Time Out for Mums with Preschoolers
As any mother of preschoolers knows, finding time for yourself is one of the greatest challenges. A survey confirmed what we already knew – that mothers have precious little 'me' time. But there are also some expert hints on how to find time out time.

A national poll found that half of all Australian mothers with children under five are lucky to find 20 minutes a day for themselves.

The survey, commissioned by Heinz Wattie's Australiasia, shows that 48% of mothers of very young children have two hours or less a week to themselves and one in five have no time at all.

Overall the Heinz Time Out Report shows the mothers surveyed generally settle for less than one-third of the time taken by the typical adult to do their own thing: five hours a week compared to 18 hours a week.

The survey findings coincide with the results of the comprehensive Motherhood Today survey commissioned by motherInc at our launch in 2001

Our survey found that two thirds of mothers don't get any time for themelves each week. A startling 11% took time out just for them only once every 2-3 months.

The Heinz Time Out Report also came up with some tips for time poor mothers, developed by GP Dr Michael Fasher, dietitian and nutritionist Anne Hills, social researcher Liz Dangar, dietitian Emma Stirling and former 60 Minutes reporter Tracey Curro.

Top Tips for making time out time

  • Avoid information overload: find the best sources that suit you, e.g. specialist Internet sites, and use them
  • If you’re wasting time worrying about the advice you’re getting from a health professional, raise your concerns with them, it may improve the relationship
  • Use convenience baby foods to supplement home cooking and save time without compromising on nutrition
  • Make a list before you shop, and if you can, order your groceries on the Internet
  • Stressing out takes time and energy; take a few minutes to regroup and trust that you’re doing a good job

The stretched supermum

In the report, Liz Dangar, points out the many roles modern mothers are expected to play - to be a good mum is no longer seen by society as enough.

"Self-respect is equated with well developed skills and high standards in a multitude of areas," she writes. "Be fit, be fashionable, a good cook, a creative home and garden stylist. Be knowledgable about nutrition, investment, current affairs, and technology – and don’t forget personal time.

"Superimposed on that is the responsibility of motherhood: from parenting, child development, nutrition and time management, to helping your child
realise his or her full potential by juggling fitness/swimming/violin classes from an early age. Dads may be helping, but mums still do most of the housework."

Why adult relationships matter

Dr Fasher, who is a member of the Department of General Practice and the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney, emphasises the importance of the mother developing and maintaining positive relationships with partners, other adult friends and supportive health professionals.

He writes that the quality of these relationships is crucial for the mental of physical health of both the parent and child. And he advises that if the mother’s relationship with a health professional is not good, or she feels put down by them, she should seek out a more suitable professional.

"Research in Western Australia shows that one of the most important protectors of a child’s mental health is that the mother has at least one relationship with another adult that she values," he writes.

"Good relationships are at least as important as good information."