Kid waving goodbye to mom to symbolise the benefits of spaceWomen are constantly taught to be small. I used to (and still do!) tell my two daughters over and over again to “take up your space.” I wanted them to learn to combat the gendered messaging they would inevitably receive telling them to shrink themselves. Babysitter reading with child to show the benefits of space

For women who choose to become moms, that message only intensifies. Moms are consistently told to put their children first, which is a wonderful message in and of itself, but the often unspoken implication of putting your kids first is that you put yourself last (though it doesn’t have to be this way — read more here).

Often, mothers shrink themselves by no longer pursuing their hobbies, changing their career goals, eating the foods their kids will eat. In time they just disappear and become “mom” while they’re focused on raising their kids. And this is a fair coping mechanism given the craziness that ensues, especially in early motherhood. I think back to the days when my two girls were young and I remember often feeling exhausted. There were so many workouts that I missed and kid-friendly meals that I ate while racing around attending to them. 

Woman with child on her back to show the benefits of spaceIt can be especially difficult for moms to leave their kids without feeling guilty or selfish. Again, the message we receive is often that “good moms put their kids first, sacrificing their own interests and needs in the process.” New moms often feel nervous about leaving their kids with a babysitter, for example. Of course, it is normal to feel that way, yet taking time for yourself does not mean you are taking something away from your child. When you think about meeting your own needs, pursuing your own interests, and being away from your child — regardless of their age — there are some important questions you might want to consider. Here are a few things to ask yourself:

  • What could I do with 30 to 60 minutes? 
  • What does my body need? 
  • What does my mind need? 
  • What can I do to feel rejuvenated and refreshed? Woman drinking tea to show the benefits of space

Is there a bit of the mental load you could put down, even for a short time? Imagine yourself after taking that time. Really see it in detail! Do you see how it can enhance your well-being? Do you also see that taking some time for yourself to recharge your batteries can allow you to be more present with your child? It follows then that time away can actually strengthen your bond with your child.

If you have a support system that can allow you to have even just 30 to 60 minutes for yourself, it may benefit both you your kid for you to use it. I tend to find the cliche that you “can’t pour from an empty cup” to be pretty accurate. At the same time, it tends to be harder for moms to give ourselves what we need than it is for us to give others what they need. It may be that by taking even a little space and time away from our kids, we can actually enhance rather than hurt our connections with them.