Why do mums struggle to find time for themselves?

Alex Molton explores why mums struggle to find time for themselves, and why we feel guilty if we do.

Two friends driving away in an old car towards the countryside


Following on from the relative success of a night away with the hubs a few weeks ago, this week I am counting down the days to a night away with my best friend.

Having been friends for well over a decade we have seen each other through many ups and downs, supported each other through the transition of toddlers to teenagers, new jobs and homes and text each other most days just to check in with how we are both doing. With a similar view of the world in many ways and a similar sense of humour it’s an easy relationship (though she does describe me as the annoying little sister she never had!).

We both work really hard at work and at home so it’ll be a well-deserved night away from the responsibilities of kids, husbands, dogs and homes. Plus a chance to properly chat about something other than homework, jobs, family life and our endless to-do lists.

With busy lives and five kids between us it has taken us a little while to find a date we could both actually make (and even then part of the weekend is being hijacked by taking our eldest boys to a local college open day). Looking at possible places to stay it made me think, though, of how hesitant many mums are to carve out these times for themselves; not just weekends away or nights out (which are often prohibited by lack of funds anyway), but even time during the day for them to do something just for them. But none of the mums I know would hesitate to gift this time, space and understanding to anyone else in their lives. So why don’t we deserve the same?

I have a few friends who have an annual trip away with friends, but these seem to be proceeded by intense negotiations with husbands about how long they are away and exactly what needs to happen when they aren’t there, or sometimes calling in the grandparents to support dad whilst mum has gone AWOL. Luckily, our OHs are pretty good, so although we will return home to a degree of chaos (and always dirty crockery and clothes strewn all around the house – why?) the kids will have been well looked after.

I just about remember the hazy, zombie years of babies and toddlers, when you are just trying to survive the day and every day seems a repeat of the one before, but as kids get older you’d imagine there is more time. However, it seems that any spare minute is soon swallowed up by extra work, after school activities and, for some, looking after older parents who need support. There is never, ever enough time. So no wonder we find it hard to find time for us in the everyday highway of family life, and that we feel guilty when we go and read a book in the bath or head out for a run when we could be doing something ‘productive’ like folding laundry, emptying dishwashers or changing beds.

For many families it makes sense for someone to stay at home (or work part time) and take on the lion’s share of the jobs, whilst their partner takes on more responsibility for earning money to keep the house going. But does it need to be mums at home and dads going out to work? Not really, but even today this is the case for most families. Even the mums I know who work full time pick up the majority of the housework and responsibility for remembering the entire family’s activities, plans and appointments. There are many, many demands on our very precious time.

Having been more proactive about taking back some time for myself and resisting the urge to sack off exercise or time with friends for all the jobs I ‘should’ be doing this year, I am determined to at least try and maintain some momentum and make sure that, although it might not be possible to have time to myself every day, I give myself some time when I can, and don’t feel bad about neglecting all of the things that seem important (but can wait). I hope you can find a way to do this in some way too. After all, life is short and modern living is exhausting. We all deserve a break sometimes.

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