Having time for self-maintenance (self-care) seems to be one of the most coveted and elusive goals of mamas. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because of one of these 3 reasons:
- You struggle with boundaries and codependency so your time is overtaxed because you can’t tolerate other people’s disappointment, frustration, or feeling put out if you say no.
- You’re too exhausted because you’re so time starved and overtaxed from the first reason above.
- You feel like you need “permission” or “approval” by either putting it off until it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s expectations of you (very unlikely to happen) or that someone will tell you to take time for yourself (which is also very unlikely).
When Magnus was 3 months old, I was sitting on the couch dazedly watching endless reruns of “Friends” into the afternoon with my chronically nursing baby in my arms. My husband ran up the stairs and headed out the door saying, “I’m going out for a massage. See ya later!”
I was stunned. Then I was mad. Then I started to rage.
How could he just DO that? He could just book a massage and GO? I couldn’t do that. I had a baby to look after. I had responsibilities. I had to ask HIM to see if it worked with HIS schedule.
Or did I?
I was floored by the audacity that he could want something for himself, make the time to do it, and then actually go do it. All without asking anyone for anything.
Wait, why then did I think I needed permission?
It’s not about money, we have benefits that we pay into together.
I realized it was about 2 things:
- I had been conditioned to believe that my time was not my own. Other peoples time, feelings, and desires were more important than my own so I felt like I had to ask permission or check in to make sure my wants and needs wouldn’t disrupt other people’s lives. This is classic lack of boundaries and codependent behavior.
- I realized that to get more time for myself and self-maintenance, I didn’t need Dave’s permission, I needed his cooperation.
A few years ago, one of the members of Mindfulness For Moms said she was struggling with finding time for her daily meditation with 2 small kids despite the fact that she could sit for as little as 5 minutes. She was also struggling with getting time on her mat to practice yoga for the same reason. She was exhausted and feeling like a shell of herself. She knew she needed self-maintenance time but wasn’t sure how to get it.
Just like so many of us moms, we are so used to putting everyone else’s needs above our own, that by the end of the day there’s nothing left for ourselves.
I asked her if she had talked to her partner about helping her get this time for herself.
She squirmed, “Well, no. But…”
We often think our partners should “know” what our needs are and instinctively help us get our needs met. Or we believe our partners are willfully trying to not be helpful. Or we worry that if we ask, we’re going to put our partners out. It’s just too uncomfortable to ask.
Guess what. I promise you are being put out A LOT. All day long in fact. You get over it, and they will too.
So many moms are hypervigilant to other peoples needs and feelings and have learned to anticipate them before they’ve been asked of us.
People who were not raised to be codependent, have not learned this spidey-sense and need to be explicitly told what it is that we need and how we’d like to have those needs met.
To have more time for ourselves, we don’t need permission or more time in our day. We need to have clear boundaries, learn how to deal with our discomfort of other people being disappointed, frustrated, or put out, and we need to ask for cooperation not approval.
One of the things I have learned in my own family is that there will likely be pushback, not because anyone is a jerk or because they don’t want the best for me (the absolutely do), but because new routines feel inconvenient and harder than what’s familiar.
What’s also true is that it doesn’t take long for everyone to get used to the “new routine” and it just becomes normal life.
I coached her on figuring out exactly what she needed for self-maintenance and when she needed it, how to have this conversation with her partner, and how to cope with her feelings of discomfort around her partner not being excited about her asking him in the first place.
She told me the following week that she felt like a new woman. The conversation was uncomfortable, yes, and she now had a regular routine where she was able to get on her mat AND meditate daily while her partner had the kids.
She looked like a new woman. She was sleeping better, her energy had skyrocketed, she was happier, calmer, and more patient with her loved ones. She was starting to feel like herself again.
All three of the reasons I listed above of why you aren’t getting time for yourself are about boundaries and codependency. Boundaries are more than about saying no, they are about being clear on how you want to use your time, who gets to have it, and how to preserve it.
Codependency is not about never being able to leave your high school boyfriend’s side. It’s about being hypervigilant to others needs all the time, trying to control other peoples feelings about you by never disappointing them (people-pleasing), and putting the wants and needs of others above your own.
Needing permission or approval falls into codependency and chronic self-abandonment.
If you see this in yourself, know that these behaviors are a product of your conditioning and most women’s conditioning. There is nothing wrong with YOU. You are perfect and holy and good.
To start unravelling these behaviors in your own life the first step is to notice it when it’s happening. Nothing changes without awareness.
The next is to learn how to create healthy boundaries and unravel patterns of codependency in your life. This is the only way you will ever truly have a life of choice, agency, and freedom and live your life as though it is truly your own.
Lastly, you must start asking for help getting your needs met. This is essential not only to take care of yourself, but also to preserve your relationships. When we don’t ask for the help we need we become resentful of the ones who could be helping us.
If you want to learn more about Boundaries and Codependency, I have a simple masterclass that you might be interested in. Click here to learn more.
In the meantime, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.