Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finding Time for Yourself

As a stay-at-home mother of two young children, I often find it hard to make any time for myself. It can be easy for me to go about my day-to-day life making no time for reflection, meditation, relaxation, or even my own health.  After all, there is always more to do with the kids, around the house, in the kitchen, or on the blog. 

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.
I try to make it a habit to find some time for myself.  As the seasons come and go, sometimes I do better at finding time for myself than other times.  Sometimes it helps to plan it out by writing it on my to-do list for the day, and other times I naturally find time with the ebb and flow of the day.

What ways work for you to find time for yourself?


Debbie H. said...

I agree completely. You have to have time to recharge your batteries if you are going to be fully present for your family. My kids are long grown but I get up before my husband each day for an hour of prayer and meditation, and find time several evenings after work to get some exercise. My DH is a night-owl so his private time is after I go to bed. Then we make time on the weekends to bicycle together, worship together, etc.

Laurie S said...

Haha! I love the hide-n-seek idea!

I am not good at making time for myself. And if/when I do, I often feel guilty about what I am not doing (cleaning the kitchen, preparing the next meal, pulling weeds in the garden, etc.) So I don't have any suggestions, but I appreciate this post and the reminder that as moms, we need to care for ourselves.

Sarah Smith said...

Laurie, I too feel guilty sometimes when taking time for myself. Why should I get to relax when there is so much to be done? But, then I find myself completely burning out and losing my temper, and that is no good for anyone. When I seem to keep finding reasons to not make time for myself (like guilt, or too many other things to do), I try to make myself slow down a bit and add items to my list that will help me (like taking a bath, or finding 10 minutes sometime during the day for reflection/prayer/meditation). I am so much of a better, more compassionate and patient mother when I make time for myself, so I have to keep that in mind and make it a priority.

Tom and Juli said...

Love the hide and seek idea too!

Back in Utah I would have a weekly girls night out with a few close friends. Sometimes we would go after the kids were in bed, but often it would be before they were in bed and I would feel so guilty leaving them. Then I realized how much fun they had having one on one time with their dad, and how much fun my husband had having that special night with them, getting to bond with them. I've been really missing it since moving away, I'm looking forward to making friends like that here.


Emma said...

I agree that it's so important to make time for ourselves. Being a mother is a full-on 24/7 job, and if we don't find ways to refresh ourselves, we'll burn out and be no good for anyone.

I love your hide and seek idea!

anamama said...

This post couldn't of come at a better time. I have neglected myself for the past few years and finaly felt as if I couln' t hang on any longer. I let go,to find my self in a dark downward spiral. I now am taking time for myself every day which
helps get me through the rough patches.

Thank you so much for sharing. I am starting quiet time in our house tomorrow!