Are you taking time out for you?


Katie was born in Liverpool UK and worked as a professional dancer internationally for over 13 years. She is a qualified Pilates instructor and teacher trainer. Co-Director of The Balanced Mama Project and co-director of The Method NZ and mama to two little adorable rascals.

Are you taking time out for you?

Written by Katie Swift O’Connor

Just take a second right now to have a think about if you take time out for you during your week? Making time for you once you are a parent is a multifaceted thing.

Guilt, overwhelm, time management, finances, opportunity… things you used to enjoy may feel a little different.

It’s the ultimate contradiction that time away from our families allows us to fill our cups and return refreshed and potentially then give us the ability to do as better parents, and as simple as it sounds, it’s very hard to do.

I recently held a workshop about the pregnancy, postpartum and pelvic floor phase of life. A mix of non parents and parents attended. All the mums who attended were asked a question; ‘When was the last time you took time out for you?’ Their answer was ‘This.’ Prior to that day, none of them could instantly recall a time when they had prioritised themselves recently.

Now, families are a blessing and a gift, of course you want to be giving you energy, time and money in that direction, but the existence of ‘the village’ looks different presently and fatigue, burnout and overwhelm are often bubbling beneath the surface for parents trying to do it all and be the societally ideal super parents.

It’s not selfish to want or need something for you. My husband plays sports and so joins social teams to do something which is not work or home related. 

For me, I try to do Yoga and just started doing a movement class for fun each week. Our children currently do swimming lessons, eventually Dance and Music and I hope they will also learn martial arts. We invest in these experiences for our families, and yet find it so hard to justify doing so for ourselves.

It isn’t just physical, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Love to read? You could find a book group. Little bit crafty? Join a crafternoon. Want to try something different? Check out a local sip and paint! Scared of trying something new by yourself? Bring a friend along! Want something that’s just your own? That’s totally fine too.

The added benefit of doing something physical, for me, is the knowledge that I’m doing something my future self will thank me for. As women hit perimenopause, and eventually menopause, the change in hormones changes the quality of our tissues.

Benefits of moving as we age include;

  • Staving off the onset of osteoporosis. 
  • Encouraging neural pathways to fire.
  • Better Balance.
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Improved cognitive function
  • And moving to music, which recent research is showing us, can help with symptoms of conditions such a alzheimers and some types of dementia.

I’m a passionate advocate for moving our bodies in ways we enjoy, because – what a gift it is to have a body that can move!

I want to be dancing embarrassingly with my kids on their 21st birthdays. I want to be going on big tramps and climbing big hills and mountains with them. Running after them and playing games.I want to still be able to touch my toes and move my hips! I also want to set an example for them that moving, however you do it, is wonderful and we should do it every day.

If you are a new mum there can be some daunting questions, as post birth, you’re often left to work it out for yourself. Exhaustion, breastfeeding, laxity in joints and repair from any damage, surgery or trauma you may have had during childbirth may make you feel unlike yourself.

For new mamas;

Rest and repair, settling into your new routine, getting to know the newest addition to your family and letting your body heal immediately after birth are wonderful things to do.

What about the things you like to do? Are you still finding your sense of self as a mum? Are you still finding things to enjoy as you, not just as somebody’s mama?

If your children are older, this too can be a very real barrier, as you have to create new habits to do new things or join new classes and meet new people. Which can be scary and also incredibly difficult to fit in around the children’s activities and social schedules!

For a lot of us, it’s being able to strike that balance when perhaps a lot of our self identity is wrapped up with our habits, including our aesthetic ideals and our perceived lifestyle, which when we become parents have to shift and morph to accommodate the demands of parenting. We are reminded to enjoy every moment and yet we are unable to pour from an empty cup.

Boundaries are hard to put in place, but if you can find the ones that allow you some time for you, then it really benefits more than just you in that moment. We are complete people and although our lifestyles have to shift as we grow, every time they shift, there’s still enough room to accommodate what it is that you need too.

Here are some of my top tips for carving out time, and space to do things for you;

  • Do you like running? Great, get outside! Start with walking, building up the distance and stamina. Once you can run safely (without leaking, bulging etc.) use that time to run.
  • Are you a Yogi or Pilates fan? If you’re finding it hard to leave the house and get to class on time, find an online studio or workout to do, or see if your regular class has an online timetable. Even 5 minutes of movement can make a difference for your physical and mental wellbeing. Try one of VPC Pilates classes!
  • Are you the type of person who likes to have projects on the go? Start one! But maybe hold off on the time pressure to finish it.
  • Find other activities which interest you, crafting, knitting, a book club.
  • Get out of your comfort zone and build confidence without long term commitment to something by looking up workshops, introductions to dance/macrame/pottery etc. Try a VPC Dance class – no experience necessary.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

  • I don’t think anyone ever feels like they are nailing everything, I’m certainly not, so switch that social media off if it’s making you feel down, and take a few deep breaths.
  • Everyone has their own struggles, but try to find the balance with your needs and the needs of your family, without pressuring yourself to be doing what anyone else may or may not be. Sometimes you’ll have to be flexible.
  • Find what makes you happy, and do that. (You might have to try lots of things!)

What has been your experience in creating time for you?

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