Once you’re a parent you’re never really alone. But you can — and should — steal a moment for yourself now and then.
When I asked a friend who recently had a baby how she was finding “me time” under quarantine, she scoffed, as if to say, “What me time?” and then coyly asked, “Working?” — both embarrassed and unsure if work could constitute a break.
Of course, I would never judge considering that I am writing this during my supposed “me time” too.
If there is one common thought amongst my new mom friends it is that time to ourselves is rare and even when we do get it, it is never enough.
And now, the COVID-19 outbreak is making it that much more difficult to steal away for a few minutes as most of us are stuck at home sheltering in place. It hardly feels like alone time when the baby is crying in the next room or our partner is constantly coming in and asking questions.
The funny (and unfortunate) thing is that I am not entirely sure things would be that different if COVID-19 was not happening. Time off the clock is rare for any new parent who’s on call all day, every day (other than when the baby is sleeping, and then you’re faced with a Sophie’s Choice-like decision between napping yourself or doing all the things around the house that need to get done).
The difference is that prior to the pandemic there were more options for support, like extended family and hired caregivers, who could help lighten the load. Also, there were chances to physically step away from the household.
But now because of social distancing, we do not have those options. Instead, most of us are trapped together in tiny spaces with nowhere to escape to. The bathroom has become the closest thing we have to a getaway.
Not having me time was one of my big fears around having children. I am an introvert who needs to be alone a lot in order recharge and feel whole. I was terrified to lose that when the baby came.
While I was pregnant, my husband assured me that I would get time to myself. Sure, I might not be able to binge-watch bad ’90s television all day, but when I was working or needed to do my thing, either he would step in or we would get child care.
Of course, all of these discussions happened before we had the baby… and well before COVID-19.
Once our son arrived, I realized just how much this little being needed me — and only me. As helpful as my partner is, he is not able to breastfeed and when the baby needs mommy, the baby needs mommy.
I was especially unprepared for the other reality of being a parent — even when we are physically apart from our children, we are never alone again. And not just because we spend their nap times looking at pictures and videos of them.
Once we have children, they take up a permanent tenancy in our heart. They burrow deeply into every thought. They are our motivation behind every action. We cannot just turn it off, despite what a few glasses of wine or adults-only weekend may fool us into thinking. And believe it or not, but even the biggest introverts amongst us may no longer want to.
I think that is what has been most surprising for me. I long for time to myself, but the minute I am away from my baby, I miss him.
Still, me time is crucial for our well-being and, sadly, because of quarantine, for some new parents it has become very difficult to find that space. Not to mention the guilt around doing something for ourselves, which gets magnified when we hear our partners struggling in the other room with a crying baby, knowing our boob is just the magic bullet they need.
But taking care of ourselves makes us better parents! We must refill our proverbial tanks is so that we have something to give. This is particularly important during draining times such as these, where we are navigating both the stresses of having a new baby, but also the uncertain state of the greater world.
And believe it or not, but even just 5 minutes can go a long way.
I reached out to some other new parents to see how they were finding me time under quarantine. Here are some suggestions:
Multitask your me time
If you are able to, get out for a walk or to sneak away to the backyard (or bathroom!) and take your favorite book with you. Apps like Audible allow you to read while doing other things.
Enjoy a hair commercial-worthy shower
Remember those shampoo ads where the heavens would open up and angels would sing when the person showering opened the bottle? As a new mom this is how it feels, when I can take my time in the shower. Use every product you own and make it a real spa experience.
Treat washing your face like a facial
I have invested in more skin products since the pandemic than I have in my entire life. Many of the trendy and fun-to-use full facial masks only take 5 to 15 minutes. They’re the kind of mask you want to wear right now.
Take the dog… anywhere
Your dog needs to go out? Volunteer! If you can manage to go for a hike, even better. Our pets need one-on-one time with us too, and this way we all benefit.
Offer to cook (or clean!)
While prior to baby kitchen duties may have felt like a chore, it is now a nice way to get quiet time. Taking bites of the food while it is cooking also means you get to enjoy it while it is still warm.
Move your whole body
I used to think I needed 60 to 90 minutes for a full workout. These days, I am happy with a few minutes! There are a number of offerings online right now for full body workouts that only take 10 to 15 minutes.
Visualization meditations help you get away without having to leave your home. Picture yourself in your favorite place — on the beach, on the slopes, out in nature. What do you see, feel, hear, touch, even taste? Imagine every detail, and you may even forget where you actually are for a minute (or 5!).
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher trainer. Based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love to one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website, www.sarahezrinyoga.com.