Do Moms Need “Me Time”? was originally published March 9, 2009, on my previous blog to accompany a poll I had in the sidebar. I’m republishing now it as-is in 2015 because the discussion is an interesting one. I was tempted to edit it since I would word things differently now. But if I did that, the discussion that follows in the comments might not make as much sense. It’s really striking how a phrase as simple as “me time” can mean such wildly different things to women who have quite a bit in common.
At the time I originally wrote this, Caroline was two and a half years old. She was a pretty high-maintenance baby and toddler.
I will add my current thoughts about “me time” later in a new comment.
Do Moms Need “Me Time” Regularly?
I’ve seen different places around the internet that suggest that moms, especially Christian moms, don’t need “me time” or time to themselves. In fact, to want “me time” is deemed selfish and sinful.
Not to try to tip my hand or skew the poll, but didn’t Jesus himself go off alone?
Maybe I’m just being awfully simplistic in my view that everyone – including mothers – need time alone. But some of the stuff I’ve seen makes it sound like a major sin or character flaw if a woman needs time to herself.
And from my perspective, if would be downright dangerous for some women not to get time to themselves.
I usually don’t say this much when I post a poll, but I have to say that this teaching deeply concerns me. What conclusions have you come to about this topic?
Feel free to vote in the poll in the sidebar and leave a comment!
As an introvert, motherhood and, yes, sometimes marriage, can be draining. Having some time alone each day is essential for me… this is ONE reason that I rise early and maintain an afternoon quiet hour.
Once again it is the ‘contamination’ of something by the world that leads to this issue. I fully agree that women need time out- especially mums from the constant demands of motherhood. Today, for example, I am home alone. My m-i-l picks up the boys at about 11.45 and has them until 4.30 on a Monday. In that time I do housework, watch a t.v programme, do any other tasks that need doing and get tea ready. So it is more ‘time out’ rather than totally me time- but it is a great help to me.
But the world portrays ‘me’ time as indulgent, selfish time- shopping, cinema, spa, relaxing over much- but without any moderation and I think that is the key.The worlds idea of ‘me’ time implies a total selfishness and forgetting about the needs of others (though this morning I must confess to thinking how lovely it would be to wake up and not have to take care of others but just take things at my pace….) It can be a very dangerous thing to expect this worldly ‘me’ time and set store by it- because afterwards you return to the same situation, the same needs and issues and it can make you very resentful of your calling to motherhood (well, I at least have found this to be a temptation.)
The Lord fully understands our need for rest and refreshment from the demands of every day. Sunday being a prime example of His love and understanding. Not a day of rest from our families, but a day away from so many other things that impinge on us during the week.
Personally, if I was denied any time without the demands of motherhood/being a wife, I would crack.
I’ve seen some of that, usually addressed to secular activities like going shopping alone. Though I don’t think even things like that are necessarily sinful.
Much of this criticism, I think, is from extroverts who just don’t understand that introverts NEED time alone to ruminate and process. Introverts and extroverts have significantly different brain function–different preferred neurotransmitters and brain circuits, and vastly different modes of recharging. (According to The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Laney.) An introvert who gets no time alone to think suffers just as much as an extrovert who is forced to take a vow of silence does.
I find that I don’t need a lot of time alone to stay sane, about half an hour to an hour is the minimum, but that I really need it to happen every day. If I don’t get it, I can’t think clearly and I lose all my capacity for empathy. (A one hour break after a workday of 23 hours isn’t unreasonable!)
For spiritual growth alone, even extrovert mothers should take some time alone for prayer and study.
Sallie, we discussed this recently in our Sunday school class, and I am hoping to do a post on it one day. To me, it is a troubling teaching that a woman is selfish to have alone time. I think it’s one thing for her to go off shopping and spending money they don’t have, or neglecting her family, but everyone needs down time sometime.
If a woman has a husband, she is taught to ensure that her husband has down time in the evenings because he works so hard for the family, but yet if a woman has down time, she is sinning? I don’t think so! We are human beings, not robots. I am like you in a lot of ways–I desperatelyneed lots of quiet, alone time daily, or I find myself losing it. Many times during these alone times I’m working around the house, in addition to doing some things I enjoy. I just think better when I’m alone and find myself decompressing when I’m alone. Like you said, Jesus spent time alone also.
I didn’t answer the poll because there was no response for me….
I personally think that mothers do need me time (so do wives), but the amount, frequency, and what happens in that time varies from person to person and from season to season of life.
I absolutely do think that people who say that me-time is a sin are wrong. Likewise, the extremely selfish attitude of “I have to have my time NO MATTER WHAT” is wrong.
However, the balance between the two is unique to each situation.
Case in point: My husband started a new job about 200 m from mine about 6 months ago. While we are enjoying commuting together, I was finding my (introverted) self exhausted because I was never alone (before, I had about 90 min a day by myself… usually I spent this time on housework).
I needed that me-time to be alone, even if I was doing household tasks.
So now, we agreed that I have a weekly Starbucks date by myself to read. For us, the $2 a week (I get teas pretty much exclusively) is a good investment in each other. I sometimes go grocery shopping or something by myself too, just to be alone.
Is this a sin? No! It’s a gift from my husband so that I can recharge. I joke that I love him with all my heart…. but I love him more when I have some time alone too!
Jen – Believe me, the teaching is out there. I purposely did not link to anything about it because it isn’t my intention to start something with other bloggers/writers. But it has been a topic of discussion of late in blogland and I’ve seen at least one ebook out there addressing this topic.
Peggy – I think you are very right. I think it is often extroverted moms who have no idea how introverted moms cope. Your comparison of telling an extrovert she would have to take a vow of silence (or stop interacting with people perhaps) is a good one. It would drive her nuts! Or tell an extroverted mom she needs to send her kids to school all day, send her husband to work, and stay home alone and stay off the phone and computer. And extrovert under those conditions would become seriously depressed. That isn’t the way they are wired.
Janet – Re: your comment about decompressing… That was one of the hardest things for me about Caroline when she was a baby. She would take 45 minute naps and it just about drove me nuts. It took me 30 minutes to decompress when she went down. That meant I had just enough time to start getting something done and she would wake up again. This really was very hard on me. Even now when I work, I cannot sit down and immediately start working. I wish I could do so (like David), but I can’t. I need to unwind in front of my desk and computer before I can become productive with my work.
Have to go make supper… Will try to respond more later. Thanks for the good comments (as always!). 😀
Oh my word, I have never heard of such a thing (telling women they were being sinful for needing time alone). Ridiculous. I must hear the word “Mommy” 200 times a day, and, honestly, by the 127th time, I’m ready to pull my hair out. If it’s sinful for me to desire peace and quiet, then I’m going straight to hell.
I have to agree with the commenter above about extroverts. Those I know seem to never “need a break” from their children and some have acted like it’s a terrible thing that some of us do. I love my children dearly, but as an introvert home alone all day with four children (8, 4, 2.5, and 14 months), I need time alone to recharge. It rarely happens at the moment because dh has been deployed for a year (but with only 3 months to go!) and I feel extremely frazzled because of that. One thing I’ve been doing is getting a sitter to some over twice per month for four hours so I can go to the doctor, grocery shop, or run other errands alone. Even doing “work” stuff seems more relaxing when done ALONE!
I may be kibitzing here, but I think we need to define the definitions used.
Much I what I have seen as “me time” isn’t necessarily quiet time or alone time – both of which everyone needs.
I went to a bible study where they were preaching “me-time” and encouraging mothers, especially young mothers to be out with friends doing “fun girl things” at least twice a week – once during the day with children involved, and once in the evenings. There was no talk about priorities, making sure that needs at home had been met, or ensuring that time with God came before all else. (In fact I don’t remember time with God to be discussed at all.) The study stressed that mothers are women first and need to make sure they don’t get “lost” in all that mothering.
I am an extrovert, so honestly this sounded like wonderful advice. At the time I had four children five and under and was just beginning my home school journey. My husband was working long hours at an incredible new job. I was angry a lot of the time because I wasn’t able to get this necessary “me time” in. I was on my own into the evenings, and homeschooling during the day. I think I thought I deserved (!) that time. But I wasn’t able to get it in.
When I learned that God knows and desires for us to have times of refreshment but that they might not look like the world’s definition, I started to really enjoy the times I did get to recharge, even though they weren’t always weekly.
I think that it’s really the term I dislike. “Me time” means something selfish. It is not biblical. Refreshment, rest, fellowship, alone time – those are all biblical things. Like I said, maybe I’m kibitzing, but somehow it seems important to me to clarify the difference. (So I voted “other”!)
Cathy, I cannot imagine. God bless you for the many sacrifices you have made. I can’t imagine being in that position and NOT being extremely frazzled!
That doesn’t sound like “me time” to me. That sounds like punishment for being a bad mommy! LOL! Ok, not really. But play dates and such are about the furthest thing from my mind when I think of “me time”. But you raised some good points and maybe it would be helpful to define terms a bit.
I agree that having quiet spiritual time is very important. I remember before I had Caroline reading a blogger write about how a mother of many children can get by just on snatches of Scripture or quick prayers throughout the day. That always troubled me. I fully realize I am speaking completely out of my element being the mom of an only, but it concerns me that women would be taught they could thrive spiritually on tiny crumbs scratched out throughout the day. But maybe some of the moms with many children can offer a different perspective.
I have no doubt that there are women who are selfish and neglect their families. But when a mom is home 24/7 with her children, I would hardly call it selfish if she wants to go to Starbucks once a week and read a book or have a quiet time in the evening when dad is home.
I’m glad you like it because I’m sure posts like this have already made me a blacklisted anathema in some segments of the Christian homeschooling community before I even officially get started! LOL! Oh well. I plan on wearing pants to my first homeschooling convention/meeting. I’m very much a skirt and dress kind of girl, but I figure if people aren’t going to like me because I wear pants I might as well just alienate them all right out of the gate and cut to the chase to find out who will accept me for who I am. 😆
I needed it.
And, how is it selfish to return to ones family refreshed?
I’d rather be a breath of fresh-air to my family than the lump under the blanket suffering from a migraine. Which is what would happen to me if I didn’t get it.
Sallie, I LOVE it when you put up a post such as this one.
I purposely did not read comments before posting this—-all I gotta say is these “holier than thou” women who don’t need me time are lying to you. They get it. They get it when they go to the canning bees and do their CVS “deal runs” on Sunday afternoons. Trust me, without some semblance of mom time we’ll all go bananas.
What they want us to feel GUILTY for (and yes, Virginia, it is GUILT they want us to feel) is when we take “me” time for something so shameless like a pedicure, a massage, or dinner out with friends (drinks anyone?).
I’m no wise sage, but I’ve been around long enough to recognize this type of religious guilt usually has more to do with JEALOUSY than anything else. If I thinly veil my jealousy over your pedicure or date night with my “holiness” it makes me feel better about it all. And you might just feel guilty and be as miserable as I am.
Blah. I have no time for guilty theology from women popes on silver pedestals. Come live my life for a few weeks and see if you don’t need some “me” time!!!! 🙂
thought I needed to clarify one teensy thing—
A mom who needs “me” time every day for 6 hours to get pedicures and coffee on a daily basis might be a problem (aka, avoiding motherhood)
But dinner with the girls once a month, or even an hour or two out a week for coffee & errands alone is perfectly fine, normal, happy, blissful, blessed!!!!
I love the thoughts about introverts and extroverts. I have been very harshly judged because I get very, very stressed and very frazzled when there is too much busyness going on, and therefore, say no to a lot of things. As a single homeschooling mother, who is also running a home business, I just cannot handle things that other ladies seem to handle well. I have really realized, especially because of some of your writings, Sallie, that I am the way I am because I’m wired that way, and it’s very, very comforting to me. I thought for years that something was wrong with me.
On the other hand, I’ve judged other women that do a lot of running around. There is nothing wrong with the other ladies either. They are just wired differently. They are doing a wonderful job with their families. I just wish we all would not judge each other and concentrate on our own families and what God wants of us.
Now that I’ve thought about it a little more, I remember there have been times when I was free to run around town baby-free for a bit, that were like a taste of the old freedom that I used to enjoy when I was single/newly married, and it was difficult to shift back into mom-mode and re-shoulder all the responsibilities when I came home. So probably those times weren’t as refreshing or helpful as they could have been. But they were few, and maybe were a just a stage in my growing into the role of mother.
I had never before heard of this concept, that “me” time is sinful, and I confess I went and did a little Googling to see what it’s all about. A couple of the blogs I read were quite eye-opening.
My opinion: God designed our bodies to need fuel and rest. We’re not made to keep going-going-going all the time. I’m baffled that apparently some types of rest (i.e., sleep at night) are acceptable and other types (during the day, when awake) are inherently selfish and sinful.
I find it troubling that some fellow Christians have point-blank said taking time for personal refreshment is sinful. I don’t seem to recall an admonition against it in the Bible…it’s kind of interesting that others feel so comfortable telling fellow Christians what constitutes un-Biblical selfishness or sin.
As always, thanks for a provocative and thoughtful post, Sallie!
One of my favorite Charlotte Mason genre writers is Karen Andreola. She writes about the term “Mother Culture”, that mothers cannot truly give to their children unless they have been giving themselves time to be alone and read, create, rest, etc.
Once in awhile I get a call from Stephanie from her van where she is heading to a coffee shop, bookstore, etc. Her hubby works long hours and has a very long commute but he gives her time away and watches their four children so she can keep her sanity.
Sometimes she forgets she was a Dean Scholar. She says each baby took part of her brain and she needs to get recharged.
I haven’t read all the other replies yet, but here’s my thoughts.
I think every woman has varying thresholds of being able to tolerate the demands of motherhood, being a wife, etc. So the same “Me” time prescription that works for one woman may not work for another. (What she chooses to do with her “me” time speaks a lot to me, oddly enough though.)
I don’t like that it is called “me” time as it does seem to point to complete indulgent selfishness. If anything, I believe husbands are called to make sure their wives are being provided and cared for, and one thing they can do is make sure their wives are being refreshed spiritually, mentally and physically by having some break time. I don’t think it’s selfish at all. A man should never refer to this “break” or solitude time as his wife’s “me” time.
NOW, on the other hand, I know way too many women (and men) who take too much selfish “me” time. They seem to always be in pursuit of “ladies night out” or “poker night” or whatever. And I believe there’s a happy medium. . .
For me, having 5 children (3 under the age of 2 1/2 years), such solitude time is hard to come by. A 10 minute soak in the tub ALONE is “me” time while I read my devotion or pray. I do not regularly take “me” time, but when I feel my tank getting low, I let my husband know I need to go run some errands alone. I rarely do anything for pleasure (like go to the movies or the bookstore/library anymore) by myself. I usually enjoy taking some of the kids with me. I’ve learned that God takes care of my needs if I rely on Him. While I’m in an unbalanced season of life, somehow, I feel like I’ve gotten a great perspective on purpose in life and how to really enjoy the “small” things that I used to take for granted.
I wanted to throw out something else here.
While I think solitude with God is a good thing (as Jesus sought with the Father), I gag at the recitation, “You have to love yourself in order to love someone else”.
Jesus loved us by putting Himself last.
I believe you can love others and be effective even when you do not “love” yourself.
But believe me, I do think some solitude time doing that which refreshes the individual woman is something all moms should be given by their husbands. But sometimes, “me” time has to take a backburner when other priorities are calling.
I started leaving a comment before and then it went on and on and then next I knew I had somehow combined it with my designated blog post for today. So, I posted my thoughts there and came back to try to be brief. Did you know the Bible says that where there are many words sin abounds? I must be a terribly sinful woman. 🙂
Anyhow, I sort of went off on a tangent about how this idea relates to a highly technological life. I think that a simpler life naturally has room in it for both socializing and thinking alone, and both of those things occur in a way that is positive and unselfish as well. I was sort of addressing not whether or not it is okay to want or need me time but rather why we feel we need it or are not getting it in the first place.
Of course, there are always really hard times that won’t fit into the mold of my big brush strokes, but there you are.
I always appreciate the way in which you raise your concerns because you are so gracious.
As for my own life, I get plenty of happy time. It isn’t all alone time, but we’ve developed a satisfying life as far as the average day goes. I don’t begrudge other women developing their talents or bonding with friends, either. There was a time in my life where I pursued such things in a selfish, sinful way, but that doesn’t mean those things are inherently selfish.
I do wish we could think of a better word because I think part of the red flag response deals with the word “me.” It smacks of selfishness, even when that isn’t what it’s meant to describe. I think someone above said downtime. I liked that. It reminded me of more of a Sabbath-type approach. In fact, I wonder if, when our society deliberately practiced the Sabbath, that made any difference on frustration levels? Maybe folks didn’t have to demand restful time because there was a day that it was planned within the culture. Hmmm…
It is interesting how different people react to the term “me time” and how some will include certain activities and others will not. Frankly, I think of my time walking on the treadmill and watching a DVD as “me time” even though I do it more because I care about my health than it is necessarily the activity I most want to pursue at that time. I would also consider a quiet time with God “me time” although obviously many others would not.
But I would consider ANY time that I get a mental and physical break from caring for Caroline “me time”. So I would include uninterrupted showers, reading a book, going to the store alone, and having a babysitter while I work also versions of “me time”. From my perspective, it is primarily about being completely relieved of the mental and physical focus of caring for Caroline. That is a break for me, even if I am doing something else deemed “homemaking” or “necessary”. Even cooking a meal can be “me time” if David takes Caroline outside to play and I get to do it in peace and quiet.
Quiet time alone with my thoughts = me time (for me).
Brandy – I think your last point here about our society and the Sabbath is an interesting one. As far as your blog post, I agree with what you wrote on the whole, but I need to think about it a bit. There is something there I’m not quite sure of, but I’m not sure what it is! 😆
Thinking out loud: I wonder how much of this struggle comes from women having full and productive lives before marriage and/or motherhood?
The Me Time debate!
I think the problem is, and I have been guilty of this myself, is when you get frustrated and start thinking, “I need some alone time!” What you might be looking to do is escape and regress.
Sometimes I feel like some of the Me Time crew (at least around me) want to recreate the past, by going out for girls’ nights out at bars or restaurants, drinking loads of wine, going away on girls weekends’ which also include lots of wine, that kind of thing. Wine being a theme. And husbands and fathers certainly can do this also, with sports, cards, guys’ weekends away…
The problem with that type of thinking is that you can’t recreate the past and you will be sorely disappointed if you try. Sometimes accepting the fact that this is your life now, as wonderful and chaotic and messy as it is, is the best thing you can do in the moment.
Carving out time for exercise, reading, writing, praying, whatever it is that you need to regain energy, is not Me Time in my opinion. That is just maintenance. Every person, whether man or woman, needs at least an hour a day to keep themselves physically, spiritually and mentally fit in my opinion.
I also love the comments on the introvert/extrovert thing. I am an introvert and so much of what you all wrote rang true for me! Sometimes on Saturdays, my husband will take the kids out for a few hours and I usually use the time to tidy and organize, and I’m like a new woman when he gets back!
This is a frustating question for me. I think alot has to do with seasons in our life. I have had people (my mom) give me a bad time because I don’t leave my newborn/infants with other people, and Idon’t really leave my older kids on week long event and stuff like that.
With that said. I don’t think it is that hard to stick a newborn in a sling or stroller and go to the mall or Barnes and NOble and have a very relaxing time and it is great. BUT if I don’t get a break from my very needy toddler and preschooler every day I will lose my mind. That break might be being in the same room with them but that Dh is in charge or while dh is doing baths and I am onthe computer or whatever. I like to get away from the house by myself too but it isn’t a regular occurance and that is okay with me.
I have heard the comments “the last time Igot an hour for myself was when I had my last baby” or “I amhappy with a 10 minute shower you have a whole hour to yourself” I have had days/weeks like that but it isn’t a moral issue, sometimes youjust have to do it but there isn’t any spiritural value in it. These ladies are making their own choices, and it is fine if you choose not to take any time for yourself or put any responisblity on parenting to your husband but the snide comments are not necessary. Ugg. 🙂
I think everyone needs time for rest, and everyone needs time for recreation.
Husbands/dads need time for those things just as much as wives/moms. I think it’s fair for wives to ask husbands to give them time away from the mental and emotional pressure of childcare, and in return, I think it would be good for wives to offer their husbands the same – time away from the pressures of caring for wife and kids to rest and have fun.
Our ability to get rest and recreation varies from season to season of life. When we have a newborn, for example, we have to realize we’re giving up our “right” to sleep uninterrupted, be away from home for long periods, etc. Demanding certain rights to “me time” to the detriment of our family members isn’t good – sometimes their needs do have to come first. But keeping a healthy balance is also important. Without enough time to be alone with my thoughts, I do become emotionally and mentally unable to care for my family properly. Do I get as much recreation time as I wish I could have? No – I don’t think any responsible adult does! But with the support of my husband and God’s grace, I do get enough.
Our need for downtime (I agree, I like that better than “me time”) varies by personality type, as many other commentors mentioned. As an introvert, I am with Sallie – I have to decompress (thanks for articulating that! I thought I was the only person with that problem when I sit down to work!), and I think and process by writing, so if I don’t get some time every few days (ideally every day) to be quiet and write, I go a little crazy in my head. A lot of that depends on my own self-discipline, though. If I get all my responsibilities taken care of and discipline myself to rise early or focus during nap time, I can usually create that time alone for myself. I think it would be unfair for me to be undisciplined/lazy all day, leaving necessary things around the house undone, then dump the kids/housework on my husband so I can catch up.