Yes, Mothers too deserve ‘me time’
In the past decade, studies have shown that, despite the apparent improvements in women’s lives over the last 50 years, women’s happiness levels have steadily declined. There are many theories as to why this is happening. However, one could argue that it’s because women’s lives are more hectic now than ever. More women are trying to juggle a career, relationships, a family, a household, friendships, and other activities outside the home. And they are trying to do it all at once.
The fact is motherhood is a full-time job that requires a lot of sacrifice. Yes, being a mother is an exciting experience, but it can also be stressful and increase the risk of getting mental illness.
Mental health, a challenge
Worldwide, about 10 per cent of pregnant women and 13 per cent of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. This is according to World Health Organisation. In developing countries this is even higher at 15.6 per cent during pregnancy and 19.8 per cent after childbirth. In severe cases, mothers’ suffering might be so severe that they may even commit suicide. Globally maternal mental health problems are considered as a major public health challenge.
Unfortunately, most mothers don’t know how to take a break from this lifetime duty.
“I am a full-time working mum, and I love my children to the moon and back. But honestly, the more they grow, the more that phrase ‘I will rest when I die’ makes a more realistic sense. My life revolves around theirs and my work. Sometimes it’s so much pressure and worrying from both ends. The work leaves are more exhausting than the normal work days,” shares Irene Akinyi, a civil servant and a mother of three boys.
When a mum is constantly engaged in motherhood duties without taking a break for the much needed ‘me time’, she could become overwhelmed, angry and frustrated. This leads to burnout, build-up of resentment and harsh self-judgment.
To mark this years Mother’s Day, Topister Juma, Founder of the Mombasa Women Human Right Defenders and Female Journalists Network, organised a two days retreat at the Turtle ay Resort in Watamu, to give the women the much needed time for self-care.
“I organised this retreat as a form of psychosocial support for women, with the support of Article 19 Eastern Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri). As a founder and a mother, I understand very well what they are going through, especially this time when the economy is not friendly to all of us. It’s rare for me to relax, especially when around my jurisdiction of work. I receive calls even during the weekend from the community for assistance, majority are survivors of gender based violence— I’m a human rights defender and so, I cannot sleep if people are violated. I have to come out and intervene. I only have my self-care time when I’m out of the country and my phone is off,” shares the rights defender.
Giving her case as an example, Topister believes most mothers never have the ‘me time’. They get too tired and broken, but put on a smiling face because the community depends on them. But in real sense, they suffer in silence.
Life is valuable
“I for one, don’t have someone to share my challenges with and even if I get a volunteer, I will not be able to open up because these are people I work with in my daily work activities and we meet in different meetings and functions. We don’t have a structure for helping mothers, especially women human rights defenders. This month is also Mental Heath Awareness month, I don’t want my colleagues to get into depression, that’s why I organised this event,” she adds.
As Counseling Psychologist, Naomi Ngugi shares, it is important for every mother to have ‘me time’ for purposes of their mental wellness, happiness and overall well- being. By having ‘me time’, a mother teaches her children that her individual interests matter and her life outside her children is valuable.
“Before becoming a mum, a woman has goals, aspirations and dreams and these things still matter to her even after she becomes a mum. During ‘me time’, a mum is able to reflect on these goals and individual plans, which gives her a sense of fulfilment,” advises Naomi.
She explains further that having a happy and fulfilled mother benefits the children more than having a mother who sacrifices her passions for her children. Children learn by modelling. Therefore, when they see their mum taking time off to have her me time, they learn that her mother values herself as much as she values them. This is a powerful lesson because it teaches the children to value themselves as much as they value others and not to sacrifice their passions for other’s sake.
Ways to relax
“Taking time off to have time off makes a mum a better mum. The more a mum fills her fulfilment tank, the more she is able to pour into her children. ‘Me time’ is an integral part of self-care for mothers and, therefore, it should not be optional. It doesn’t have to be a whole day break or an expensive affair. Even 10 minutes ‘me time’ everyday can increase the overall well-being of a mum, making her become a better version of herself. Waking up earlier than the rest of the family to have some me time, enjoying a cup of tea alone in peace and quietness before the day begins is a simple, yet profound me time that helps a mom to be well grounded for the rest of the day. Going for a walk alone, taking some few minutes alone to write in your journal at the end of the day are some of the ways a mum can have ‘me time’. Calling a friend, engaging in a hobby or going for beauty care are other ways a mum can have her me time. Whatever it is that a mum chooses to do for her ‘me time’, should be all in and not allow her mind to wander off thinking of her children and other duties that she needs to attend to. The purpose of ‘me time’ is for the mum to feel relaxed and be herself,” the expert says in ending.