Cincinnati Family Magazine

Your # 1 Hometown Family Resource

May 25, 2024

take time for you


Taking time for yourself models a healthy example to your kids. Here is why taking care of you is first.

Take Time for You originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of
Cincinnati Family Magazine

We are told when we fly to make sure our oxygen masks are secured first before we help others. Why? Because we can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves first. The same can be said for parenting. “When moms attend to their own well-being and needs it’s like putting on the oxygen mask,”says Wendi Lopez, Psy.D., a pediatric psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “If we want our kids to be social, take care of themselves and engage in their interests, we need to model how to do that in healthy ways,” she adds.

In fact, finding time for yourself in the midst of the craziness of parenting is one of the best things you can do for your children and yourself. According to a study conducted by The Ohio State University in 2022, 66 percent of parents reported being burnt out, which has a direct correlation with their child’s behavior and attention issues. For most moms, stealing time away for themselves seems unattainable, but in reality it should be non-negotiable.


Why is taking time for yourself so important?

We never question why it’s important for the socialization of our children, yet many moms don’t understand the importance of putting priority on their own social wellbeing.

Emily Minarchek, PhD, ABPP, director of behavioral health and faculty psychologist at UC Health, says it is critical for mothers to foster various aspects of their identity outside of work and family. “Mothers were humans with hobbies, interests, passions and desires long before they became mothers,” says Minarchek. “I have observed many mothers fall into a trap of surrendering previous aspects of their own identity once they add the role of ‘mother’.”

Minarchek, a new mother to twins herself, says moms are multifaceted people who need to find ways to pursue and enrich all of the important aspects of their identity. Social connection, in particular, helps mothers bond over shared challenges and can help them with the unrealistic expectations they set on themselves.

When you take time for yourself and invest in your own talents and passions, it improves your overall psychological health by regulating your nervous system and reducing stress and cortisol levels in the body. Kaila Busken, LISW, a licensed clinical social worker at The Lindner Center of Hope, says as the primary stress hormone in our bodies (cortisol), builds up overtime from stress it can have negative impacts on our mental and physical health.

“A mentally healthy mom is important for the family because high levels of fatigue and stress can lead to burnout,” Busken explains. “This can impact the family dynamic and overall well being of relationships.” 

Is there such a thing as a “healthy balance”? So what does a “healthy balance” mean for you? Kelsey Harlow MSW, LSW, a therapist with Therapy Cincinnati says there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to having a balanced life. “Every mother has to decide what feels balanced in the current season she is in,” Harlow explains. “The balance of a mother with very young children will look different from one with children who are older.” 

For Sarah Palermo, elementary school principal and mother of four boys ages 9 – 17, having balance means finding small bits of time for herself between running her children from one activity to the next. For this Cincinnati mom, it looks like setting the alarm an hour early for a morning exercise class before work. “I have learned that making time for myself and moving my body not only makes me happy, but keeps me grounded and less stressed,” Palermo explains.

Palermo doesn’t need to worry about babysitters at this stage of her life, but with her kids’ active lives, finding time for her own pursuits has become more challenging. “When my kids were younger I was part of the Montgomery Moms group, and that really helped me navigate that stage of my life,” says Palermo. “Now I need to do more planning to make sure I still get that time for myself in a different way. I found that an exercise community helps me find my own sense of balance during my hectic days.”

On the other end of this spectrum is Emily Kelleher, a pediatrician at Northeast Cincinnati Pediatrics, and mother of two young daughters. Kelleher works three days a week, some weekends, and is on call periodically, yet she still tries to find time for herself. Kelleher is a member of a local church group and Bible study, which she says helps her to grow as a woman during this busy phase of life.

She also makes an effort to connect with her girlfriends and husband in the evenings. However, with a 3-year-old in tow, Kelleher has tried to find her balance close to home. “My favorite me-time activity is gardening,” she explains. “It’s good
for my soul to be busy with my hands, and it allows my mind to be quiet.”

Gardening also allows Kelleher to be present with her daughter, who plays outside with her while she works on what she loves. “The goal is to find the time however it is possible,” she says. “I try to squeeze in things that I love, like exercise or gardening, whenever I can. It’s definitely a fine balance, and sometimes it’s heavier on one side than another, but I know it will flow back in time.” 

Finding Your Me Time

So how do you make time for yourself when our commitments to your children seem to override everything else? Harlow suggests starting with communicating with your support system, whether that is a spouse, extended family or childcare, to make sure you have the space to meet your own needs. “Give yourself compassion as you are searching for the balance that feels right to you,” she explains.

Once the communication is established it’s time to figure out what lights you up. Busken suggests starting with the question, “What do I need?” and then making a list of the things that bring you a sense of joy and fulfillment. During this stage of discovery, Minarchek emphasizes the importance of using self-compassion. “It is very common for mothers to feel they have lost themselves to some degree, even if they truly love motherhood,” she says. “Focus on reorienting your view of yourself as a multi-dimensional person,” she suggests. “Reflect on the kinds of activities and social connections you enjoyed in the past.”

Once your list has been made, pick a few activities and set a goal to accomplish those items, whether that is 10 minutes of yoga, reading a book, listening to a favorite podcast or calling a friend. “Starting with small attainable goals can help start the process of rediscovering yourself,” says Busken. And remember to be open and try new activities to fill the gaps in this different stage of life. Build your way up until you feel more like the multi-dimensional person you are.

The Pay-Off

When Mom is happy and fulfilled, the whole family reaps the rewards. “There are going to be times in our lives when we simply have to put others first,” explains Minarchek. “By and large, however, our family, friends, colleagues and communities benefit from us taking good care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Harlow agrees. “When mothers demonstrate healthy behavior they are serving as role models to their children. A mother who can regulate her own emotions in turn helps her children learn how to do this for themselves. This is true generational wealth.”

Lisa Fletcher is a freelance writer and a mother of four living in Cincinnati.

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About the Author

Lisa Fletcher

Lisa Fletcher is a mother of four and a freelancer writer living in Cincinnati.