The guilt—well, that’s always going to be there. We spend so much of our time raising our families, building businesses, and managing our homes that we tend to devote ourselves to very little beyond these. Our lives are so carefully constructed around our loved ones that when the temptation to shut them off kicks in, we tend to feel bad about it. Won’t it make me a bad parent if I don’t want to listen to my toddler talk about Peppa Pig for 20 minutes straight?

It is widely known that enjoying a bit of leisure outside of our home lives is necessary for our overall health. Just a few hours of solitude in a week has been said to improve an individual’s stress management, productivity, interpersonal relationships.

Doctors agree that individuals who set aside time for themselves tend to sleep better, suffer from less fatigue, and develop greater resistance to sickness. If leisure time away from our families is so necessary, then why does the guilt persist?

The problem is with how we view our leisure as a luxury rather than an investment on our well-being. We see it as a treat that is the first to go when play dates, grocery trips, and board meetings demand our time. Women are especially prone to enjoying very little me time: a 2014 survey in the United Kingdom reveals that the average mother ends up with just 17 minutes to herself in a day. A 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that American women have five hours less leisure time than men do in a week, and those are in homes without children. That gap narrows to three hours in a week in homes with children under 18 years old.

How, then, does one carve out time for leisure? According to psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter in an article on spending time alone, scheduling your free time is the best place to start. “Mark off time in your day planner for spending time with yourself. It doesn’t have to be long. Any time that you can spend with yourself to reboot, meditate, focus, relax, create, produce, and/or think deeply is better than no time,” says Carter.

We all enjoy our free time in various ways; there’s no one way to do it. Some might enjoy an afternoon at a day spa after dropping off the kids in school; others might find merit in barre3 classes and a smoothie instead. On more hectic days, simply shutting the door to your room for a few hours is enough for an energizing recharge. Whatever it is, there’s no reason to feel bad about it. In fact, the next time your child wants to talk about Peppa Pig, you might actually want to listen for 20 minutes straight. – Marga Buenaventura

Illustration by Kim Tomacruz

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