Parenting is exhausting. Children depend on parents for everything, especially Mum. You keep thinking as they get older, their needs will be less. Instead, they simply change. The need for nappy changing gives way to picky dressers who insist on consuming your time with shopping trips. That compliant nine-year-old becomes a temperamental teen. The hardest part is never having time for you. You take a job to have some “me” time and your responsibilities only increase.
There are many ideas available to help you find time for yourself. They are all good, but to be quite honest, I do not think some of them are very practical. I am already extremely busy and can’t afford to take time to find time! I need something quick, easy, that won’t create rebellion in the ranks. Following are my seven favorite methods for making time for myself.
Get Up Earlier
These is a hard one for some people, but believe me, it is well worth it. The key is to do something with that extra time that you love doing. Read and have a cup of coffee and a decadent muffin you snuck into the house and hid just for yourself. Catch up on a social media site or explore the Internet. This is your time, so use it the way you wish without any sense of guilt. Try it for one week and you will be hooked!
If you have children who rise early or hear every little noise and take it as an indication it is time to get up, try putting an alarm clock in their room and tell them to play quietly until a particular time. My daughter has successfully introduced this routine. She uses it for time alone with her husband before her children need her attention. Of course, you are going to use it for your alone time.
Make Your Family’s Bedtime Routine Consistent
There is no way to have time alone when the children are still up. This site has explored the reasons your children should have a consistent bedtime. And this is another reason.
If your children are older, institute a time at which your children go to their room and stay there until they go to sleep. This also aids your children by giving them time to wind down from the day’s activities before attempting sleep.
Take One Night off Every Week
Once you start letting your family know there is one night a week you are not available, they will start to plan for it, just as you do. We think our presence is necessary all the time. Surprise – it’s not! Your family can survive without you.
You need time to just be yourself and do whatever you want. Plus, there is something about doing so at night that gives you a real sense of escape. Go to dinner, a movie, or the library. It is best to get out of the house. If you are at home, I guarantee someone will want something they insist only you can provide. Husband and children are experts at putting you on a guilt trip, making you feel that you just have to give up your time alone to help them.
Learn to Delegate
It took me a long time to decide I did not need to do everything. I have known women who drive themselves crazy, quite literally, from the stress of trying to do everything perfectly themselves.
When I went to work, I quit obsessing about every little detail at home. I told my children I wanted their bedroom floors tidied up. I promised not to look in cupboards and drawers. Their rooms always looked neat. Once a year, in the summer holidays, I did a thorough cleaning. I found “stuff” under beds and in every hidden nook and cranny of their rooms. Their wardrobes and drawers were a disaster. No problem – the rest of the year I just let it go.
I also quit alphabetising my spices (Yes, really, I did that!) and making sure each child had the same colour of plastic hanger for all their clothes. Guess what: your family can survive with spaghetti sauce not made from scratch and shirts on different coloured hangars. Actually, they all breathed a sigh of relief when life at home became much more relaxed because Mum wasn’t there to do everything!
Your house might not be as clean if you delegate tasks to your children. But they won’t die from a bit of dust and grime. Re-assigning cleaning responsibilities to children can free up time you normally spend on housework. It also fosters a sense of responsibility in your children.
Learn to Say “No!”
And don’t just learn to say it, stick to it. I made it a rule that if I did not have a twenty-four hour notice for things like baking for a school fund-raiser, or transportation for a school event, they had to make other plans. Ask yourself why you are taking on any new responsibility. And don’t let the old guilt-trip set in. Don’t think about others opinions of you or your choices. Decide what your family really needs. What they don’t need is an exhausted, grouchy individual grudgingly taking care of tasks that could be given to someone else or simply not done. Don’t fall into the habit of saying yes to every request your husband and children make of you. It will be hard at first, but learn to say no and mean it. You will find a great deal of time is freed up for you to spend in much better ways on yourself (and family members).
Have a Family Quiet Time
This is one of my favorites, as it works at every age. When your children are little, there is nap time. Oh, how we love our children’s nap time! I remember cleaning house, reading, having a snack I considered unhealthy for my children, or taking a nap myself. But nap time does not last forever. That’s when you introduce “Quiet Time.” And that’s what you call it from the time they quit napping until they leave home.
When they are young, have them read or play quietly ALONE in their rooms for one hour. If an hour seems hard for them at first, start with a half hour and increase the time gradually. This is so good for them. Playing or being alone is a skill that you should have your children develop that will serve them well in their future. There are many times in our adult lives we need to be or work alone.
As they get older, try having a family quiet time. You don’t have to be alone to have “me time.” When our children were teens, we had a family time every evening. We sat in the living room for forty-five minutes. We chose that length of time because we are all talkers and just could not stay quiet for any longer than that. We would read something and then share what we read (if we wanted to) for fifteen minutes after the quiet time ended. Our children are grown and gone and have all introduced some form of our quiet time to their families.
Get Out of the House
When my children were teenagers, I went back to college. The program I chose was for my Masters at a college about an hour away. It was as very intensive course on three day weekends during the school year and for two weeks in the summer. It was designed for people who worked and needed to complete their degree quickly. Boy, did I love those weekends and summer vacations!
Adult education classes are usually available at local colleges and many are free. I have taken classes in business, education, and once contemplated opening a day care center and took all the classes associated with that. I’ve made friends and enjoyed coffee klatches and dinner with adults – always a pleasure when you are with children all day.
You can also join a group that shares a common interest. Garden clubs, book clubs, craft clubs. And don’t forget the gym. Many communities offer classes through local libraries, junior colleges, or community centers.
As you look for time alone, you will discover it in places you never thought of before. The key is beginning your search in ways you know will be successful. Never feel guilty for taking time for yourself. You will return renewed, refreshed, and be valuable to yourself and your family.