How to make the most of time you get to yourself

every moment is an opportunity

Every so often my darling husband will say “have the morning off, love”. It’s like an angel is speaking from the very heavens, the room takes on a kind of other-worldly glow, choirs start singing and I have visions of Julie Andrews running over green hills, flinging her arms about and gaily gathering wildflowers…

Now, I am normally a terribly practical person with lighting-quick decision making ability and have also inherited my mother’s love of lists, so you may imagine a thousand things I might do with an hour or two to myself.

There are limitless options of course but the reality?…utter paralysis! Numbly staring at the clock watching those precious golden moments tick by, frozen by indecision. This is probably largely because I didn’t have such time to myself until my daughter was 18 months old, by which point my to-do list was almost as long as war and peace! It also meant that time had become more valuable than carbohydrate food stuffs to a breast-feeding mum. Thankfully this paralysis only lasted a minute or two before writing the draft of this blog (and then shelving it until now).

As you no doubt appreciate all too well, these times, for many of us mums of very young children, come few and far between and they are priceless opportunities.

How can we make the most of these precious moments?

So if you are reading this because you have such a snippet of freedom to yourself then hurrah for you! Lets make these delicious minutes really count with a few quick but effective suggestions on how to make the most of these precious moments.

One question to ask yourself is “what can I do in this time that will best maximise my well-being and potential for joy?”

You may get an instant clear response and if so…go do that, and enjoy :)

If like many you are overwhelmed by choice or the thing that creeps into mind is …’well I really do need to clear out the crud lurking at the bottom of the fridge’, hold your horses (that’s just waaay more fun than any mummy should legally be allowed) and read on.

Stop for a moment. Breathe. Become still and really, truly in this present moment.

This can be harder than it sounds.  A lot of mums, especially first time round, find they so quickly get absorbed into being everything to their new little bundle that they lose touch with their own body and senses, often without even realising it.

  • How do you feel? name it in one or two words.
  • What do you most need right now? (You might consider asking this question 3 times, one for your body, one for your mind and one for your soul.)
  • What time do you have to play with?
  • How would you like to feel by the end of it?

These questions guide your choices towards the most urgent needs of your whole self.

So, if you feel exhausted and you want to feel rested, as I so often did in the early days, then off to bed with you. If you have a little more time to play with perhaps a glorious scented bubble bath with candles, music, a chamomile tea and a good book, then to bed. Who cares if it’s 9am? You make the rules, and if you’ve built up the kind of sleep debt common in many new mums then sleep will yield untold blessings.

One thing symptomatic of motherhood, and many other caring professions for that matter, is that the ‘good stuff’, in whatever form that takes, is so often saved for the children, or the patients, or the clients. Lavishing care and attention on yourself may feel like an extravagance. The scales can so easily get tipped off-balance when we give so much so often, it is absolutely vital to re-fill our reservoirs, rekindle our own spark and avoid potential feelings of resentment building up. These can only result in martyr-like behaviour, outbursts of anger and frustration or suffocating depression. If we are to be good role models for our children, that means modelling good self-care too.

Meeting our own fundamental needs and replenishing is important, and there comes a time when those needs are met and we have more ‘in the tank’ to play with. Then you might consider…

vintage china

How can you make this moment most exquisite?!

Do you long to be super productive, crafty and creative, or pampered to within an inch of your life?

What is for sure, moments like these are not for catching up on housework! Step away from the duster mummy, there is more to be achieved in life than skirting boards you can eat your dinner off of.

Of course if the prospect of working up a sweat blitzing your house until all the surfaces are gleaming and you’ve had a better workout than 3 hours with Rosemary Connolly then knock yourself out – follow your bliss, as long as it is true bliss of course.

So if in this moment you desire a humble cuppa, ask yourself, “how can I make the experience of drinking tea, utterly delectable?” What will make it true indulgence? It might be cosying up in your comfy clothes, under a quilt with a big mug of ‘builders’ and a chocolate hob nob or 6…what’s not to love about that?

Or perhaps, as it is for me, the proper ceremony of true english afternoon tea. Table laid with table cloth out under the dappled light of the cherry tree in the garden. A vase of spring flowers, earl grey tea, made with the best earl grey tea leaves, in a tea pot (warmed first of course). Poured into a vintage tea cup, stirred with a tiny vintage silver tea spoon and served with home made shortbread and drunk with my feet sunk deep in the grass…staring up at the clouds and dreaming.

These delights might not be at your fingertips when you find you have unexpected free time so as every girl scout knows, it’s best to be prepared. One of the best methods of preparation..a list of course!

Write a list of things that make you happy, things to do that make your heart sing, things to spend time on that feed your mind, body and soul, Make it a list with enough variety that you can pick just the perfect thing for any moment and any snippet of time. From a snatched 5 minutes to a luxurious few hours. Every woman should know what makes her feel good. Just writing such a list is a feel good experience in itself…

Some of my lists (why stop at one?) look something like this:

 For when I need to restore:

  • Sleep
  • Get a massage
  • Be still
  • Go for a walk in the woods (at my own pace)
  • Spend time with my essences (Bach Flowers, Earth Animal Essences, and, more recently, Alaskan Essences)
  • Call a child-free friend
  • Have a long soak in a blissful bath
  • Have tea
  • Write in my journal
  • Do yoga, inside/outside/naked
  • Have Shiatsu
  • Clutter clear a draw/cupboard/room
  • Watch a ‘Ted Talk’

For when I need to create or crave inspiration:

When I have energy to burn or need to achieve:

  • Spring clean (applies, all year round)
  • Gardening
  • Dance the 5 rhythms
  • Shave my legs/pluck my eyebrows…yes really
  • Wash the car
  • Clear out my emails
  • Filing, virtual or physical
  • Iron the bed linen (I have an uncommon love of ironing)

Once you know how to spend your precious moments, all you need to do is work out a way to enjoy more of them.

Finding the right balance of giving and receiving, inspiration and creation, activity and stillness is one of the delightful challenges on the journey to being a truly joyful mum.

Thank you for using your valuable time to read my words. If you’d like to add you own, then do let us know what really floats your boat or your top tips for making the most of each moment.

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