Finding time to be me and not mom

I just got back from rehearsal with my choir — yes — choir. It’s been just under 5 years — essentially since the birth of little L, that I have not performed in choirs (or a cappella or musical theatre . .. you get the idea). But before then . . well, let’s say that doing choral music was a most essential part of my life, interrupted only by residency and then yes, bearing children. The two great commitments of my life that demanded no interruptions. Honestly, I can’t believe that so many years passed, and so quickly at that.

Lucky for me, I have the unflinching support of both my husband T and our fearless au pair M, who share none of my reservations of my leaving the kids without me on a Tuesday night.  They handle things beautifully and I came home from rehearsal today to find the house quiet and cool, and even though I tried to nuzzle up to the family to sleep I found myself sleepless — but fortuitously also with time to blog, which I always cast as a rarity in my life these days.

New moms – never fear, you will get time once again to be yourself and to explore your interests.  And it comes sooner than you think — for me it came even before Kindergarten, even though little L has commitments every day after school. (Can’t really believe that one already but there it is — art class Monday, swimming Tuesday, Soccer and Violin Wednesday . . with such a busy schedule we tried not to occupy the rest of the week!) Here are my tips for working moms if you can manage them:

  1. Remember your passions. Ever since I gave birth I’ve known little about how to use my free time effectively. Usually if I have a free 30 minutes I fall exhausted onto the couch, don’t turn on the TV because I don’t want to make time there, and then I set to rearranging something– like cleaning our cluttered office or filing papers or emptying dishes or doing laundry.  The next time you have that 30 minute break, take the time to think about what it is that you want to do with your time and prepare yourself mentally, so that the next time you have 30 minutes you can just get started with that interest. Start doing the research, contacting people you want to connect with to pursue these interests, so that you can get started with them sooner.
  2. Get help if you can. I’m not afraid to ask for help — from relatives, from my partner, and am fortunate to have someone helping in the household — which I realize is not always the case. But if you have a passion and want to make time from it, take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the everyday (which never end, spring into summer into fall into winter and back into spring again). Think about what the time commitment will be and what the gains will be, and then see if you can figure out a way to make it work.  There are times when I dread the schedule addition and hope all is well, but suddenly 1 week and then 2 and then more weeks pass that you are pursuing this commitment, and yes it can work!
  3. Make things easier for yourself. I’m an all-from-scratch kind of mama. I know, not always typical for us working moms, but I am starting to realize just how much I make things difficult for myself by demanding fresh cooked meals of myself for every day.  Not only does it make me exhausted, but if it takes a long time to get dinner on the table the kids get hungry bellies and there’s lots more to clean up afterward.  I compromise now by mixing up pre-prepared and home cooked stuff, maybe getting a prepared entree and making my own side veggies or salad from scratch, and as a family we are simplifying ingredients and meals.  Coming up with a plan and a repertoire also can help you all get on track regarding health.  We are all now on a health kick involving sticking to green veggies, brown rice or quinoa, egg white, and lean proteins, and light fruits. Sticking to this diet makes shopping much easier and makes it a lot easier to focus when preparing meals.
  4. Don’t guilt-trip yourself. In fact, enjoy and relish that time that you have alone away from work and as an adult pursuing your interest – or even your dreams. Do not be ashamed that you are taking 2 or (gasp) 3 hours to do something that you and you alone are interested in. Your kids will love you for it and you will be able to stay more sane in other aspects of your life if you can have your me-time.
  5. Be engaged with your family when you are at home. Getting time to myself during the week means that I also have to be fully engaged when I am at home with the family, being mom. This means even more hard work and focus while at home. But staying off the screens and focusing on interactions and the here and now with kids and partners and other family and friends means a lot of fulfillment. And I, a consistent multitasker — truly feel a balance and fullness of life on and off mom-duty.