Being a parent isn’t easy, particularly when you have young children who constantly want your attention. The minute you sit down with a coffee in your hand, it’s as though it’s the cue for your children to come up and ask for something… “I’m hungry”, “I need to go to the toilet”, “Can you make me a rocket out of cardboard boxes?” (which literally happened to me at 5.30am today).
While your children certainly do need some quality parent-time, you also need personal time, and this can be difficult to find – and keep going. The thing is though, if you don’t get some quality time to yourself, you could be putting both your mental health and physical wellbeing at risk. In fact, research has found that parental burnout is a very real thing.
If you’re struggling for “me-time”, here are some of our best tips to help.
Know what you value the most
As a parent, we often lose ourselves because we’re too busy looking after our children – and for a while, that’s okay. It’s natural. But you need to also take care of you, and that begins by figuring out what’s important to you. It could be that the career you put on hold is calling out to you again; or you might enjoy spending time at the kid’s school helping at tuckshop or readers clubs. Remember it’s okay to say no to things that you don’t want to do – and the more you say no, the more time you’ll have to do the things you enjoy.
Don’t do everything for your kids
Heard of the term, “helicopter parent”? There are three types – the overprotective helicopter that means you’ll always catch your children when they fall because the world is a dark and scary place; the tiger parent who tells their children that you always know what’s best for them; and the excessive hand-holder who does everything for their kids to make life as easy as possible. Although you might think you’re just doing the best you can to keep them safe, you could actually be impeding on their abilities in future. Research has found that children who are taught to take care of themselves and their emotions from a young age actually have better mental strength and greater resilience when things go wrong. So, stop doing everything for them, and instead teach them to get their own breakfast and clean up their own mess – in turn giving you more time to do the things you need to do.
Keep your home organised
Don’t get me wrong. You certainly don’t need a home that’s pristine and perfect looking. No one is judging here! But it helps if your home is organised so that you can find things easily, as this will save time throughout the day. A shoe rack that’s easy to access, hanging jackets and backpacks behind doors, a special dish for wallets and keys, keeping your cupboards tidy and in order – all of these will help you save time and frustrations.
Letting your kids use mobile devices is fine
… as long as you monitor their time. With more and more children these days using technology than ever before, screen time is a given in most households. And for some parents, it’s the only time they get to do their own thing, in peace. And let’s be honest – that’s okay! Just make sure you monitor how much time they spend on their television, tablets or phones. According to the Department of Health, children younger than two should have no screen time, children aged 2-5 years should be limited to one hour a day, and once they start school, it really depends on the household rules – so discuss it as a family and decide how much is too much. If you need the alone time but you can’t afford to spend money on new technology, grab your broken or old phones or tablets that are lying around and find a door to door repair service so you don’t have to leave the house to get it fixed.
Cut out things that drain your energy
Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day so use them wisely. Clutter is one of the worst things for energy-draining, as you spend so much time looking for things you need. Clean up and clear out. Get rid of those old baby toys that you “might” want again in a few years’ time, donate all the size 2 clothes your 4yr old is squeezing into, and clean up your favourite relaxation spot so that you enjoy spending time there again. As well as removing any items you don’t want anymore, you might consider doing the same with people who seem to drain your energy, and you should also take a look at all your extra-curricular activities (and the kids’ after-school and weekend activities) – decide if you do REALLY want or need to do them all. You’ll be amazed at how much more freedom you have when you cancel your 3-year-old’s soccer classes or Tuesday brunch with people you don’t really like spending time with.
Keep a to-do list
Have you got a great book you have been dying to start reading, but you just can’t find the time? Been dreaming of taking a long bath full of bubbles and bath salts? Maybe you have wanted to clean out the pantry for months, but you never get a moment’s peace? Or perhaps you’ve been discussing a weekend away with your girlfriends for years – and it’s never come to fruition. Write down all the things you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time for. And as you become more in control of your own time, tick them off. Call it a Me-Time Bucket List.
Create a schedule to follow and don’t be afraid to improve on it daily
As a parent, we are used to “doing it all”. It starts the moment they are born, and we take them on our chests and start loving them. From breastfeeding to nappy changes, dressing and bathing – we get used to doing everything for them, so when it comes time for them to grow up and for us to let them start taking care of themselves, it’s often hard to cut the apron strings. A schedule is a great way to do this – it gives you more time to yourself, and it gives your children more responsibility. Set chores and deadlines, and if anything isn’t working, change it. Many children actually want to be more independent, particularly toddlers and pre-schoolers, so why not let them take control? You’ll be glad you did when they are older.
Get outside help
Mums are wired to do multiple things at once, and if we don’t, we feel a little bit like a failure. But you must understand that if you’re not coping, or you do need that break from reality – you should always ask for help. See if your own parents can take the kids for a few hours, ask a friend or family member if they would be able to take your children for a playdate, or see if you can find a babysitter for a few hours. Asking for help doesn’t mean you aren’t doing an amazing job! It just means you’re human.
According to research, time alone is good for creativity, spiritual growth and exploring values and goals. It can also lead to better relationships and interpersonal behaviour.
So, try to spend at least 15 minutes a day on your own – and plan ahead to take time to yourself. Don’t be afraid to teach the kids how to fend for themselves for a while, let them use your old mobile devices, and ask for help when you need it. You’ll feel happier for it – and they’ll grow up to be much more independent.