Why is Making Time for Ourselves So Difficult?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I consider myself to be a generally busy person.  I balance family and a (part-time) career, and feel like I'm always on the go.  For the most part, I like it that way.  I like staying busy, and having good organizational skills makes it easier for me to get a lot done every day.  But the one thing I've never been very good at, especially since having kids, is making time for myself.  Exercise is a priority in my life, so I try to make room for that daily.  I feel guilty if it takes time away from my kids, so usually I'll sacrifice sleep in the mornings so that I can squeeze in a quick workout.  My diet is generally healthy, but I'm always more willing to spend time making a healthy lunch for my kids than I am to spend time making something for myself.

It's hard to make time for myself without feeling guilt.  Why is that?  Why do I have such trouble developing the mindset that my health, or even just my stress level, benefit from "me" time and deserve a priority in my life?  Although it's something I struggle with, I know I'm not alone.  Every day I read posts on the SparkPeople Message Boards from members who talk about the difficulties of finding time to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or just spend a little quiet time on their own.  When some of them talk about how busy they are, I feel like I have no excuse.  One recent poster talked about her two-hour commute to and from her full-time job each day, and how hard it was to balance time with her family and time for herself at the end of a long day.  Wow- my situation sounds easy compared to that one.

I've always been slightly jealous of those people who are able to balance all of the demands of life and still find time for themselves.  I have a friend who regularly posts about her life on Facebook.  She has a full-time job, a little one at home, and yet she still finds time to exercise (she's lost 60 pounds in the past year), do things with her girlfriends, and even posted about getting a pedicure on her lunch hour yesterday.  I would never even think of doing that because I'm so focused on doing things for everyone else all the time.  My husband encourages me to spend time on myself, but usually, I resist.

If you struggle like I do, check out 8 Ways to Put Yourself on Your Priority List and Fitting Healthy Habits Into Your Hectic Life.

Can you relate?  Do you struggle with carving out time each day for yourself?  If not, how have you been able to do it?

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When I was first married, I remember reading in a ladies magazine that wives and mothers should always put others first. So here I am at age 75 still putting everyone else first - sometimes the grandkids' dogs get treats before I do anything for myself in the morning. And yes, I do feel guilty if I take some time for me!!! Report
I understand you aren't the only one who has difficulty taking time out for one's health and feeling guilty about it. I sure did when my step-children were at home. I still get that guilty feeling even though we are empty nesters but have a dairy farm. I was raised to always put others first. Hang in there it might cause guilty feelings but you will be healthier to take care of your family. Always remember a healthier you may live alittle longer for the effort! Report
Please find time and do something for yourself and then enjoy it and tell everyone you love about it. My mother's martydom was a burden to me and my father. She was always 'giving' of herself but would never let us forget what she was giving up. I could never really enjoy anything she did for me or anything I got to do because of her sacrifice. I always knew what was coming next.

If we weren't properly thankful she would mope and whine. If she had just gone out to dinner with some girlfriends or sat down to read a book sometime I wouldn't have felt so responsible for her emotional state for so long and I might actually have learned to enjoy something without anticipating feeling guilty.

It's a pattern I watched so much that I started acting that way myself. My first marriage ended partly because of it. Sometimes I still struggle to decide if I'm actually doing something out of love or because I want someone to notice how much I'm giving up.

I say get a life and then share that with those you love so that they can get on with enjoying theirs. Report
I liked this blog as I'm just now learning how to make myself a priority. Although I don't have children, I do have pets, a 2 hour daily commute, and the usual distractions of housework and social life. Making time for exercise and healthy meal preparation takes effort that it is sometimes hard to make. Report
you have to make yourself a priority. and start small, Spark people stresses baby steps until it becomes a habit. you have to take care of yourself to be around and take care of those you love. don't feel guilty, you do so much for others there's nothing wrong in doing something for yourself. in fact let them help and do things for you. i hate to see mothers become sooooo consumed by their kids and being a good wife that they forget about themselves. you're so busy taking care of everyone, who takes care of you? if you don't set the example and show that you deserve to be taken care of then they won't feel you deserve to.
This has been my challenge this year too. I have now got my kids to understand that I need some time to do my exercise to make me a healthier person. This has been a struggle to focus on me and not on everyone else. Like everything else this is something to learn! Report
I've been struggling with this for the first time in my life and I find it surprising. I usually am very good at putting myself first. Here's what I've noticed though...my body and mind are rebelling. My blood pressure is up, my cholesterol is up, I'm not sleeping well, and I'm feeling anxious all the time. Time to put exercise and nutritional support at the forefront. Timely blog for me! Report
I find it difficult to balance work, home life, social requests and me time...thanks for the information Report
Like the saying goes, "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" Just remember taking time for yourself is good for you AND good for your family! It makes you a more relaxed and focused person, which is win win for you and your family!! Keep repeating to yourself when you feel unable to carve the time for yourself "This is good for me, this is good for my family!" Enjoy your "Me Time!" Report
i find myselft struggling to balance life and keep myself a priority as well Report
Blog thoroughly brought back memories of yesteryear. Problem is, still can not find the time now that I am in retirement. Saved your work, so I can re-read when I complain to myself about having no time for me. Report
So why do you not feel your worth your own time?

Besides the obvious that we were raised to consider everyone else before we consider ourselves and if we do then we are being "selfish". Report
I really identify with GMAGEE, especially related to martyrdom vs. selfishness. My lifelong pattern has been to make everyone else happy first. Even though I understand intellectually that this is unhealthy, old habits and patterns are hard to break. My struggle now seems to be between making the effort to develop healthy relationships & habits and avoidance with mindless time-wasters. Fortunately, I am learning to forgive myself when I stumble, then get up and start again. SP offers great encouragement! Report
Good blog. I also don't know why I don't carve out time for myself for exercise. I schedule plenty of other things in my day/week and do them all faithfully. For most of us, we're trying to live in a place comfortably between martyrdom and selfishness. Report
AMEN! Since taking in our 10 yr old nephew, our lives have changed dramatically! I am so struggling to find ways to maintain my healthy lifestyle, and it all comes down to finding (making) time to prioritize ME. Thank you for this very timely post - it's nice to know I'm not alone! Report
There are times I have the same struggle but I am a single woman, no kids with 2 small dogs. I organize awareness and fundraising events for ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in my city. Most of the events are small and don't take an extreme amount of planning but our annual Walk and my personal team's annual Bachelor and Silent Auction require months of planning.

As an event gets closer I find myself shortchanging personal time and spending all my free time working on the event (up until midnight or later, up by 7:30, constantly emailing, calling, confirming, packing, sorting, picking up donations, etc). There are times I have to tell myself to turn the computer off, the emails will be there in the morning! To complicate matters further, I have a blood disorder that requires blood transfusions every few weeks. Even when I'm laying in the hospital getting transfused I'm emailing or calling potential donors, bachelors, vendors, etc!

But at the same time, despite any exhaustion I feel, I also feel guilty thinking of myself when I KNOW the people I am fighting to raise money for have limited time. It feels extremely selfish to take a nap, go to dinner, just do "me" time when the patients with ALS have 2-5 years life expectancy at diagnosis...how can I put me first when the people I'm fighting to help are fading away each day?

I do take the day after each event off completely! I lay in bed, I prop my feet up, I play with my dogs, read a book for fun, and nap! Then it's a week or 2 of wrap up tasks and life returns to normal for a few months. In the end, the exhaustion is worth it when I see the faces of local PALS (people with ALS) and their CALS (caregivers for ALS) after the successful completion of an event. Our recent Walk raised almost double our goal and the auction doubled what we raised last year! That makes it worth it to me!

However, if anyone has any suggestions on how not to feel guilt for taking some time for me I'd love to read it! I have no problem taking "me" time in my normal life but in the 6-8 weeks preceding the big events I struggle. Report
I always discusseed with our kids the value of time to ourselves. When the kids went to bed we told thenm now it is our time. Our grown up time. That set the ground rule for them to not disturb us unless very important. They were told if they disturbed us for trivial matters which they obviously considered important They were never chastised but we had our family boundaries. We knock on their doors they on ours.
We have no family close by and DH and I talked often about our needs to do things together and enjoy time with others.
Communication and mutual understanding is the way to go.
You plan your meals and make plans for other things why not make some plans for alone time too. There are no hard feelings of neglect when they know you are being kind to yourself. We have been able to have had 48 very happy years together doing things this way.No surprises just expectations, no guilt allowed. Pat in Maine. Report
I often have a hard time to make some time for just me it seems that I am always doing things for everyone else. Report
I'm single and have been trying for about a year to carve a little time in my days for me.
Despite my good intentions, I have yet to be consistent about it. Report
I want to have the ability to tell my family that I need a little bit of time but finding a quiet place can be difficult also. My kids always want to go on the bike rides and walks with me and I love know that they are being active so I always say yes. Sometimes the store is the only place where I am alone
without my kids or hubby...that can be dangerous. Report
I am important and God made me that way but I don't often take good care of me - Sparks is one thing that i have consistently done for me for 6 whole months!! I am learning!!! Report
If you are down healthwise, just once where you know you could have kept illness at bay if you had taken better care of yourself...you will find the reason and the heart to make yourself a priority. I tell myself, I f I my child then I must love me to be there for him! This is a mind and heart over practice issue. Report
I understand how difficult it is to carve out time for self. I'm single and I don't have any children. Somehow, I still have a hard time finding time for myself. Whenever I go to workout everyone calls me to help with some crisis. Then, I end up talking them through the crisis while walking on the treadmill because I refuse to leave the gym in the middle of a workout. That is where I draw the line. Report
I know how you feel. I felt that way until my son turned 7 and my daughter was 4. But I KNEW I had to start taking some time out for myself. When I started walking, it was 20, then 30, then 45, then 60 minutes on the treadmill or out in the neighborhood. At first I took them with me, but after a while, I needed to do it myself. Having my husband's support is probably the only way I was able to do it. Life is hard raising kids, working full time, taking care of a home and yourself. But, it can be done. It's not always stress free, though. You take the good days along with the tough ones and make the best out of it. Report
"Doing for others but not doing for yourself."

Turn it around to "Treating yourself as you would treat others."

Women especially, tend to take on a lot for other people, but then don't leave room for themselves. It was hardest for me when I had small children and worked fulltime. Didn't have a supportive husband, either. It was a big mistake not taking time for me back then. I learned my lesson.
If nothing else, be sure that as your children grow, encourage their independence and begin doing more things for YOU. Report
I feel like the word selfish has become a trigger word. Whenever its heard it is often proceived as something negative or wrong when honstly above all each person is their own top prority. Not to say that your children aren't it's just that if you want to make time for yourself you'll to sort the differences between a need and a want. If its needed then its a top priority but if its only wanted it can wait for you to finish doing you. Report
I have a lot to learn. I spend all my time monitoring my husbands health and mental problems and forget about mine entirely. It's easier that way. I get to make excuses to myself for not losing weight or for eating the wrong foods. For buying stuff neither one of us needs. I don't have any self control but I am always trying to control him and his behavior. I am such a fool. I use up all my energies and neglect myself. Geez, my psycologist is out of town. I need sleep and I need a good kick in my fat butt. I don't know how to stop what seems like crazy behavior right now. okay, I'm going to bed early and pray that I can begin a new life putting Hope first and letting hubby control his own stuff. Maybe then I can lose this weight. I feel like I am carrying a whole extra person around with me. Report
I just take it one day at a time Report
I got a question can you do a blog like this and reference it to one of the sparkteams that you are a team leader on? I would like more people on this sparkteam, because more moms need this kind of help in their lives. I hope I've made sense. Thanks for the help. Report
I'm single, no kids, and not working because I have cancer, so finding time for myself is not a problem. What is hard is that some days I don't feel well enough to really enjoy it. Report
My parents had no problem telling me to get lost when they wanted time to themselves, either together or apart. In turn, I don't feel bad to make my kids go play while I walk on the treadmill or be home alone for an hour if I run outside.

I DO take time for myself and since I have, we all like each other much better! Report
It's very easy for me not to make time for myself. I work over 40 hrs. a week most weeks, then I have my household chores, cooking and everything that it entails when taking care of my DD. Something has to give. It reminds me of the essay "I want a wife" by Judy Brady. I really do wish I had a wife to help me do everything that needs to be done. Report
i really have no trouble finding time for myself, and don't think I ever did. Does this make me a really really selfish person? Report
Lately, I have been multi-tasking in that making time for myself has been my exercise time and I listen to Contemporary Christian music so it serves as "me time", time for exercise and time with God & spiritual renewal! Report
We owe it to ourselves to be healthy. I too struggle with doing what I should do for myself and I don't have kids, just a hubby and two puppies. Will begin to make better choices. Its a process and it takes time....one day at a time. Report
I grew up in the '50's/60's and my parents believed that it was THEIR lives and me & my brother were the kids in THEIR lives. We didn't expect to be entertained by our parents. We left my mother alone when she was busy doing her sewing projects (she made drapes, slip-covers, dresses, etc) & when she was baking, etc. we knew to stay away & go find something to do, since we had lots of toys. I raised five children & used my mother's attitude that I didn't have to entertain kids. I took them to the park to play & I read a book or wrote letters, etc. I had to watch them so they didn't get hurt, but I didn't devote every minute to them. The biggest thing is learning to be organized so you can have time for yourself. Report
I'm much better at doing for others when I've done for myself first. Report
I just can't relate to those people who are so busy that they can't find time for themselves. It seems like they must be in one of two categories: either they are genuinely such open, giving people who have no needs they aren't willing to sacrifice for everyone else, or they are not, and suffer deeply for the lack of personal rejuvenation time.

I am neither. Rather than let everyone on earth have a piece of me in order to prove I am a good girl because I am so very busy and look, I can't even find time for a bubble bath, what a good little martyr am I!, I prefer to give myself as much time as I need for myself and then pour everything I've got into my small circle of family and friends.

I think a lot of people have a hard time realizing that they are actually shortchanging everyone else when they don't give themselves what they need and want. If you are running on empty, your kids and your spouse get your fumes. Is that good enough for you to give them? Or are you willing to dismiss the nonsensical idea of guilt and do what recharges YOU so that your family and friends get full-strength, undiluted YOU? Report
I feel this way a lot too. I work from home and have a 7 year old son. The summers are the hardest when I am trying to entertain him and work. When he goes with his grandparents I try to squeeze some running time in. It requires some juggling, but it is worth it. I feel so much better about pretty much everything after I have gotten my run time in. Report
I agree, I always make time to exercise, but if I am doing something relaxing or fun for myself I feel guilty, like I should be studying or helping out my grandma or something. So I stay busy non stop also Report
I find it hard to squeeze in everything I need to do and any thing I want to do also, but one thing that has helped me is to put myself on my "to do list". I also squeeze in time while I am waiting for something to finish (the microwave, washer, water to boil, etc). But the best thing I have learned is the word "No". Report
You need to check out the book, Boundaries - I used to do absolutely everything for everybody and now I've learned to say no and how to prioritize. I'm not at the point the gal you mentioned in your blog is but i think we all need to take a deeper look at why we are the way we are. Great insight into the psychology and has helped me immensely!

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
By Cloud and Townsend Report
I find it quite easy, because I am a very very selfish person by nature, so my priorities ALWAYS come first. Report
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