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Time Out for Moms

Ann E. Butenas


"Let's count to three, and if you aren't listening to me, we need to put you in a Time-Out!"

Those words may ring all too familiar to many moms and dads, but they usually are directed towards our misbehaving young offspring. Well, I have news for all the worn out, frazzled, and busy moms out there. THESE WORDS ARE FOR YOU!

As you sit there, dumbfoundedly wondering why I might be admonishing YOU, I believe I have every right to tell you a Time Out is in store for you! Dr. Phil McGraw, Life Strategist and frequent guest on "Oprah" spelled it out for us last week on the show. He reiterated time and again that if Mom is not happy, focused, and healthy, then she cannot properly take care of others in the family. All too often, Dr. McGraw noted, moms tend to focus all of their time and energy on taking care of OTHERS without realizing that they truly need to take care of THEMSELVES, too!

As I was watching the show, I felt as if Dr. McGraw was speaking directly to me. I am a victim of my own abuse. I have spent the last seven years tending to my three boys, my husband, my home, and all the duties related to these. Further, I work four part-time jobs. There have been days where I honestly felt that even getting the beds made was a challenge! It seems as if the hours in the day are eaten up by all of the chores and duties related to my job as wife/mom/career woman, that I rarely get a chance to just relax and recharge myself. "A car cannot run on empty," a friend commented recently, "Why do you think YOU can?"

I, like many other moms, may often put myself into the position of being a "martyr." Dr. McGraw noted a few signs of those women who are "martyrs":

Saying "no" more to yourself than to others. Going a week or more without giving any time to yourself and only servicing others. Not getting sufficient rest and therefore depleting your coping energy.

"We all need adult, quiet, self-time," explained Dr. McGraw. If we do not allow ourselves the time to re-charge our batteries, we will be of no use to others. Remember the old saying: "Who will take care of the care giver?"

I believe it is up to us to realize we, too, need to be serviced in some ways by other members of our family. We cannot expect ourselves to take care of everyone and everything EVERY DAY! However, unless we explain to our families what we need and why we need it, they might not realize it and continue on in the belief that Mom is doing all she does because "that is her job!" We need to let our family members, especially our spouses, know that if we are lacking in hope, joy, and energy, then everyone else will be, too. We cannot give what we do not have.

In hosting my weekly talk radio show here in Kansas City this past week, I interviewed resident celebrity Shifra Stein. Stein is a writer, author, artist, and workshop presenter. Having spent years working and depleting her energies and happiness, she has realized what she needs to do to make her life whole, rich, and blessed. She understands how and why women take on too much and do too much, yet she also understands what happens if those women do nothing to take care of themselves in the process.

"The main thing to do is to recognize our priorities," notes Stein. "I hear so many women complain that they never have the time do this or to do that. What these women need to do is to sift through all of the work and figure out what is really important and what matters to them."

Stein said a simple task to do is to take a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. On the right side, jot down all the things that you do not enjoy doing. On the left side, jot down all of the things you enjoy doing. Realize that when doing this exercise to use freethinking. Do not deliberate over what you will write. Simply write what comes to mind. "Remember, this is not for others to read," notes Stein. "This is for your eyes only."

After making your lists, see which side outweighs the other. If things are heavy on the right side, then you need to stop doing some of those things. If they are heavy on the left side, then you are on your way to a positive change in your life. You may find out that those things you absolutely thought you had to do really do not need to be done so frequently, if at all. Of course, Stein jokes, "I hate to do housework, and sometimes I just don't do it. If I can afford to do so, I will have someone come in and clean once a month."

Stein's upcoming workshop in Atchison, Kansas, will focus on women who do too much. Stein wants women to come out of these workshops learning more about themselves and what is truly important to them. It is a chance for women to get away from their daily routine and rediscover themselves. She noted the most difficult thing for many women to do in these workshops is to completely relax and not let any thoughts come into their minds. I jokingly told her I would be the one in the room who would fall asleep if given that opportunity. Stein commented, "I have had women fall asleep in these conferences, and not because they are bored, but because they are truly worn out and exhausted, and if that is what they get out of it, then that is what they needed."

Being a woman and feeling as if we have to do it all is not necessary. We have to place importance upon ourselves if we are to place importance upon all others in our lives. We have to learn it is okay to say "no" to certain things and fine to take on the many things we may enjoy in our lives. We have to strive to find a balance in our lives and not take on so much that one day we just slip off into the deep end, unable to cope, and unable to take care of ourselves, let alone our families.

Are you a woman who does too much? Then do a little for yourself and enjoy some earned "time outs," even if it means just walking around the park or going to the mall alone for an hour. Simple pleasures often bring the greatest joys!

For more information on Shifra Stein, her books, and her workshops, log on to She has a tremendous amount of information and guidance to share.

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