole purpose of freeing up your day and giving you your life back, so there is no excuse to deny yourself any longer. Take Airtasker, the Australian tasking app. It’s making its debut in the UK this year, and already its finding a firm fan base amongst mothers. Every small job women feel is standing in-between them and a relaxing break can be posted on the app for free, and taskers bid for the opportunity to complete it for them. When even technology is telling us to take time out for ourselves, you know something has got to change!
The idea of ‘me-time’ is both a blessing and curse. Dialogue about ‘me-time’ brings awareness to the fact that women often push themselves too hard and take care of everyone around them except themselves. Conversely branding normal social activities as decadent rewards for mothers puts these women in a whole other category and tells them that they should be grateful for the chance to enjoy the things that their partners or friends without kids would not give a second thought to. Don’t idealised me-time this year. Treat it exactly for what it is, a normal break that any person is entitled to.
This post was written for Serenity You