Now we all know parenting doesn't come with four weeks annual leave a year – if only!
But Begg maintains little breaks and opportunities for time out are just as effective.
"Put it in your diary to take that time out. Make time to contact friends and time for self-care."
The Murdoch Children's Research Institute’s (MCRI) longitudinal study of 1500 women suggests that women who have time for themselves once a week or more in the first six months after childbirth have improved mental health.
However, it found that only 48.5 per cent of new mothers reported having time for themselves each week when someone else looked after their baby. One in six women reported that they never had time for themselves.
This was echoed in the First Five Years Snapshot of Australian Families conducted at the end of 2017 which surveyed more than 1000 parents. The snapshot found 46.4% of parents rarely or never take time out to relax or clear their mind e.g. relax in a bath, read a book, chat with a friend or take a walk.
The snapshot again identified the importance of time out in parents’ lives in a second question. When asked what would positively influence how happy they feel about their role as a parent, the top answer at 62.1% was “more quality time for myself”. This was however closely followed by “more quality time with my child” at 52.8% revealing parents’ struggles with their busy lives.
For some, time out might be going to the hairdresser for a few hours to cover the greys, yet even that is fraught with guilt about spending the time and the money on oneself rather on the rest of the family.
Others suggest running and exercise as their favourite form of me time, while going to a concert, coffee on the back patio, going to the shops without the kids, sewing, cooking, date nights and movies all rate highly.
Interestingly though, it was almost like a lot of parents are settling for second best on their precious me time. The fact they can do something seemingly mundane or every-day, and usually for someone other than themselves, without being hassled by the kids rated as adequate time out for themselves.
The MCRI Maternal Health Study found the prevalence of depressive symptoms in mothers almost doubled to 10 per cent in those who had time for themselves less than fortnightly, and tripled to 15 per cent in those who never had time for themselves.
“Ensuring women get regular respite from the challenges of caring for a young baby is a relatively simple and effective way of promoting maternal mental health in the year after childbirth,” said lead author Dr Hannah Woolhouse.
“While it makes sense that time for self would improve women’s mental health, what is surprising is the robustness of the relationship we have observed. Frequent time for self appears to protect the mental health of mothers regardless of the more general social support they are receiving.”
The five most common things women did when they had time for themselves were: going shopping for the household (57 per cent); going out with partner (47 per cent); having a long bath or shower (42 per cent); going to the hairdresser or beautician (37 per cent); and relaxing, putting their feet up and watching TV (36 per cent).