I find that if I fail to find any time for myself, I am setting myself up to burn-out, lose my temper, and feel dissatisfied. This doesn't help out anyone in the house! I am still working at finding more time for myself, but these are some ways that have worked well for me.
- Quiet time: Every afternoon, we have quiet time for about 2 hours. This is a time for everyone in the house to unwind, and I plan to keep having quiet time even as the kids grow older. It really helps us all to have some quiet time each day. At this stage, my 2-year-old son takes a nap in our room during quiet time. My 5-year-old daughter goes to the kids' room with the door shut and the blinds mostly closed. She often takes a nap during quiet time, but when she doesn't, she is free to do calm activities such as coloring, looking at books, playing with board games or puzzles, or listen to her music CD's. Since quiet time is a daily habit in our home, there is no struggle to get the kids to do it. They expect that each afternoon, we will do a quick toy clean-up, and then they will have some snacks, go to the bathroom, and go to quiet time. I use this time to catch a quick nap (my son is not sleeping through the night yet), read a book, fold laundry in blessed solitude, or do yoga.
- Get up early: Getting up before the kids in the morning can provide a great time for calm reflection. I do some of my best planning, praying, and meditating early in the morning before the kids are awake.
- Take the kids for a walk: Taking the kids for a walk can be a wonderful way to get physical activity along with the kids. I try to make sure we go for walks at times when I won't feel rushed or impatient if the kids want to dawdle a bit. When the kids were younger, I would push the eldest in the stroller while carrying the baby on my back. Nowadays, my eldest rides her scooter or run bike, and I typically push her brother on his trike (which has a push-handle for me to use). Walking is great for getting us out of the house on days when we're all in a funk, and it works wonders for our mental states to be out in fresh air admiring the sky, trees, or even the ants on the sidewalk.
- Go for a walk alone: On particularly rough days, I will leave my kids home with my husband after dinner and go for a short walk by myself. It is amazing what 20 minutes of alone-time can do to cheer me up at the end of a bad day. It gives me time to work through the rough emotions of the day and find a place of calm and contentment.
- Play hide-n-seek and find a REALLY good hiding place: If your kids are old enough to play hide and seek, you can play with them while finding some time for yourself. The key is to find a really good hiding place. Then while the kids look for you, you'll have a few minutes to take some deep breaths and calm your mind. This method can be a real mood-changer in our house, since the kids are happy that I am playing with them and I can get a few moments to myself.
- Put on a favorite CD for the kids and go take a bath: During busy weeks, one of the best ways for me to find a little relaxation is to take a quick bath. To make sure that I will have some peaceful time to myself, I get the kids set up with their favorite CD to listen to, get out some toys that are usually kept in the closet, and then I will sneak away to have a bath. (If I tell them I am going to bathe, they will inevitably want to join me, which isn't always what I'm going for.) Then I can relax in the bath for perhaps 10-20 minutes while they play.
- Talk with a friend who has kids: My number one criterion in choosing playmates for my kids is that I like the parents. This way, whenever the kids are having a play date, I have time to converse with other adults that I like spending time with. I look forward to these play dates as much as the kids do, and it is always refreshing to talk with other parents. I've been able to develop some true friendships this way, which has really helped to prevent the social isolation that can come along with being a stay-at-home parent.
What ways work for you to find time for yourself?