Queer Mom Chronicles: Why Is It So Hard for Us To Take Time for Ourselves?

As a parent, and more specifically as a mom, one of the things I find the hardest is carving out time for myself. This is especially true as the default parent. More often than not, I don’t even think about trying to make time for myself, because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to make it happen. But that means I will eventually get to a point where I can’t keep ignoring myself, and I crack under the pressure. And then I’m like, why do I keep doing this to myself? It’s a vicious cycle that I’m sure a lot of my fellow parents can relate to.

A couple weeks ago, I got on a plane and went home to New York for the weekend to go to a concert with one of my besties. One of the boy bands we have loved since the 90s (shoutout to Westlife) was finally coming from Ireland to the U.S. to perform for the first time ever. She had gotten us the tickets back in the fall, and I was so excited for it. But as excited as I was, I also felt really guilty. If I travel, it becomes a delicate juggling game at home. My wife has to adjust her work schedule to make sure she’s around to pick up the kiddo from school and such, which can be a pain sometimes. That also limited the time I could travel, because if she was working an early shift, that means that I had to be home to take care of everyone and get my son off to school. It was surprisingly hard to find a mid-morning flight!

Flying to NYC is not cheap, and because life kept getting in the way, I had to keep putting off buying my plane ticket. This meant that by the time I had to buy it, the ticket was probably double what it would have cost before, which sucked. Guilt coursed through me as I hit buy, even though I found the best possible deal that fit my needs. It’s infuriating how much airlines try to nickel and dime you though; it shouldn’t have cost me an extra hundred dollars to upgrade to the economy status that allowed me to bring a carry-on! But I digress.

A few days before my trip, my wife and I discussed the money I was spending for the trip. She was rightfully concerned, and the guilt over spending money on the trip had been looming over me for weeks — constantly looping in my mind and forming a pit in my stomach. I sat for a few minutes before calmly (and also tearfully) explaining to her that I knew the timing was inconvenient money-wise, but the reason I couldn’t book when it was cheaper was because I had used that money for the house. I was always putting everyone else in our house: her, our son, heck, even the pets, before myself, and it was starting to take its toll. My whole life revolves around our home, and while I love our little family so much, I was beyond burnt out. I didn’t want it to be a competition about which one of us works harder or deals with more, because she sacrifices a lot for the family too. But I could feel the last bits of my strength withering away quickly, and I know that once that happens, I am utterly useless to everyone.

So despite my anxiety about flying, I got on a plane and flew across the country. The weekend was exactly what I needed to fill my cup: gabbing with my bestie for hours into the night, sleeping in a bed without being crushed by a small dog and cat, going to a concert I’ve been waiting to see for 24 years, and eating multiple slices of Staten Island pizza. I even got my bestie to take me to get bagels and Italian pastries and cookies so I could bring them home and share with my wife and son. They can’t resist an NYC bagel. Despite an absolutely hellacious flight home, I felt more refreshed than I have in months. The trip reminded me how important it is to make time for myself, even if it feels impossible.

It doesn’t have to be something big like a trip across the country to hang out with your best friend. Even something as simple as telling your partner (if you have one) to do the bedtime routine so you can take an extra long shower or bath is a start. Or take some time and take yourself out to dinner or lunch, or even to a movie. Call your bestie and chat for more than 20 minutes. Whatever it takes to fill your cup!

Why is it so hard for us moms to make time for ourselves, even if there are two of us in the home? Sometimes, I think it’s a lot of logistics. Childcare is hard to come by, especially when everyone in your circle also works a lot. My wife and I also hate to put all of the household chores on one person, so that’s a big thing as well. If one of us is gone, that means the other has to take care of everyone in the house, and that is a lot. Yes, we only have one kid, but we have five pets, three of whom require a lot of attention. And then there’s stuff like laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. It’s so much for one person to juggle that we don’t want to put the burden on each other unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I also think there’s still a lot of outside pressure on moms to just do it all and suck it up, even though it’s detrimental to our well being to try. Moms are supposed to be superheroes, and superheroes don’t need breaks. They say you can’t pour from an empty cup, but that’s not true if you’re a mom. Moms are supposed to have a neverending spring to constantly pour from. Most days, it takes all I have to get up and go through the routine of feeding everyone, taking my son to school, and then working before making dinner and turning into an amorphous blob on the couch for a couple hours before bed. When I do have the extra energy, I don’t have the money or time or interest to do something for myself. Even sitting on the couch and reading a book is hard when all I want to do is take my brain out of my head for a bit.

Moms are taught that because we chose to become parents, that we’re not allowed to complain about how hard it is or take time for ourselves. Yes, I wanted to be a mom, but that doesn’t mean that I have to live my entire life in service of my family. I deserve to hold on to some semblance of Sa’iyda as a person — even if I constantly have to redefine what that looks like. Instead, I feel intense waves of grief when I decide to accept a work trip or try to spend some time with friends if that means it will affect my family.

There have been many times when I’ve said that I’m going to make a stronger effort to take time for myself and that lasts for a couple weeks before I fall right back into the routine of ignoring my needs. I wish I could say that I will do the things I need to carve out consistent time for myself, but I know I’d be lying. Sometimes even showering feels like too much work. I know that I need to, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to reprogram yourself. The best I can do is try to catch myself before I get too burnt out. Even that will take a lot of effort.

Are you good at taking time for yourself, or are you like me? How do you find ways to make time for yourself?


Queer Mom Chronicles is a biweekly column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes. 

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 128 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Sa’iyda! I feel you so much on this one! The guilt when I leave town for a chosen trip is intense and with two small kids it almost always seems to happen that one or both of them gets sick when I’m gone, which adds to the already crushing load put onto one parent.

    I am trying to incorporate a thing into my life where I do something for me that I love on a regular basis — right now it’s a 2-3 hour gathering every other weekend that incorporates yoga/dance/movement. The big trips away are great, too, and can be transformative but I’m trying to take smaller, more manageable bites that refill my cup somewhat. No guilt and less strain on one’s partner.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • yes! it always feels like something goes wrong! i remember once i was gone for just the day and the dog was sick and then my kiddo and wife got sick and it was a whole mess to come home to! it’s great that you get to take that regular time for yourself; i’m looking into getting back into yoga, but i have yet to find a place that has what i’m looking for.

  2. Not a parent and never plan to be but even as a kid I always wished my parents would have taken more time for themselves. It was so rare that they went on so much as a date night and neither of them really had hobbies aside from occasionally going to the gym. I can only imagine how overwhelming it feels but I’m really glad to hear you’re able to make time for self care!!

  3. I’ve only traveled alone for work, but honestly travel stresses me out, so it’s not something I often think to do for fun. Though my husband and I did go on a trip to a friend’s wedding without my child last summer and that was actually really lovely, so maybe we can try to do a variation of that at some point.

    I am somewhat better (though imperfect) at scheduling smaller things for myself. I’ve been pretty consistent about boxing classes lately and a short online yoga session most mornings, and I get a massage from a friend who’s a masseuse every couple of months. I think it helps that those things are pretty obviously linked to my mental health/anxiety, so it’s quick feedback that if I start missing them frequently then everyone will be effected by the negative consequences.

    • travel is stressful af, which is why i don’t do it often either. taking that time for yourself is so important, and i’m glad you do it in ways that feel good for you!

  4. This is a tough one! I too forget to shower, lol, though it’s not something I enjoy-more of a self-care chore. I have an online dnd group that used to play weekly but has gotten less consistent, but that’s huge for me in terms of connection and playfulness that make me feel like myself. It’s hard bc she’s very little still, but I’ve also started just taking our toddler along to stuff I want to do and that fills my cup-like local JVP meetings or protests, bookstore runs, etc. It’s not perfect but it’s a way to prioritize myself while still doing my share of the care work.

    • i actually enjoy taking a shower, sometimes it just feels like a chore and then i can’t be bothered, lol. i remember the years with a toddler in tow and how sometimes it’s nice and sometimes it’s stressful. it definitely gets easier as they get older.

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