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Searching For Your "Me" Time?

I once interviewed Today Show host Meredith Vieira and asked her how she spent her "me" time. She told me it was when she exercised at 5:00 in the morning, and harrumphed that she hated it because, she said, "there's nothing 'me' time about being awake at five in the morning."

That got me thinking. Like 25 percent of working moms, I have a part-time job; while this makes me the envy of many of my friends, I don't know what or where my "me" time is anymore. You know what I'm talking about: that little bit of time you get to spend any way you want, which serves as your emotional rosary, helping you to remain light and breezy when the baby spits up on the only clean nursing bra you have.

How often do experts say we need that mental recuperation? Moms should have at least 15 to 20 minutes of "me" time a day to decompress, especially between afternoon and evening, says health psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., author of The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood. Then about once a week you need a longer block of time to get out and do something for yourself. I decided to send out a search-and-rescue team (okay, me) to find that elusive time zone called "me o'clock." The result: these five rules, which, you just might find, work most of the time.

A glance at my calendar reveals a bikini wax and haircut for me. Before I had my babies, these appointments were feel-good necessities that I took for granted. Now they're a hassle and have been downgraded from pampering to self-preservation. I'll leave the hairdresser on a high, then glance at my watch and feel a wave of shame because my toddler, Dashiell, and kindergartner, Conrad, are being tucked into bed by a babysitter instead of me. If a bikini wax is now my "me" time, then I really don't want to be me.

Kendall-Tackett agrees. "The key to tapping into your 'me' time is to be honest about what things make you feel rejuvenated and what drains your energy reserves," she says. "There are many activities that you think you're supposed to like to do, but they stress you out because they take your time or cost too much."