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What is 'Me Time', and why do we struggle so much to find it?

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Do you get enough time to yourself?

I thought about this subject for a blog post yesterday when and I were finalising the itinerary for our upcoming Self Love Retreat in the Devon countryside this Autumn.

We were musing over what it is that women coming to a self-love retreat might be seeking and how we could we set up the best possible agenda to allow them to find it.

We agreed that, on retreat, we like to have enough time to ourselves. And we are not the only ones. The retreat interest forms were full of similar desires - "I need some time for me", one wrote, "I’m interested to immerse myself in focusing on me without daily distractions", said another.

Evidently, we weren't the only ones. Women want time-out! But why do we struggle so much to find it?

Take parental responsibility. Despite decades of campaigning for gender equality, we are still the ones left holding the baby. According to the Office for National Statistics 2019 "Many parents make changes to their work to help balance work and family life. Almost 3 in 10 working mothers said they had reduced their hours to help with childcare, compared with 1 in 20 fathers."

The demands of childcare and work can be incredibly overwhelming. Because I had my son at 22 (2 years into my Comms degree at Leeds University) and subsequently became a single mum, I hadn't really known any different. When I later married and assumed full-time care of my step-daughter, I soon took over the bulk of school and home admin, navigating friendship groups, clubs, communication with other mums, the shopping and the housework - I was always the one adapting my schedule to make sure the kids were entertained during the holidays and I continued to work (mostly full-time).

Holidays were fun. I definitely don't regret making so many memories with Amber and Dan, but I don't remember ever having 'me time'.

That was 20 years ago, and things do seem to have improved for the mums I know with young kids now. It's mostly easier for me now too, with my 11 year old, but that's primarily because I'm older, I'm menopausal, and I couldn't carry on in the corporate world - so I left. Also, now we have apps and email - everything was on paper back then. As someone with self-proclaimed ADHD, this used to send me over the edge. Hard to believe full days were spent sorting papers and filing!

"Many parents make changes to their work to help balance work and family life. Almost 3 in 10 working mothers said they had reduced their hours to help with childcare, compared with 1 in 20 fathers." ONS

But women's lack of 'me time' is not just related to parenthood. Psychology Today's Linda Wasmer Andrews writes "women in the United States have less leisure time than men — about five hours less per week in homes without children, according to a 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center" in her article Why Women Need More Me-Time and How They Can Claim It.

She continues, "we tend to think of leisure as a luxury. When time gets tight, it’s usually the first thing to go. But having enough downtime is actually a necessity for optimal coping and thriving. In fact, lack of adequate time for rest, relaxation and personal interests may be one reason that U.S. women report feeling more stressed than their male counterparts"

According to Cherilynn Veland, author of Stop Giving It Away: How to Stop Self-Sacrificing and Start Claiming Your Space, Power and Happiness: "Emotional well-being is closely tied to physical well-being. If we aren’t taking time to rest, relax, reenergize and restore, bad things will happen eventually. Chronic stress increases the risk for a wide range of psychological and physical health conditions, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive disorders and sleep problems.

Beyond that, when we don’t take time to nurture ourselves and indulge personal interests, it’s easy to lose touch with who we are in the world. We can become consumed by the constant press to do life rather than experience life. I can’t tell you how many women I have worked with who only realise this after hitting a brick wall"

That was me in 2019. I hit a brick wall. I was tired, stressed, resentful. I had developed thyroid issues and I wasn't experiencing much joy. And I didn't feel good about myself either. Why was it that my husband could zone out for hours in front of the Formula One, where as I could barely find time to have a long bath?

It's most likely linked to conditioning. Where I was expected to help-out with the food shop, my husband was brought up with all the women fussing around him, watching him eat, making sure he got enough... his Grandma delighting in his appetite! He was encouraged to eat and he was encouraged to rest. Old habits die hard. Much easier to take time out when you feel it's your right.

"Women in the United States have less leisure time than men — about five hours less per week in homes without children", Psychology Today

In A woman's greatest enemy? A lack of time to herself The Guardian, 2019, Brigid Schulte reminds us that historically the great creative geniuses (mostly men) had women there to take care of things around them, so that they could tend to their work.

She goes onto speak about the issue of worthiness:

"Feminist researchers have also found that many women don’t feel that they deserve long stretches of time to themselves, the way men do. They feel they have to earn it. And the only way to do that is to get to the end of a To Do list that never ends".

The irony that doesn't escape me now is that I am starting to feel the pressure of my own To Do list building! I am writing, which I love, but because I enjoy it, I guess it feels indulgent. Therefore, there must be something more useful I could be doing. Like getting out the wash-load I stuck in earlier!

It brings to mind Virgina Woolf. In A Room of One's Own, she famously explains "A woman must have money and room of her own if she is to write fiction."

Indeed. So true. Space is needed for creative ideas to flourish. And when you find it hard to get 'me time', getting away on retreat can be the best way to carve out the space you need.

When I first went to a retreat centre, back in January 2010, something majorly shifted in me. Looking back, it was the catalyst for so much positive change. And it was the unique environment that really nurtured me and encouraged me to make changes.

I needed time to myself. I needed space to think. I needed to be with like-minded people.

I am so glad I followed my instinct to go.

And, now, here I am, a Retreat Leader! I am so looking forward to holding this important space for more women at our Love Retreat in Devon 15th-17th October.

Thinking of coming? You do deserve it! It is not a luxury, it is essential. Everything else can wait!

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Me on retreat at a Buddhist retreat in Scotland 12 years ago

Self Love Retreat Info

Are you feeling desperately in need of some precious 'me time' to connect with yourself and with like-minded souls?

We're so excited to invite you to our Autumn Self Love Retreat taking place between Saturday 15th and Monday 17th October, 2022 in the rustic setting of a beautiful converted barn in Totnes.

Our weekend will be filled with healing, rejuvenation, exploring nature, get togethers around the camp fire, enjoying delicious plant-based meals, relaxing in the wood-burning sauna and connecting with each other. This retreat offers the invitation to drop more deeply into self love.

To find out more, please visit AUTUMN SELF LOVE RETREAT

Can't wait to see you there!

Do you get enough time for yourself?

  • 0%Hell yeah! I make sure I get my 'me time'

  • 0%No way Jose - send me on retreat!

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