You can call it "quiet time", "downtime", "me time", or "alone time", but every mom (every person, in fact) needs a little time to herself. Needing time to yourself each day doesn't make you selfish or a bad mother, it just means you're a normal person. As a therapist, I've seen more mothers than I can possibly count crash because they've gone so long without a second to simply rest or do anything they enjoy. As both a therapist and a mother myself, I've come to realize this time is more than a small luxury. It is absolutely crucial to mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness AND it is necessary for healthy parenting.
What you do with this time and how you fit it into your day is completely up to you. Today I'm teaming up with Taylor Cannon at the Living Taylored Blog and we're both sharing a few ways that we find alone time. Taylor is a stay at home mom to 19-month-old Jack and we thought it would be helpful to share both of our perspectives. Check out her post here!
It took me until Lily was about 11 months old to realize I needed to make some changes with my schedule. I didn't do anything major, but rather I just made some small, intentional changes that have been a great help to me. I'm so glad I did these things, because they truly allow me to be a more patience, present, loving, and fun mom.
Here are a few things I do, and many of my clients have benefitted from doing these things as well. All of these things won't be for everyone, but I hope a couple are an encouragement to you!
Wake Up Early
When I asked women how they find alone time on Instagram, the number one response by far was waking up early. This is when I personally find my very best alone time. The house is quiet and still (it even used to be clean-ish most mornings before we were all home all the time!). I start my coffee, pray, and read some scripture. I sit quietly in my favorite spot with my favorite blanket. I drink my coffee in silence and no one touches me or asks me for snacks. I REALLY love the silence and I REALLY love this part of the day. I don't do this perfectly everyday by any means, but it makes a tremendous difference in how I feel and with my patience for the rest of the day when I do. I find this practice to be equally important whether I'll be seeing seven clients for therapy that day or spending the day home with Lily:)
This habit wasn't natural for me and I don't think it is for most people. I had to really work up to it over time, but I'm thankful that I did.
*I realize this isn't practical or realistic for some women. Some of these children like to wake up at crazy times! I know plenty of women who choose to end their day in this way rather than begin it in this way. But I do think it helps set a positive tone for the day if you can wake up even a few minutes before your kids.
Use Your Commute
If you work outside your home, consider being intentional with your commute time. I used to spend my drive to work listening to podcasts I enjoyed and drinking yet more coffee, rather than letting my mind race about all that I needed to do that day. I found this practice helped me arrive at work feeling fairly calm and ready to start my day. I also tried to do the same thing on my drive home as a way to disconnect from my work day and be ready to spend time with my family.
Currently, my commute is a walk across the hall to my guest room. So now I try to start and end every work day with a few minutes out in my garden. I have several clients who enjoy starting and ending their work-from-home day with a short walk--just something to help with the mental transition in and out of work.
*Plenty of you probably drive your children to daycare. I really don't think there is anything wrong with a little car ride screen time on particularly chaotic mornings. If fifteen minutes of quiet sets everyone up for a better day, there is no reason to feel guilt. And that's my therapeutic opinion on that:)
Utilize Nap Time or Quiet Time
If you stay home with your children, or if you're home part time with your children, the temptation to race around cleaning and doing laundry during nap time is extreme. Try to spend part of this time, or the entire time some days, doing something you enjoy. The dishes will wait! I'm home with Lily on Thursdays and Fridays and I try hard to do this.
If your child has outgrown their nap, I highly recommend that you implement a mandatory quiet time Every. Single. Day. I worked with so many clients on this during the beginning of quarantine! You need a break from your kids to catch your breathe and they need a break from you. You also give your kids a gift when you give them time to learn to entertain themselves.
A wake up clock like this one can be tremendously helpful in teaching children to stay in their room during quiet time and in the mornings. We have this one and I can't say enough good things about it!
Use Screen Time Wisely
I absolutely do not recommend that you allow your child to stare at a screen all day. If your child is going to have some screen time, I absolutely do recommend that you use it to your advantage. Could you use a bit of quiet during dinner prep? Maybe that's the right time for a 30 minute show. Could you use silence on your drive home from work? Perhaps that is your screen time for the day. Does your child wake up at the crack of dawn? Maybe they could have a bit of screen time while you have your own quiet time and coffee.
Sometimes Lily plays outside while I cook dinner and sometimes she watches a show, especially on days when I have seen seven clients for therapy and truly need a moment to unwind. It helps me be more present and patient during the rest of the evening and I'm ok with that!
Ask For Help!
So often a spouse is perfectly willing to take on more responsibility or trade up current responsibilities, but they don't realize we need help because they aren't mind readers. So if you need help, or really struggle during a specific part of the day, just say so.
Will has always given Lily her bath after dinner, and I really appreciate having a quiet moment to clean the kitchen. I turn on music or a podcast and try to start winding down during that time.
*I know that every spouse is not cooperative and willing to help. And I know there are plenty of single moms reading this. Very often friends are willing to help with each others kids, whether that be for a regularly scheduled time each week or just for a few hours on a random Saturday, if only we will let them help us. It really does take a village:)
As I've already said, all of these things won't be for everyone, and that's ok. But perhaps a few will stand out to you, or will help you think of things that I haven't mentioned here. In any case, I hope these words serve as reminder that you matter. You mattered before you were a mother and you matter now. I hope these words help you feel freedom to take some time for yourself, and that you will have lots of grace for yourself as you try to figure out what this might look like in your own life.
To help encourage you along the way, we're giving away a set of three books that are all about simplifying and enjoying the life and space you have and having lots of grace for yourself along the way. So many of my clients have benefitted from these books and each one has been a great help to me personally. Find me on Instagram to see details on how to enter. Keep reading to learn a little more about each book, and just click on an image to order a copy of your own:)
A Simplified Life - Emily Ley
I received a copy of A Simplified Life for Christmas when Lily was eleven months old. Reading these very encouraging and practical thoughts on creating a more simple life definitely helped me create more space for the things that matter most and for more downtime. I've recommended it to countless clients since then with great feedback. This book is easy to read and feels full of permission to let things go, rather than adding to an already full to-do list.
Grace Not Perfection - Emily Ley
Grace Not Perfection offers the most beautiful reminder to hold yourself to a standard of grace rather than a standard of perfection in all that you do. I've had so many clients find freedom in learning to go a bit easier on themselves, and this book is a great reminder and reader friendly tool.
The Nesting Place - Myquillyn Smith
The Nesting Place is all about learning to love the home you're in and finding beauty in imperfections. It was such a gift to me six years ago when I bought a house built in 1983 with mustard colored walls. This book is especially relevant right now, as we are in our homes more than ever. I think this book is a beautiful reminder of how to find true joy and rest right where we are.