“Me time” and motherhood. Two sides of, well, two very different coins, amiright?
Here, let’s just do a quick test.
How many of the following statements could be used to describe you?
- The last time I was alone, I was grocery shopping. Also, I wasn’t technically alone because I had a baby strapped to my chest.
- I could probably have some “me time” if my kids would
sleep in go to sleep earlier napsleep when I want them to.
- Any time I have to myself, I either spend frantically cleaning or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram—neither of which is refreshing at all.
- At least once a day, I hide from my kids for just a tiny moment of peace.
- It would be nice if my husband would sense my frustration and kick me out of the house alone.
Oh, all of them describe you? Then we’ve got some work to do, don’t we?
When It Comes to Alone Time…
First Things First
The phrase “me time” might give you conflicting feelings.
On one hand, you might want more of it in your life. On the other, you may not see how freeing up any time for yourself is even remotely possible. On that third hand you utilize when wrangling children, you might even feel guilty for admitting you could use a little time for yourself.
You are not alone. I don’t know a mom out there who doesn’t feel all of those things on any given day. So let’s start with the most important thing: Self-care isn’t wrong. You need time to recharge just as much as that two-year-old needs his afternoon nap…if not more.
But if your next thought is, “There is no time left in the day for me,” let me assure you: There is.
It might require some planning, reframing, and kid-training, but you have the same amount of time in your day as everyone else. You just need to figure out which corners to carve out for yourself. (Like a dropped nap, for example!)
I have four simple ways to help you make more space for yourself each day, but first, I want to share three principles which have helped shape my own view of “me time.”
Principle #1: Redefine “Me Time”
“Me time” doesn’t have to be “alone time.”
That’s right. It is possible to recharge while your kids are with you.
- Does this require some training on your part? Yes.
- Does this require self-entertainment and self-control on your kids’ part? Yes.
- Will you all be better off because of it? Yes.
This small shift in thinking might help you free up some time you didn’t even realize was there. Take exercising, for example. It’s easy to feel like working out is something that just won’t fit…but new creative products have made exercising with your kids around simple.
Principle #2: Hold Your Time Loosely
As far as I am concerned, one of the only things you can count on in parenting is change. Once you find a routine that works for you and your family, hold on to it loosely. (Or risk being perpetually frustrated and cranky!)
There are countless things waiting to adjust the rhythms of your day.
In the face of each new season, you don’t have to toss your “me time” out the window. Just re-calibrate, find your new rhythm, and be prepared to change it again at some point. Nothing stays the same forever!
Principle #3: Don’t Let “Me Time” Define Your Day
I need space to recharge just as much as the next mom, but I’ve learned that self-care can quickly become a life-destroying idol if I’m not careful to keep my own heart in check.
While self-care is important, I think there is a fine line between a healthy practice and a selfish demand. Space for ourselves, while wonderfully refreshing, isn’t a thing we deserve.
Enjoy your alone time when the day allows, but don’t let a lack of it ruin your chance to have a great day.
Now, let’s talk about some practical ways you can make space to recharge each day.
Reclaim Your Me Time Tip #1:
The first thing you need to do in order to free up some margins of your day is to take the expectations that live in your head, and lay them out on the table.
Don’t try to tackle this issue alone.
- Talk to a friend about starting a kid swap. One week, she takes your kids for a few hours and then next week, you take hers.
- Ask your husband if he has any helpful solutions for how you can free up some space in your day that maybe you aren’t seeing.
- Enlist grandma or an aunt to come spend a few hours each week with your kids.
- Talk to your kids about why it is important for mommy periodically have some quiet time.
Don’t let your needs spin around inside your own head. The people in your life will, most likely, be happy to help you, but you have to ask.
You should expect other people to read your mind. Put your needs out in the open, and be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is to get them met.
Reclaim Your Me Time Tip #2:
Teach Your Kids to Self-Entertain
You do not need to actively entertain your children every minute they are awake.
Do you need to read that sentence again? Go ahead. I’ll wait.
This will look different depending on the age of your kids.
- Teach your baby to enjoy some quiet crib time each day.
- Utilize tactile activities to keep little toddler hands busy and focused. Play dough, a table filled with rice, or these cool water beads are all great options.
- Teach your preschooler to enjoy quiet time with you. If art recharges you, roll your art supplies over, and let your kids work alongside you. If you want to read a few pages in your latest book, ask your son to read his book next to you. If you’re looking to get in a workout, let your daughter do some stretches on her own yoga mat.
Just remember: Your children might not innately choose to play by themselves or be quiet for 30 minutes. Start with low expectations and work toward high goals. Be consistent as you figure out what works best to keep your kids occupied.
Reclaim Your Me Time Tip #3:
Be Smart about Your Schedule
Whether you’re a morning dove or a night owl, I’m certain there are ways to free up some alone time while your kids are sleeping, napping, and/or resting. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for you in whatever season you’re in.
In fact, you might utilize all of these at some time or another.
Smart Scheduling: Wake up Earlier
Have you ever gotten up 30 minutes before your kids only to have your three-year-old randomly wake up early and spoil your quiet time?
Yep, me too.
That is, until I discovered the Ok to Wake! clock which turns green when my oldest two are allowed out of their beds. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but this clock changed my life.
Will it probably require some training and redirecting on your part, so they learn the concept? Yes. But boy, oh boy, will it be worth it once they learn!
Smart Scheduling: Utilize Nap Time
I used to run myself ragged during nap time. I’d mop the floors and fold the laundry and do as many other things as I could while they slept. And then my kids would wake up, and I would feel like I didn’t even get a break.
That’s because I didn’t even get a break.
Here I was teaching my kids the importance of rest, but not modeling that practice myself! So now, I enjoy rest time right alongside my kids. As soon as the baby and the toddler are asleep, I take my post in the red leather chair in my living room while my preschoolers play quietly nearby (dropped naps aren’t the end of the world!).
As a bonus, I’m modeling the importance of reading and rest, and they help me with the cleaning when rest time is over.
Do you have a professional cat-napper on your hands? If you’re wanting to recharge during nap time but just can’t get enough time, you should check out the Napping Know How Webinar Heather put together. For just $20, she provides a practical workbook and strategies for how you can extend naps.
Smart Scheduling: Consider Early Bedtimes
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers need around 11 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (including naps) while preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours.
Now, of course you shouldn’t just put your kids to bed because you want some alone time, but it’s possible that pushing bedtime back a half an hour might be a healthy change for your child and you.
Reclaim Your Me Time Tip #4:
Christi makes a great point in this wonderfully helpful article that there is a difference between relaxing and refreshing.
While a 30 minute scroll through Instagram and Facebook might relax you at the end of the day, will it also leave you feeling refreshed? Now that we’ve figured out how to open some “me time” in the schedule every day, you’re left with the question of what exactly to fill it with.
Easy! What refreshes you? What fills your tank back up again?
Whether it’s a quick jog up and down the stairs, an artistic outlet, or the pages of your Bible, when you find a moment to yourself during the day, start with something that will refresh you. More often than not, the other things can wait.
If you’re not quite sure what refreshes you these days, here are some hobby ideas to start experimenting with!
Be Smart About Screen Time
You already know the importance of setting screen time boundaries and choosing high quality programming for your kids. So, what will you do with the 23 minutes that episode of Daniel Tiger affords you?
- Watch the 21 minute pilot episode of Parks and Recreation on Amazon Prime.
- Call your best friend for some much needed adult interaction.
- Paint your fingernails with this long-lasting polish.
- Read a few more chapters of that murder mystery.
Reclaim Your “Me Time”
You may have to be creative. You’ll definitely have to be intentional. But you can reclaim the “me time” that often feels like a thing of the past. So why not start right now?
What’s your Alone Time Plan going to be?
Write it down. Communicate it. Fix your eyes on it. And then enjoy it.
You’ve earned it.
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Make money during nap time. (Here’s how I did it.)
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Molly is the mom of three kids under the age of four and the wife of a busy (and extremely handsome) resident doctor. Mostly though, she’s a particularly average person just trying to live each day well. She spends most of her days perfecting the messy bun, drinking all the coffee, and observing every piece of beauty she can find in the mundane. Read more about Molly in her full bio here.