When I was asked to write a piece on ‘me-time for young mothers’, my first response was a chuckle. “What’s that?” I thought. Then I warned the commissioning editor that it would probably be an essay about how mothers couldn’t imagine ‘me-time’. As the restless mother of an energetic toddler, I can vouch that we all yearn for it. And we do manage to sneak some time out of the day—between homework crises and play-time disasters—for ourselves. It’s those rare moments when we don’t have to meet expectations and manage everything from nutrition to education.
Moms relish those few moments, and most importantly, really need it. And so, I decided to keep that long essay for a day when I find enough me-time to write it. For now, here’s what some other moms told me.
Dr. Shanthala S, 45, pathologist and mother of two daughters, 14 and 4
For Dr. Shanthala, who works at a cancer centre in Bengaluru as a pathologist from 9am to 4pm, with a 40-minute commute each way, me-time is “just part of the day”. She loves her morning routine—waking up before everyone else, brewing her tea and being alone with her thoughts. She says her husband, in-laws and house-help provide a robust support system, helping her manage her full schedule. The commute to work is another opportunity to relax when she plays her favourite music. “I have young, energetic, fun-loving colleagues. They push me to take time out. Of late, I have started going trekking with them. I really enjoy it. If a holiday with family is planned, we go to a resort.” Shanthala, who is working on her PhD, believes one is able to “perform better at home” if one gets some me-time outside of it. “It is important to be connected with people outside the family. You feel better when you are independent. We have to make people realise that gender-based division of work is not good.”
Shradhha Sinha, 31, marketing professional, currently a full-time mother of a two-year-old girl
Shradhha is among the new mothers who struggled during last year’s lockdown as neither hired help nor family could support her with an infant. As soon as travel restrictions of the first lockdown were eased, Shradhha went from Bengaluru to her parents’ place in Patna. “When I was home for six months, I could find pockets of me-time through the day. Sometimes just a 10-minute break is all you need.” Through most of 2020, soon after her child was born, she was “on high alert” all the time, managing a baby alone and juggling all the chores. “When I had a few minutes to myself, I would just aimlessly and meaninglessly scroll through my phone. If you ask me what I did, I wouldn’t remember. I think my brain just stops processing information during my downtime,” Shradhha says. “I don’t even want to close my eyes or try a guided meditation because I feel the time will go faster. I want to capture and savour every moment that’s mine. At night, I watch reruns of shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I don’t have the bandwidth to process any new information.”
Yogita Vetale, in her 40s, IT architect and mother to a 13-year-old daughter
For Bengaluru-based Yogita, downtime is “us-time”, which she spends with her teenage daughter on the weekends, watching movies together. “I cut out household activities like cooking by ordering food. That gives me most of Saturday and Sunday.” Her full-time, high-pressure job at an IT company requires her to be logged in for at least 10 hours at a stretch daily on weekdays. Her husband has recently been transferred out of Bengaluru, which means all parenting responsibilities, including online schooling, are hers. “I try to get some me-time before I sleep. I read and write for 10-15 minutes after my daughter goes to sleep. Sometimes I attend virtual meet-ups of a women’s networking group or try to get a short walk after dinner.” She says it is important “not to carry guilt” about taking take time out once in a while by sending the child to a friend or family member who is ready to babysit.
Dr. Nishita Shetty Rao, 44, gynaecologist, professional dancer and mother to two sons, 16 and 12
A practising gynaecologist and mother to two sons, Dr. Rao is also a professional Bharatnatyam dancer. “It is important to make time to do whatever suits you, even if it is just half an hour.” Work pressure notwithstanding, she has rediscovered her passion for dance. “I got back to dancing after almost 25 years during the pandemic. I have started performing professionally again and it is great. I like making time for this and I am able to do it.” And if there is any time left after all this, she likes to socialise, watch a movie or go out for dinner to unwind.