The two things that have held me back from taking care of myself as a mom are time and money. I even used to put off doctors’ appointments when it meant I’d need a few hours away from my kids. I went six months at a time without a haircut because I felt like the money could be better spent on the kids. That extra time and money I thought I was saving for the family only led to me feeling like a run-down martyr with no distinct identity apart from Mom/Mommy/Mama (depending on what the kids want at the moment).
Now I am functioning on a much better level. I have a lot more confidence and energy because I take care of myself. I exercise regularly, I eat well, I get highlights (expensive AND time consuming!), and I get a massage or a facial now and then. Little indulgences like that make me feel so much better that I find I’m more attentive and patient as a parent. I enjoy life more, even with the constant hustle of our work, school, and activities.
We can certainly live without a trip to the spa, but ask yourself, as I did, whether the time and money you’re saving by not doing anything for yourself is really enhancing your family’s lifestyle. If you want to change that dynamic, here are some tips to free up the time and money you need:
- Save up for what you want to buy ahead of time so that you’re not feeling guilty putting something on a credit card that you really can’t afford. One of the best ways to feel on top of the world is to know you have a grip on your finances. If you’re not used to handling money, take on the challenge and feel the satisfaction of knowing you’re living within your means. If it helps, keep a picture of what you want to buy in your wallet to motivate you. Having a goal stopped me from getting coffee drinks, extra makeup I don’t need, or other little expenses that don’t seem like much but add up quickly.
- Trim money from other spending. When my kids were younger, I budget $100 a week for our family’s food; whenever we were under that, I put the extra money aside for myself. This gave me the motivation to creatively plan meals and not settle for fast food, which is overpriced and under-nutritious. At first it was a hassle for all of us: we had a routine of stopping at McDonad’s every Friday night, but that $20 was a fifth of the week’s food budget! We spend more on food now that they are older, but we’ve dropped the habit of eating out. Now going to a restaurant is a special, once-in-a-while treat we all look forward to and appreciate more.
- Decide as a family what you can give up in order to get something better. I realized I could not afford both cable TV and high-speed Internet access, so the kids and I voted and unanimously chose DSL. We haven’t watched TV in three years now, and after the initial shock that lasted about a week, it’s never bothered us since. Again, since you are giving something up, find something even better to replace it. One of my goals was to find new hobbies we could enjoy together. Not paying for cable TV meant there was enough money left over to go ice skating a few times a month. It’s become an activity that we all enjoy and look forward to and something we all learned together. If ice skating isn’t your idea of an indulgence, find something that is.
- Look for ways to pursue your own interests, and find babysitting where you can. Fortunately, my mom lives nearby and even though she’s a busy woman herself, she makes it a priority to see that I get some time off from mom duty. My brothers know that more than any stuff, the most valuable gift they can offer is some time with the kids so I can go out. I’ve also taken my kids to events and then sat on the sidelines to pursue my favorite passion, writing. Instead of watching them watch a science presentation, I pull out my laptop and write. I always wanted to write, but one of the things holding me back was feeling like I was doing something that wasn’t bringing money to the family and was taking time away from my kids. I’ve saved a lot of money on babysitting by finding fun things at libraries and schools for the kids to do while I take the time to write.
- Stop feeling guilty that every waking moment isn’t focused on your kids! This was the hardest one for me, but also the most necessary. There’s no point saving up money for a massage if you’re lying on the table feeling bad that you’re not home playing with the kids. A family needs times of separation to appreciate the togetherness. Tell your kids what you’re doing and why so that you can be a role model for how to balance work, parenting, taking care of your home, and taking care of yourself.
The first massage I ever had was because of a gift card, so I’d like to get the ball rolling for you on taking care of yourself. Please visit my Facebook author page (Grete DeAngelo, Author) on the Giveaway tab or click here http://tinyurl.com/nurmmou to enter a random drawing for a $50 Spa Finders gift card! Drawing ends Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 10:00 am EST.