For anyone who doesn’t know, making time for yourself when you’re a parent is super important for your mental health. It’s exhausting to parent kids with or without help! But if you find yourself in a situation where you are a single mom, you know you have very little time for yourself. You can burn out fast because although you love your children it is HARD work to parent alone.
Actually hard doesn’t begin to describe being the only one who runs the house, cares for pets, works, feeds, clothes, bathes, plays with, disciplines, puts them to bed, and does all the nighttime parenting. I am extremely blessed to raise my kids and I do love spending time with them. But it’s challenging because kids don’t have the ability to give you space when you need it. They will ask and continue asking for your attention until you put limits in place.
I used to think that being the best mom I could be meant I had to play with my kids at every whim. Every time they asked me to read a book, play dolls, play pony, paint, draw, etc. I complied! I felt like if I ever said no that I was somehow neglecting them.
When you never tell them no, and always play with them you’re setting them up to be dependent on you to always provide stimulation. Allowing kids to be bored forces them to use their imagination and creativity to play independently. Independent play is a necessary skill for children to have. It enhances their development, their sense of self and like I said it fosters creativity and imagination.
You’re also increasing your chances of having a burnout. By always feeling like I needed to entertain my kids I was neglecting my own needs of making time for myself. As moms we pretty much always feel guilty about something! A lot of us will feel guilty when we tell our kids no we can’t play with them.
But by telling them to occasionally play alone, we are giving ourselves an opportunity to recharge or get necessary chores done around the house without them begging for our attention. Once I realized this I created some opportunities throughout the day to give myself a breather. Giving yourself a chance to recharge will make you a better mom.
• I make it a point to intentionally play with my kids. That means I put my phone down and I play make believe, dress up, give pony rides, read books, and play games. Giving them that one on one attention several times throughout the day makes it easier for them to play alone when I need time to get stuff done or just take time for myself.
This doesn’t have to be hours at time either! Although at times I will intentionally play with them for longer periods of time, a good 20-30 minutes will fulfill that need for attention they crave from me.
• Another way I make time for myself is sitting down with them and while they play, I will read a book. (I love reading, it’s something that is relaxing to me but you could do most relaxing activities while hanging with the kids). This way I am still present, but I let them know that this is time for them to play alone.
When you first start implementing this your kids might protest because they are used to you playing with them all the time. But when you stick with this they will eventually get used to the routine.
• Now that my kids are not babies anymore, I can take my time showering too. I’m not talking a half hour shower or anything like that, (those days are long gone!). But I put up a baby gate to section off an area that is baby proofed and has toys and books for them to play with. I leave the bathroom door open so I can hear them if someone starts calling for me.
When they were younger and couldn’t play together, I would keep the youngest in the bathroom with me and section my oldest off to play independently. Having even this short amount of time to yourself is a nice way to start out your day refreshed.
• Something I’ve been trying lately is waking up early before they get up so I have some time to myself before the day begins. Admittedly this doesn’t always happen, but I’ve noticed when I can start my day like this I’m usually in a much better mood. I enjoy being able to make myself some breakfast, have a cup of coffee, read a book or just spend some quiet time alone.
If you’re more of a night owl, try staying up after your kids go to bed so you have ‘me time’ then.
• I try to instill the importance of quiet time with my oldest. She is beginning to transition out of naps (cue tears) so when I used to have 2-3 hours to myself to do work, chores, or just relax, that is disappearing. To still have some of this time, (which I so desperately need) I have my daughter play in her room.
I explain to my her that she doesn’t have to nap but she does have to stay in her room and play quietly. She doesn’t usually stay in there for more than an hour but as we continue to practice she’ll be able to spend more time playing alone.
If your child is just transitioning out of naps, they may have a hard time staying in their room for an extended period of time. (If your child already stays in their room for a long time then you go mama!). You can start implementing this rule slowly. So maybe 15-20 minutes where they stay in their room alone. You can use an alarm clock and tell them when it beeps they are allowed to come out. Then slowly increase the amount of time they are in their room for.
“Me time” can be such an elusive thing as a mom who parents alone! But creating opportunities to recharge throughout the day are immensely helpful. I find that I’m much more patient and calm when I have ‘me time’. You can unwind or make time for a hobby even if you’re with your kids all day. You’ll find you are less likely to burn out and spending intentional time with your kids is more enjoyable. Happy mamas equal happy kids!
I’d love to know some of your favorite ways to recharge!