The best use of your most precious resource – downtime!

Woman in bed

For new mums, finding some alone time can seem nigh on impossible; but with the right planning, it can be done.

If allowed to properly consider what our most precious resource is, most of us will eventually go with “time”. 

New mothers don’t need to think too hard about this one – we’re constantly reminded that whoever thought a meager 24 hours would be an adequate amount of time in a day to get everything done, wasn’t responsible for looking after a baby.

So when you get half an hour, an hour, or on those rare and wonderful days, a whole afternoon to yourself, here’s what to do.

Firstly, don’t panic. Breathe, and read on … From cathartic cleaning to magical massages, we caught up with some new mums at mother’s group and asked what their favourite ways to unwind were.

1. Massage your cares away

While a remedial massage can be a great use of downtime, a word of warning: it’s important to tailor the experience correctly. Melissa explains, “If I’m thinking about how I forgot to tell my husband what time is nap time, or I’ve only got one hour parking, or the masseur is asking me all these questions, it’s like – arrgghh! I’m thinking I’m going to feel worse after this, and then I do.”

It pays to plan ahead so you’re not under time pressure, write down some instructions for hubby and tell your therapist your preference for conversation, and how hard (or soft!) you like it. “When everything is right – wow! It’s amazing.”

Read more on making time for you:

 

Mum doing yoga outside

2. Work up a sweat

As if us new mums don’t get enough cortisol in our lives, Emily says she likes to do a session at the gym to make the most of her downtime.

“I don’t get to go often, maybe twice a week,” she tells the group, “So I find classes are the best way to stay focused. Grid is my favourite, and kick-boxing.” She laughs. Does she imagine her husband’s sleeping face on the bag? “Sometimes! Yes, absolutely!”

If your budget allows, personal training is a great option, as it allows a bit more flexibility than classes. Whatever your choice, be sure to set aside at least 15 minutes extra time before or after your routine, to relax and mentally reset over a coffee or green smoothie.

 

3. Head for your nearest hair salon

Whether it’s a cut, a colour, blow-dry, or if you’re lucky, all of the above, a regular appointment with your hairdresser will allow you to carve out some all-important “you time” and help you feel like your old self again.

“I try to get there 10 minutes early,” says Bec, “Then I can just relax, read a magazine, and get in the right frame of mind to chill.” Like barmen, hairdressers are famed conversationalists, so it’s a great opportunity for a non-baby-focused adult conversation – free from judgment (and, sadly, cocktails) – but make the most of it.

“I haven’t had much time or inclination to shop for clothes [since my daughter arrived]”, adds Bec, “but when my hair looks good I feel great in just about anything.”

Woman reading a book

4. Lose yourself in another world

“A gym session sounds way too intense for me,” says Kelly, “I’m going to go with reading.” What does she love about it? “It’s just … Escapism … I mean, let’s be real, life with a newborn isn’t always – isn’t ever – really glamorous, so it’s nice to just mentally check out for awhile … Plus it’s quiet so you can do it during nap time.”

So, are there any downsides we should make our readers aware of? “No matter how much of a page-turner you’re reading, bedtime is bedtime,” warns Kelly. “Whenever I’ve stayed up late to finish a book, I have regretted it the next morning – for me, sleep is priority number one.”

5. And now for the less glamorous option … Getting ahead on housework

It doesn’t make sense to everyone in the group, but Sam likes to get ahead on chores in her downtime. “It’s kind of a trade-off,” she tells us, “By cooking some meals for the week and doing a quick vac, I feel like I can relax properly after that.”

Sam says that she often gets this time back, later in the day, “If I get two hours on a Sunday afternoon while the boys are out for a walk and I get things done and off my list, that means I get an hour on the couch with hubby that night, a long shower and an extra half hour sleep.”

All this sounds fabulous, but how can you make these gold dust moments happen on the regular?

The late great Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and internationally renowned master of personal improvement liked to say, “The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” 

Starting today, why not put your time in your diary first, send your partner an iCal invitation and make sure they’re on the same page.

Realise it’s important to look after yourself, so you can look after your family – no guilt necessary. Why not start with two hours, twice a week, just for you?

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