Personally, I’ve been for some time fighting the feeling that I don’t deserve the time just for myself. This reward is for winners and I suck. I am not doing enough for my family, I must try a bit harder, and then, maybe… If you think alike, please stop. For sanity’s sake. We’ll omit the self-esteem issue just for now. Let’s just try another angle to look at the things you do: you’ve got a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders. Should anything happen, you are the first one to respond. It is critical that you are properly restored, your reaction is sharp and your body is fit. You would want a doctor in the emergency room to be well-rested when you need them, wouldn’t you? So, there. It is mandatory. Find some time for yourself to be a better parent and partner; otherwise, everything will start falling apart eventually.
Ask your kids to help you with day-to-day chores at home. Usually, it makes them feel mature and they welcome new experiences gladly. Laying the table, helping you with dirty dishes, vacuum-cleaning, taking the garbage out – whatever they are ready and old enough to handle. Even with the youngest kids you can think of something – at least making their own bed or putting their toys in the drawer at the end of the day: even 3-year-olds can cope with such assignments.
Lay the table for the breakfast in the evening
This might not seem a valid way to save sufficient time, but doing so gives you some precious minutes of sound morning sleep when your children are already up and hungry. I’ve made an agreement with my kids: if they get up before 8 am, they cannot wake me up (unless it’s an emergency). They have some scones, jam, and juice ready on the table, so they won’t starve while they are watching their cartoons. This brings me to number 3.
Provide educational entertainment
It’s a common knowledge that kids could watch their favorite shows forever. You can use this time for yourself and enjoy some moments of peace and quiet – no news there. However, sometimes parents feel bad about leaving their children to watch TV or play with the gadgets instead of some quality time with their parents. It might turn your “me” moments to some kind of guilty pleasure, and it just won’t do. Make the time your kids spend before the screen more beneficial. There is a number of good educational series for kids of different ages – search the web, ask your friends about their kid’s favorites. And of course, it goes without saying that if your stream the video, you should monitor what your kids are watching.
Let your kids share your hobbies (or vice versa)
There are plenty of things you and your children may find equally enjoyable. If you toddler is doodling it doesn’t mean that all that’s left to do is watch they won’t chew on the pencil or don’t spill the water for watercolors. Join it, make some drawings together. When my daughter was a baby she was absolutely enchanted with the sounds of my grandfather’s mandolin I had been mastering at the time. So my music “lessons” were not only an outlet for me but also a magic way to stop her from crying (even during her colic times). Think of the ways you might share your favorite things without ruining them.
Find a gym with childcare
Some gyms provide babysitting services – it’s a great opportunity to exercise without interruptions and kill two birds with one stone. However, make sure that working out brings you true joy instead of being just another responsibility you are happy to cross off the list. If you miss the exercises and feel they will improve the quality of your life – go for this option, it’s golden. If you think your baby is too young yet or you are having trouble trusting strangers with you child, try one of the baby-and-me work-out complexes.
It kind of seems obvious. Though make sure you do have at least some hours a week just for yourself. Ask a family member to stay with your kids, organize mom’s day off club together with the mothers of your community – to provide childcare in turns, so you each will have an afternoon off now and then. If your feel you need some rest, schedule a babysitter. Yes, even if you are a stay-at-home mom, you may sometimes need one, when there’s no one else to help you.
Shut the door
To have time for yourself you must learn to leave everything behind the door. If there is someone taking care of your kids – leave the house or at least the room. Find somewhere quiet to make the best of the time you’ve got. Don’t spend it on planning, cooking or tidying up, try to do something enjoyable instead. If you won’t take this advice seriously enough, you will soon find your “me” time encroached with the stuff that seems more important now (yet is not, in the long run, believe me). This used to be a huge problem for me. I couldn’t simply relax and zone out, there always was something really urgent and important to do (or so it seemed), and I ended up with nervous exhaustion, unable to shut my eyes at night or crawl out of my bed in the morning. You may have problems with concentrating on leisure while witnessing a full sink or a stuffed to bursting hamper. So, here comes number 8.
Let the girls (dudes, guys – any friends for that matter) take you out for shopping, mani-pedi, movies, cycling – whatever makes you happy. When you are a parent 24/7, you are never alone, yet you feel lonely and isolated when there are no adults around. Thus, it is important you spend some time in a company of your peers to refocus and recharge. It is also advisable that you leave the parenting topics out.
I am sure you can profit from one or two of the above. Whichever you chose depends on your preferences or the age of your kid(s). However, if nothing seems to fit – don’t take heart. Invent your own ways, but make sure you do. It not for your own sake, then for the sake of your family.