A “Rest-Beat”: A Tool for Finding Time for Yourself
I was recently asked, “How do working moms get some ‘me’ time?” This is a question that I think can apply to any busy mom – and is close to my own heart.
As an author, speaker and researcher my work takes place both at home and on the road all over the country. For those of you who work from home you know how work can creep into every aspect of home life when your office is in your home. I try to have good boundaries to make sure that I’m an involved mom when my kids are at home, but every now and then (especially on book deadlines), things just get crazy despite my best intentions. There are those times when moms who work simply live on adrenaline and little sleep.
So how do I get some "me" time? I don’t. That is, I don’t GET "me" time, I have to MAKE "me" time happen. And so will you. For the average working mom, especially, it will never, ever just happen. But it is essential. Most “moms who work” put themselves at the bottom of the long list of people and things to take care of: but you must see the value in taking some time for yourself. Because that is the only way to ensure that you are able to keep doing what you have been called to do – which is to give your husband (if you are married), your kids, and your outside-the-home callings the best of you rather than the worst of you. Even Jesus took time out to be alone, away from the crowds even when there were many hurting people tugging at him.
Here’s what I do to carve out “me time”: I have to find both “rest beats” and true times of rest. The remainder of this post, is about rest beats.
A “rest beat” is a precious 15 to 45 minute oasis of brain downtime carved out of the middle of a crazy day. If it’s a busy day, I need at least one rest beat of some kind. I borrowed the concept from a storytelling technique I learned about 12 years ago when I was writing my first novel. In the middle of an intense, action-packed storyline, movie makers and novelists have to give the audience short spaces to breathe so they don’t get overwhelmed. That’s why after a series of white-knuckle car chases, there’s often a little witty or poignant scene between the hero and his romantic interest, before people start shooting again. Audiences simply can’t handle (much less enjoy) a story without some rest beats. Similarly, busy moms can’t handle (much less enjoy) the crazy, wonderful, fast-paced story of life without rest beats.
For me, rest beats are often over lunch, where I give myself permission to ignore the basket of laundry outside my home office door, make myself a bowl of soup or a sandwich, and lose myself in an escapist beach-read novel (usually one that I’ve already read!) for 30 glorious minutes. I turn off the part of my brain focused on my ‘to do list,’ and allow myself to simply escape and rest for a short space of time without feeling guilty. Then, when the timer is up, I go back to my writing or my conference calls or meetings in a much better frame of mind.
For you, a rest beat may look different. You may have small children and have no clue how to get away from their tireless little hands. You know what? I found that it is possible, but it requires even more purposefulness – and it requires conviction of its importance to make it work. It will mean trading with another mom at least every few days to give each other an hour of rest, sleep, or ‘turn off the brain’ time. Or sharing a babysitter to accomplish the same thing; and knowing that she will be there every Monday and Thursday to help both of you out. Or it will often mean doing something that some moms find difficult: “training” your kids that Mommy is going to sit in her special chair and read for a while and you shouldn’t interrupt until the timer goes off. My kids were extremely active when they were little, but after about age 2 ½ I learned that they could be taught to give mom that uninterrupted time – the hard part is sticking with it yourself!
I should note, for those who are curious, that a rest beat is not the same thing as quiet time alone with God – which, I believe, is the most important start to a day. I’ve seen that connecting with God in the morning, especially, provides me the ultimate foundation and reminds me why I’m going through this crazy day to begin with! Now, I certainly do try to connect with God throughout the day, not just in the morning, but that is not necessarily a ‘rest beat’ where I get space to breathe and think about something totally, completely different from the work God has called me to. My rest beats are a beach-read novel over lunch, a stroll through the pedestrian mall nearby, or a coffee with a friend.
The key is for it to be a time where I give myself permission to put my to-do list aside for a brief space of time.
Honestly, I think this is something God has led me to as “my” way of running the race He’s called me to. Your answers will probably be different, but that is what I do. Ask Him for His answer for you!