“Make sure to take time for yourself.” That’s what everyone told me when I had my first kid. It didn’t matter whom I talked to. It could have been my mother, the clerk at the post office, or even the person behind me at the grocery store. Free advice follows you everywhere when you have kids—regardless of whether or not you’re looking for it.
This one phrase, though…Well, let’s say I had a difficult time grasping the concept. How is it possible to take time for yourselves when there are things like…
Yeah, the list just goes on. So the whole taking time for yourself, especially when that might mean paying a sitter money you don’t have, sometimes seems elusive. To that end, I thought I’d share some strategies that we’ve incorporated in our house to try and take that time.
Mommy and Daddy Time
Sounds corny, right? Maybe. What’s worse for my husband and me is not being able to have a conversation with one another. So we devised Mommy and Daddy time each day.
- How It Works: We take ten minutes at the end of the day where we are allowed to have an uninterrupted conversation. We set the timer in the kitchen so that our older son can keep track of where we are in the process. And he does. If you aren’t with a partner or spouse, make this a phone call to a friend. Whatever it takes to get you a few moments of adult conversation.
- What It Teaches the Kids: The importance of boundaries is a lesson that I think it’s never too early to put out there. “Mommy and Daddy need time to talk each day. You like it when we listen to you, but it’s also important that we listen to one another.” Also, by taking time for ourselves, I think it teaches the kids that they need to respect our relationship—that we’re a team and we’re also the adults in the household.
- Ways To Keep Them Feeling Loved: We always follow the time up at dinner with a family conversation where we talk about “Out Top Three Favorite Parts of the Day.” We then ask open-ended questions to generate more response. “Tell me about your top three favorites from today.” “Describe the parts of your day you like best.” It works a lot better than, “How was your day?” Which of course also results in: “Good.”
When the time is over, you’re all caught up and ready to face the day, evening, afternoon—whatever.
When my oldest was just a little guy, I got this impression in my head that I had to have a constant lesson plan rolling for him and he always needed to be entertained. However, by always providing entertainment for him, I did myself a disservice. He wasn’t becoming adventurous and seeking out mental stimulation on his own. I never took time out for myself. So, when my second son was born, I tried the opposite approach, I focused on giving him space to challenge himself and have free play. I still interact with him and play with him, but he’s able to find things to do. During that time, I’m gifted with pockets of moments that I can take to recharge.
- How It Works: When the kids are otherwise occupied, read a book, exercise, play with the dog—identify and do something that brings you joy.
- What It Teaches Kids: Again, boundaries. Kids need to understand, too that their parents deserve time to themselves, even if it is only ten minutes at a time. If it doesn’t feel like this is possible for you, remember that it will be a challenge at first, but you have to stick to your guns. “Daddy needs to take a moment to himself. Why don’t your try searching for all of the green blocks and I’ll be back to help you in a little bit.”
- Ways To Keep Them Feeling Loved: Once you’ve had your time, make sure to reconnect with your kids. “Thanks for giving me a moment. I really wanted to finish that ending on the book I was reading. Do you want to know what it was about?” Keep in mind that this may not be the time for pontification. Your kids will probably lose interest in your description of what you did with your free time. However, they’ll appreciate being asked.
We all feel better when the break is over. Plus, if I need a break from my husband, well, I just got that as well!
One of the toughest lessons, I believe, that we have to teach our children is that they aren’t the center of the universe. If you drop everything for them, it will come back to bite you later on. Trust me. Whenever you can, take the opportunity for a date night. It may only be once every few months or once every month, but fit it in when you can. Let’s face it, if you’re unhappy, whether individually or in your relationship, the kids pick up on it. We all need a little time to recharge our batteries.
- How It Works: Schedule 2-3 hours for yourself. Ideally, this would be something you do at regular intervals, such as once a week, once a month, whatever. Make it clear to the kids you’re having a “date night” and why. If you aren’t with a partner, make it a “Me” night—whatever works in your situation. Don’t have a sitter, reach out to other parents, your church, or other organization for recommendations.
- What It Teaches Kids: Did I hear someone say boundaries? Again, you’re establishing the importance of your relationship. This will not only help you reconnect, but it will give your kids more of a sense of security.
- Ways To Keep Them Feeling Loved: Be sure to message why you’re leaving them with a caregiver. “Mommy and Daddy love you very much, but it’s important that we take some time to ourselves. You are going to have so much fun with Laura, Suzie, Mary, Roberto…(you get the picture). When we get back you can tell us all about it.”
You Are Important
So you have kids. That’s awesome. However, your life didn’t end when you had the kids. So don’t lose yourself. Find ways to remember yourself and your spouse or partner. It will help you raise more well-rounded children and help you be a better parent.
How do you make time for yourself? Post your comments below—we’d love to hear them.