Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (November 5, 2015)
One of my friends from Singapore messaged me out of the blue one day saying that she was coming to town and could meet up for lunch. I was expecting to see her husband and her two kids (aged 5 and 8 at the time) in tow but she sat at a table for 2 waiting for me to sit down. This mum is a hands-on mum who made a decision when she was pregnant that she wasn’t going to have a helper and that she would take care of the kids and the house herself. She has a supportive husband and she even managed to work part-time. Knowing that she didn’t have a helper, I was surprised she was traveling without her kids. When asked what she was doing in town, she nonchalantly replied “to have some time out”. Turns out, she makes annual ‘time out’ trips where she goes alone and just enjoys some ‘me time’. She had plans to meet up with some girlfriends, go to the spa, do some reading and just relax.
I was surprised that she was able to take a trip out of town with kids at home and she spent the rest of lunch explaining to me the importance of taking time to herself and how a happy mum equals a happy family (開心媽 ＝ 開心家) .I’ve now come to see her rationale and the importance of time out for all mums.
In the chaos of living with kids, scheduling doctors appointments, shuttling them to extra curricular classes, managing the whole family’s schedules and making family commitments, it can get a little overwhelming. And mums shouldn’t feel guilty for getting some time-out just for themselves. Having a time to be quiet, to reflect and to calm down can really help. And it may be to take a bubble bath, read a book, go for a run or just sit and pray – but whatever it is, it can help to enjoy the quiet. And being quiet usually helps calm emotions and we all know how flared up emotions can be detrimental to relationships.
Plan time better
Having time out also enables mums to plan time better. In a world full of ‘urgent’ things to do, it’s essential to figure out what is ‘important’ and to prioritise accordingly. When overwhelmed, it’s difficult to make the right decisions and to execute them in a timely manner. By taking time out, mums can focus on planning better so that the time of execution will be well spent.
Focus on the things that really matter
In the whirlwind of parenthood, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily things that need to be done – getting the kids to school on time, making sure they do all their homework, getting them ready for bed. Taking time out enables mums to take a step back and focus on what really matters – for themselves and their children – on the important things in life. To focus on being grateful for the family, to focus on the teaching kids about their character and not just to ace a test, to focus on building a strong marriage and all the other things that matter to you and your family.
Let kids do things him/herself
At the end of the day, you are raising your children to be fully functioning, independent adults who will one day not ‘need’ you anymore (I know, hard to believe when your 3-year-old is clinging to your leg!) and it helps to step away once in a while to have your child learn to do things him/herself. Sometimes we think that the world would fall apart if we didn’t did things for our kids when in fact, we are impeding them to learn to do things on their own.
We have this one 4 year old student who comes to class with us and every week, both his parents come into the learning centre with him, help him carry his bag, put it in his locker, bring him to the bathroom, remind him to line up etc. They said that he wouldn’t know how to do those things on his own. We had a different perspective and asked his parents to drop him off one day and just go have coffee and enjoy some ‘time out’. 2 week later, he was able to do all of the above on his own and grew in his confidence as he took on new tasks. His parents watched him proudly from the sidelines as he became responsible for his own tasks.
At the end of the day, happy mum = happy family (開心媽 ＝ 開心家) so take some time out. Your family will thank you for it.