Mommy time!

by Diane Masiello

I just realized today that I haven't read anything since November. No book, no magazine, not even the back of a cereal box. And writing? Ha! Aimee just sent me a reminder that I might want to, you know, post something sometime, like, soon.

In my defense, I just haven't had time to do anything verbal lately. I've been too busy being holly jolly, decking the halls, bringing out the figgy pudding--in essence, creating Christmas for my family--to spend any time doing the things I like to do.

Okay, let me back up a little bit. All the Christmas-y things I did this season--the decorating, the baking, the shopping--I like to do them. I did them for me, as well as for the kids and the rest of the family. No one stole my library card, grabbed a scissor and said, "Make Christmas festive this year or you'll never see a book again, bwa ha ha ha!" I wasn't forced to make this the most magical Christmas ever; it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to see my four-year-old start to believe in Santa Claus. When she told one of her teachers that "when a bell rings an angel gets its wings" I was ecstatic. When she saw search lights in the sky one night my heart stopped when she looked at me, pointed to the streaming lights in the sky and said, "Mommy! Look! It's the Star of Bethlehem!" Watching my eighteen month old make sense of this tree that had suddenly appeared in our living room was a hoot. But it left very little time for me to do anything I would have done before having kids.

In a way, it was kind of nice, this forced exile from myself. But now that all the decorations are put away, the gifts have found parking spots around the house, and (perhaps most importantly) school has started again for my four-year-old, it's about time I set a little bit of my day aside to do something I want to do. And I've found that this is often harder to do than all the Christmas preparations combined.

Mommy-time is such a rare commodity nowadays. Whether a woman works outside or inside the home, whether she's a single mom or a married mom, whether she's well-off or financially struggling, one thing seems to unite all of the mothers I meet: the guilt that often accompanies the desire to have even a half hour of time to oneself.

Before I had kids, I thought nothing of driving to the mall after work to window shop for an hour. A two-hour foray at Barnes and Noble was commonplace. Exercise was a given. Even my bi-monthly trip to the salon for a pedicure was something I took for granted. Reading, writing, checking email, surfing the web, talking on the phone with friends--they were as essential to my day as breathing. Now, putting my kids in front of the t.v. while I cook dinner brings a pang of guilt. Asking my daughter to play on her own (something I like to call "independent imaginative playtime") while I read a chapter in a book brings to mind all of the important developmental things I should be doing with her during that time. There is always something else I can do for my family: from teaching the pre-schooler how to read, to teaching the toddler how to use the potty, to teaching my husband how to put away laundry :-) There is always more to do.

So I've realized that instead of waiting until all the work is done, I have to find a way to carve out a space for myself somewhere in the middle of it. So here are the things I have decided to find time for this year:

1. Styling my hair AND brushing my teeth in the same morning. Somehow over the past year, the two have been mutually exclusive. (For the record, the teeth brushing has always won. Which is why most people barely recognize me if I'm not wearing my octopus hair clip. And why people are just now noticing that I am blonde--because wet hair always looks dark).

2. Exercise--45 minutes a day, at least three days a week--because it's the healthy thing to do.

3. Reading at least one chapter of a book each day: currently Carl Hiassen's Nature Girl.

4. Blogging, on occasion.

Now, I'd love to hear from all the moms out there: what do you do each day/week/month/year to find time just for you, and when you've found that time, what's your favorite thing to do with it?

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