Zen Mama Boot Camp

The most surefire way to keep your sanity is to take time for yourself... even if you haven’t exactly figured out how to make it happen in the ever-changing reality that is parenthood



shannon on rocks in california

Life is moving at warp speed, and to be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping up. After an exhausting trip to not-so-sunny California, I find myself staring down a long list of deadlines, including yet another move on Thursday. At least we’re only moving down the street. But still, the stress of it all is starting to wear me down. While Coraline is finally sleeping, I can’t, and am waking up painfully exhausted, grouching my way through the day. And that’s just bumming me out, because there’s a lot of amazing stuff happening amid the chaos. Coraline is crawling, clapping, walking (with assistance), and rolling around all over the place — she’s having so much fun, I hate to waste moments fretting over how much I have to do. But it’s not even just all there is to do: I’m burnt out, plain and simple.

In California, my two would-be sister-in-laws and I stole away for a short hike sans kids. As we climbed a windy hill to look out across the Colorado Desert, conversation turned to the challenge of taking care of yourself when your job (or one of them, at least) is taking care of everyone else. Since their kids are older than Coraline, it was both relieving and disheartening to learn that they are still trying to master the art of “me time” — I sort of thought it was just a new mom thing. But at least they figured out that the most surefire way to keep your sanity is to take time for yourself, even if they haven’t exactly figured out how to make it happen in the ever-changing reality that is parenthood (and partnership). Still, they had more than a few words of wisdom for me:

First, you have to really internalize that motherhood does not equal martyrdom. The kids will survive if you go to a yoga class and leave them with grandma or sleep in on a Sunday and let dad handle the morning. Taking that hour or two (or even six, if you need it) does not make you a selfish or bad mother — it makes you a human, and may actually make you a calmer, happier parent and partner.

Secondly, you have to figure out what constitutes “you time” to you. And housework doesn’t count, apparently. If you’re anything like me, when I get a free moment or two I always have laundry to fold, dishes to do, floors to vacuum, bills to pay, or articles to write, and I’ve come to consider chore-time me-time because, well, it’s the only time it’s just me. This does not work, they insist. Do something that is restful and restorative for you, something that feeds your soul (or your hankering for a good pampering). Go for a run, meditate, take a nap. Or sit on the couch with Vanity Fair and a glass of wine.

Lastly (and here’s the hardest part it seems) you have to remember that you not only deserve a break, you need a break, so don’t ask for it — demand it. Schedules can get hectic, and it can be difficult to reconcile personal needs in the fray. But they were very clear on this point: you need to take care of yourself. So whether it’s just 10 minutes in the bathroom or a full hour out and about, it’s as much a priority as cooking dinner or taking the car in for an oil change.

An exact science it is not, but certainly noteworthy. Until I’m packed, moved, with deadlines met, chore-time as me-time will have to do. But then I’m looking forward to figuring out how to recharge my battery and get back on the sunny side of the street.


One mom's plan to raise a kid — without raising greenhouse gases

About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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