There was a period in my life when having time to myself meant massages, long baths, trips to the cinema and dinners out. Admittedly, that was BC: Before Children.
After children, 'me time' looks a little different: last weekend I took my car to the automatic car wash by myself and sat in bliss for four whole uninterrupted minutes while someone (well, something) else did the cleaning.
A quick survey of my friends and colleagues confirms that it's not only me who has found that what were mundane chores pre-children can be positively thrilling exercises in silence and simplicity post-children. Take one of my friends, for instance, who considers it to be 'me time' when she donates blood. "Helping a mate or volunteering is 'me time', and that can be as restorative as sitting in a café."
Libby, a mother of two, says her commute to work two days a week is "pure luxury". "Walking to the station, on the train, walking to my office – I used to see it as wasted time and rush through it. Not anymore," she says.
Psychologist Sabina Reed says parents dedicating time to themselves (even incidentally, as in a commute to work) is vital. "Becoming a parent naturally recalibrates our focus to prioritise the needs of our child over our own," says Reed. It is imperative, however, that we find ways to meet our own emotional, physical, relational and psychological needs.
"If our emotional tanks become too depleted we are unable to parent from a place of love, patience and tolerance, but making time to meet our own needs doesn't need to include a full day at the health spa or a weekend away," says Reed.
"Finding strategies to be mindful, present and grateful in day-to-day tasks can help refill leaky emotional tanks. It's a choice to undertake even the most mundane chores with resentment and frustration or with curiosity and openness."
Finding small moments of time in every day tasks increases our productivity and patience, says Reed, and helps us manage the inevitable hurdles and frustrations of parenting.
My partner, for example, likes to hang out the washing with his earphones in and catch up on five minutes of a podcast. "I just have to multitask and take any opportunity I can to do chores and have still a little bit of time for myself while the kids are awake," he says. "Doing chores while they are asleep still feels like chores."
For most of the parents I know, almost any errand that is childfree suddenly takes on a whole new level of enjoyment and can be considered as me time. "Going to the supermarket at night on your own is so relaxing with the music floating around," says mum of three, Ainslie. "I also have 'me food' as well as 'me time', like eating a chocolate biscuit while hiding in the pantry so I don't have to share!"
Even having hair ripped out at the roots becomes appealing when compared to wrangling small children day in day out. For Megan, having her eyebrows waxed is one of her more relaxing tasks.
"It sounds a bit crazy, but the chance to just lie down during the day with my eyes shut for 15 minutes is actually pretty nice," she says. "It used to be such a drag having that stuff done, now it's like a little fist pump at being able to lie down for a bit!"