I’ve been parenting for 24 years now, and one of the constants that I face daily as a busy mom is finding ways to take time for my own needs, no matter how big or small, without having to justify that I deserve these moments. In theory it’s easy to realize that we as parents are human beings. We need regular blocks of time to refuel and reenergize. But when push comes to shove it’s often easier to place ourselves on the backburner because our lives are just too hectic to make a simple but important change in our schedules.
That doesn’t have to be the case if we learn to prioritize our needs, even if only for a handful of moments throughout the week. When my kids were really little, one of the biggest trends in disciplining was time outs. Whether it was removing them from a very cranky situation and relocating them to a place where they could regroup or placing them in their bedroom for a few quiet moments until they could stop misbehaving, the concept of taking time away from what wasn’t working to redirect their behavior into a more desirable outcome was usually quite beneficial for not only them but for me as well.
The concept of time outs really made an impact on me. Even the smallest change in a given scenario could lighten up a stressful mood or bad energy that not only my child was facing but I was as well. That’s when I realized how important time outs were for parents too. That’s right, time outs aren’t just for naughty toddlers and sassy preschoolers, moms need them too.
If you’re caught up in the daily grind and are desperate for a quick remedy to refuel your own tank, Mighty Mommy has five suggestions for how you can take a much needed time out to get your mojo back and feel energized and ready to go.
Five Ways to Take a Mommy Time Out
- Find Your Happy Place
- Master the Power Nap
- Go to a Matinee
- Pursue Your Hobbies
- Head to the Car
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Tip #1: Find Your Happy Place
One of the greatest gifts my mother gave to my four siblings and myself was that she taught us how to find our very own “happy place.” I know it sounds hokey, but life is full of tough, discouraging moments, so when we are faced with something that is unpleasant and out of our control, we have the choice to dwell in self-pity, or pull ourselves together and find a solution.
One of the easiest things you can do in those tiring moments is to point your thoughts in a more relaxing direction and go to your “happy place.” Most of us have such a place and when we physically can’t be there, we close our eyes and dream about being there. It might be a tropical beach where you are sitting beneath a palm tree in a comfy lounge chair with your toes dipped in cool sand as you lazily watch the waves lap against the shore. Or maybe it’s sitting at the park watching your kids run happily all over the playground while you enjoy your favorite hot beverage. It could be some place as simple as your living room couch, curled up and reading a great book in your coziest pair of PJs. Whatever image works for you in helping you to relax and unwind, go there as frequently as you need to until you’re ready to “get back at it” and face the present reality of what’s happening in your life.
Tip #2: Master the Power Nap
One of my favorite tips from our pediatrician was her suggestion to take power naps. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a power nap is defined as “a short nap during the day of about 20-30 minutes duration,” says Dr. William Deardorff, Medical Advisor for Spine-health.com. “This results in a winding down of activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The short duration of a power nap prevents your brain from entering slow-wave (deeper) sleep.”
“Power naps have recently been studied more extensively by researchers and found to yield many benefits, such as a boost in productivity at work, lower stress, improved ability to concentrate, and enhanced mood,” continues Dr. Deardorff. “Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies found that with a nap, brain activity stays high throughout the day; but without a nap, brain activity declines over the course of a day.”
So if you can find 20 minutes in your busy afternoon to indulge in a power nap, you’ll not only be getting some quality time to yourself, but you will also be doing something very healthy for your body. Not to mention it’s a great tool to teach your kids!
Tip #3: Go to a Matinee
Getting to the movie theater to catch a new flick was something that rarely happened for me as a mom, especially when my kids were really young. By the time I found the extra time to see a movie that was on my wish list, it was already out of the theater and out on DVD. While I love cozying up on my couch with a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie at home, I also love the thrill of seeing a picture on the big screen.
Though it might be a bit trickier to find a two-hour time out for yourself, if you can manage to do so, sneaking off to an afternoon matinee is a great way to escape and have some much-needed entertainment time. Swap a time block with another mom pal who needs time to herself or see if a grandparent is available for an afternoon once or twice a month. When you get creative in finding ways to get out of the house and do something you normally wouldn’t do alone, the benefits will leave you finding a way to make this time out the norm, not the exception.
Tip #4: Pursue Your Hobbies
The last thing you want to become is a resentful parent. If you give your time away all day and all night long, you will forget the person who existed before you were a mom. If you have a hobby you love, schedule it in on your calendar every week and treat it just as you would a doctor or any other appointment of importance. If you’ve gotten away from activities that make your pulse race, it’s time to pursue one, no matter if it’s learning to be a better photographer or refinishing a piece of furniture that will make your home more inviting. Join a friend for strolls through the neighborhood to keep in shape—whatever it is, make sure it is something that you will be excited to do on a regular basis.
If you give your time away all day and all night long, you will forget the person who existed before you were a mom.
Tip #5: Head to the Car
One summer, I had four kids under the age of three! My oldest was three years old. Next was my two-year-old son, my one-year-old daughter, and finally my brand new four-week-old baby. I look back on that time of my life and quite honestly, I don’t know how I survived! Much of it was a complete blur while other parts I can remember like it was yesterday. Because I was very routine oriented, we actually had clean laundry and ate meals that didn’t only consist of cold cereal, but finding time for anything “me” related was completely non-existent.
It was indeed a busy few months but one thing that got me through that crazy, hectic time was my car! Nearly every afternoon I would load my kids up in the mini van and would take a nap ride for about 45 minutes. By the time we were leaving the neighborhood, they would all be asleep, and I would get myself an iced tea at my favorite coffee shop (they could set their clocks on my arrival most days) and have a peaceful hour of quiet time listening to music or an audiobook. It was just enough time to quiet my mind and keep me sane for the rest of the day.
Once my kids were too old for naps those afternoon drives became a thing of the past—for them, not me! To this day if I feel tense and just need to unwind for a bit, I get into my car and take a quick drive to the beach or go grab a peach iced tea and find a place I can sit quietly, alone, and gather my thoughts. Not only does this center me again, it reminds me of those chaotic days when my kids were so little and needy and helps me to appreciate how precious they were and what a blessing it is watching them grow into young adults.
How do you find snippets of time for yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments section.