Getting time to yourself as a parent is harder than most people think. Even if you have a well-behaved kid, there's always something they want to tell you, show you, or have you play with them. Here's how to get some time for yourself.
Photo: guilherme jofili/Flickr
Not all of these strategies are going to work for every parent and every kid. We're human, some techniques are going to be great for your kid and some just won't work for you, or them, or will maybe only work some of the time. Give the ones you think may work a try and add the ones that stick to your toolbox so you can pull them out any time you need a few minutes to recharge.
Tap Your Support Network
Whether it's your partner, family or friends, using the support network you've built for yourself is key to getting alone time to focus on your needs. Don't feel guilty, recharging is something you deserve and something that will make you a better parent.
- An end of day break: If you spend most of your day with your kid, or even if you're the one to pick them up from daycare and handle the first few hours of the evening, build in a break where your partner entertains your kid so you can have an hour or two alone. To make this even more effective, either you or your partner and kid should head outside the house for added space. You can also use this on the weekend if one of you handles the kid for most of the day.
- Play dates: Plan play dates for your kid where they're supervised by another parent. If you have a couple of kids, try to coordinate their playdates to land on the same day so you can have that time for yourself. Of course, you should reciprocate hosting play dates, too.
- Weekend morning trade off: You and your partner split the weekend mornings so that each of you takes on morning, giving the other parent some valuable "me time".
- Weekly visits: Set up a weekly visit with a family member or close friend that your kid can look forward to. This is special bonding time between your kid and the family member or friend. Not everyone will want to do this, but you might have a friend who embraces the "auntie" or "uncle" role.
Schedule Daily Quiet Time
Most kids do well when they know what to expect from their day, so building quiet time into their schedule makes it easier for you to consistently get down time while they learn to play independently. Here are some forms that quiet time can take:
- Naps: If your kid still takes naps, this is a perfect time to kick back and relax. If they are starting to transition out of naps, turn their dropped nap into quiet time where they read, draw or play with toys in their bed.
- Supervised quiet play: Your kid plays on their own while you read or do something else to recharge. This may take some gentle reinforcement, such as, "I'm going to read now while you play."
- Independent quiet play: Your kid plays on their own in a space away from you to give you some literal peace and quiet. This may also take some training and gentle reinforcement that your kid needs to stay in their room or not come into your room until the timer goes off. If you're lucky, your kid will get caught up in what they're doing and give you more quiet time than planned. You'll want to set some rules here around when they can interrupt you during this time, for example, if someone is bleeding or something gets broken.
- Bond over a show: Over on Susan Cain's Quiet Revolution, they suggest turning watching a TV show into quiet bonding time. This takes the pressure off you to entertain your kid.
Reclaim Your Mornings and Nights
Depending on when your kid wakes up (and how much of a morning person you are), getting up even 20 minutes before everyone else gives you time to set the tone for the rest of the day. Having a functional morning routine for your kids (and yourself!) is also a huge help in making mornings less stressful, and maybe even carving out more quiet time.
Similarly, utilise your evenings and nights after your kids go to bed. Catch up with your partner, call up a friend to catch up, or just revel in doing nothing for a little bit. Realistically, you probably use your evenings to do chores, prep for the next day, or catch up on work, but setting aside even half an hour can make a big difference.
Have Strategies for Short Breaks
Sometimes you need a few minutes to yourself, and you can't always plan when that will be. Having a couple strategies you can go to can get you through a moment when you feel overwhelmed.
- Explain to your kid that you need time alone: As Redditor white_ajah shares, use language that doesn't leave room for negotiation and follow it up with something you will do with your kid. For example, "I'm going to lay down for 10 minutes and then we will read a book together."
- Use limited screen time to catch your breath: If you're OK with your kid playing games or watching videos, use that to keep them occupied while you take a quick break. You can limit them to one round of the game or one video if you want to keep screen time short.
- Teach your kids to be OK playing independently: As mentioned above, as your kid learns to play on their own, they may do so without prompting. Use this to your advantage by taking some time for yourself and letting them know they can come find you if they need something.
Parents make a lot of sacrifices for their families, but you also need to take time for yourself in order to be at your best. Adding a few of these techniques to your routine helps get you there.