Me time is something that quickly becomes a distant dream once the baby arrives and both mom and dad are running around like the proverbial headless chicken.
Being a parent is one of the most challenging, rewarding, and frustrating jobs all rolled into one. As parents we do what we can to make sure that we read to our children every day, feed them healthy food, and log what we can manage as valuable one-on-one time, even when it’s only for a few minutes each day.
Many of us are so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget we’re running on empty. That is until we have an epic breakdown at the side of the highway because little Johnny kicked off his sneakers for the hundredth time in an hour, because he’s three. We need to start making ourselves a priority.
Taking “me time” shouldn’t be a dirty thought, or something that we feel guilty about. It’s an important part of balancing out our spare time starved existence. Experts say that parents should try to log at least 15 to 20 minutes of “me” time every day in order to recharge and decompress. It’s also suggested that parents take a longer chunk of time at least once a week to go do something exclusively for themselves.
While it can be hard for mom to carve out a little time for herself, in the end it will be worth it because if “mommy isn’t happy, no one's happy.” Here are 15 sneaky ways to enjoy a little more “me time."
15Take Solace In The Commute Or Lunch Hour
Before I had kids I’d begrudge the 90 minutes a day I spent on public transit commuting to work. After I had children I quickly learned how to embrace this time and get the most out of it. Sometimes I’d read a book, magazine or even just close my eyes and enjoy the sweet sound of silence.
For those who drive to work, consider getting an audiobook or catching up on your favorite podcasts. This time became a bit of a luxury for me instead of an annoying necessity. The same can be said of your lunch hour. Go for a walk, visit a nearby park, catch a quick workout class, get a manicure, meet a friend who works in your area for a coffee or a bite, go shopping, you name it.
Too often parents end up filling their lunch hours with bill payments, errands, and chores. Consider taking at least one or two “me” lunch hours each week – even if your hours are just half hours!
14Get A Gym Membership That Includes Daycare Services
For some people attending a gym might not seem like “me” time, but it is. Working out will help you literally sweat out some of your frustrations. If you’re feeling particularly wound up, take a cardio class that incorporates martial arts moves like Body Combat and punch your way to relaxation.
Take an extra few minutes for a sip of water in the sauna or an extra-long shower after a particularly gruelling workout. Many gyms understand that a parent has limited time, and offer child care as a part of one of their many services. Look at your budget, check out local options that will fit into your schedule and make your own personal health a priority.
Being healthy for yourself and your family is nothing to feel guilty about, in fact it’s something to boast about, with pride!
13Take The Long Route Home From An Errand
I’ve had a number of conversations with friends who were home with baby for parental leave. Their spouse, who thinks they’re providing a favor, stops off at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a bag of milk or a loaf of bread.
They arrive home a few minutes later than usual, and the stay at home parent is miffed because they were looking forward to some alone time at the store, but then feels guilty about it because it’s silly to get mad. Here’s where the stressed out parents needs to follow their own advice to their toddler and “use your words.”
Let your spouse, family member, or whomever is providing child care relief know that you want to run the specific after work errand to get a break. When you’re done the errand, take the long way home, window shop, literally smell the roses. It’s just an extra 10 or 15 minutes, so allow yourself to enjoy it!
12Have A Time Out In The Bathroom
We all know, or have been “that” new parent, the one who complains that they haven’t even had time to shower in days. While this is something that we oddly like to wear as a badge of honor, we need to stop it. I mean I’m not knocking dry shampoo, I love it, but you can sacrifice baby bonding time for 10 or 15 minutes in the bathroom.
Even if your child is still settling for a nap, they’ll be safe in their crib, and if you’re feeling especially frustrated you could use the time out yourself. On particularly rough days with my infants, I’d purposely use the bathroom in the basement so I couldn’t obsess about their coos and sounds while they fell asleep.
This gave me the required 10 minutes I needed to just be alone, take a hot uninterrupted shower, and read a book while I dried my hair. It wasn’t exactly a spa day, but sometimes it felt just as refreshing.
11Make A List Of What “Me” Time Really Means
Moms, myself included, tend to lump any appointment in with “me” time, simply because it’s time spent away from our kids. If a haircut and waxing session aren’t your idea of relaxing, and were more of a “feel-good” necessity, it doesn’t mean that post kids this becomes your “bliss time.” My husband doesn’t count getting a haircut as his recharge time, so why should I?
Yes, I definitely enjoy my new do, but it’s not the same level or relaxation to me as a yoga class, or cup of coffee with a friend. Be honest with yourself about the activities that really refresh you and don’t rely on booking things that you think you’re supposed to enjoy. Something that makes you anxious because it’s expensive or takes a lot of time, probably isn’t going to recharge you.
Figure out your favorite activities for you and break them down according to the time they take; this way you have things you love you can work on when you have a one hour, two hour, or 10 minute block of time free up.
10Have A Girl’s Night Out
While I admit there aren’t as many girls’ nights out as there used to be before children, I know I cherish them more. What used to be a monthly brunch, movie or outing of my core group of girls has become a quarterly get together where we really take the time to catch up.
This is where quality over quantity comes to play. If we met every month, we’d begrudge the time, but as a seasonal activity we really lean into our time together and cancellations, despite our group’s size rarely happen. One of the biggest benefits of my time with my mom friends is that I come home feeling less alone.
We talk about all sorts of things beyond the kids, but it usually goes back to a central theme--us talking about how we’re feeling as parents. We can celebrate parental milestones as well as support each other through toilet training, tantrums, time-outs and beyond.
9Mom Can Take Baby Out With Her
During colic my daughter was crying constantly. Fortunately, some fresh air and a walk usually calmed her down. This is why I began a daily 45 minute walk, where most of the time my children sat quietly while I pushed them through the neighborhood listening to upbeat tunes on my iPod.
When my daughter was crying and there was not much that would calm her, I’d push my son in the stroller and strap her to my chest in a carrier and sometimes turned up the volume of the music a little louder. Sometimes you can’t get away from your responsibilities as a parent, but these walks felt like the perfect pause button to otherwise long days.
If you prefer yoga, strap your kids into their high chairs, or put on their favorite TV program while you stretch out some of your anxiety. Sure it’s not the same as a studio class, but it’s better than not moving at all.
8Go To The Park
There are a lot of other parents who are with their kids every single day, all day long, just like you. The next time your child begs you to stay longer at the playground, just say yes and take that extra 10 minutes, because it’s not just for them, it’s also for you.
That park bench is calling your name, can you hear it? Whether you chat up another parent, or simply enjoy that you’re able to drink a cup of coffee while it’s still hot, read a book, or beat your best Candy Crush score, these are all wonderful “me” moments.
While it’s awesome to get larger chunks of time to yourself, they often require a lot of planning, which can also be a cause for stress. So, enjoy those smaller moments at the park since they will have a cumulative benefit that will help you recharge.
7Make Nap Time, Mommy Time
In the early days of parenthood, veteran parents will often provide this sage advice, “nap when baby naps.” While this happens sometimes, more often than not, a lot of us use this time for chores. We fold laundry, cook meals, scrub floors, while our kids slumber. What we should really be doing is leaving the clutter alone and taking care of ourselves.
A happy mom with a slightly messier home is going to be more understanding when their toddler lets off a glitter bomb in the living room than the mom who just spent two hours power washing windows. While it is nice to cross some items off the “to do” list, I like my children to see and help me clean – otherwise I’d be afraid they’d be under the impression that happy little cleaning gnomes tidy up Lego.
6Make Arrangements To Swap Child Care With A Friend
If you have a friend or family member whom you trust who has kids around the same age as yours, or who have eager older kids who want to spend some time with a baby, you are in luck! Talk to your friend about swapping child care duty with each other once every couple of weeks.
This way whomever isn’t on kid duty can go home, enjoy a nice bath, take a nap, read a book, or even do something a little more extravagant like get a massage. Just make sure that you both respect each other’s time and that one person isn’t always late for pick-up or on kid duty more often than the other.
If you have a friend who’s having trouble letting go, but clearly needs the break, encourage them to head out right after drop off, and stay for a cup of coffee after, so their break isn’t spent standing in your front foyer. As your kids get older, take advantage of sleepover playdates. You might even end up with a regular date night.
5Find A Safe Space For The Child To Roam
Research indoor playgrounds where you can watch your child from a distance and enjoy a hot cup of tea. The bonus is that your child will likely believe that this outing is all about them, and not you sneaking in some time for yourself to relax. Don’t want to pay for the admission fees for one of the fancy indoor play centres?
Some play land McDonald's still exist, and while “McCafe” isn’t exactly the most Zen place, it still gives you a moment or two alone with your thoughts while your wee one happily runs off some energy. For mothers of infants, check your local listings for movie theatres that offer parent and baby afternoon viewings that will let you indulge your inner film buff all while caring for baby.
Other places may offer parent exercise classes where you get to dance the day away, with a baby strapped to you.
4Early To Bed Or Early To Rise “Date” Time
I know that sleep is precious, but so is some alone time with your partner. You don’t need to constantly splurge on a sitter, but you can schedule your time so togetherness isn’t just collapsing onto the couch in front of Netflix.
Work near each other? Consider a regular breakfast, lunch, or coffee date. Other ideas are to put your little one to bed just a little early and play a board game, or sit out in your backyard and watch the sun set.
Try setting the alarm 15 minutes early for a couple of days and enjoy some time for just the two of you before you head high gear into your morning routine. These little hacks will give you a lot more quality time together. You just need to plan them.
3Create Bonding Time For Family And Friends Who Offer
If grandma says she wants to take your little one for a few hours to show him off to her neighbors, let her, heck even put him in the knit outfit she made for him. Friends who offer to watch your little one for a while genuinely mean what they say, so take them up on it and enjoy some alone time.
The next time a close friend or family member asks what your child might want for a gift, try suggesting an outing, just your kid and their favorite uncle. If you have a close network that wants to spend more time with your child, consider yourself lucky! They say it takes a village to raise a child. Take advantage of your village and recharge a little.
No one will begrudge a mother from taking some time out for herself.
2Mom Needs To Set Boundaries Around Her Space
If you’re feeling especially strained, particularly if you're a single parent, consider this: your bedroom is your own personal sanctuary and it’s your right to keep it that way. Your entire house shouldn’t feel like a toy store exploded, that’s enough to make anyone feel like they’re in kid overload.
Single-parent expert Leah Klungness, Ph.D. says, "Once your children are beyond the toddler phase, it is a good idea to get a timer and teach your children to leave you alone for three to five minutes to start with, giving you time to decompress with a quick shower or some breathing exercises."
Some parents find it helps to give their older children a digital clock with instructions to let them know that if they let mom or dad sleep until 7:00pm on the weekends they’ll be making your life a heck of a lot easier.
1Plan Parental Play Dates
This is like the times when you drop off your kids with a friend, but only this time you stay and bond with your grown up friends. Let the kids play in the backyard while you barbecue and catch up with your friends. Send them to the basement to play or watch a movie, while you all take over the kitchen and living room.
As a child of the 1980’s I remember countless fun evenings spent having a “sleepover” at my parents friends’ houses while they hung out upstairs and carried us to the car sleeping when the night was over. For some reason modern parents seem to think that it should be all about the kids, when sometimes it’s just as much about mom or dad.
Other times, when you can afford it, grab a babysitter, head out solo, with a date, or with your friends. It’s nothing to feel guilty about, and will likely make you parent better in the long run.
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