Someone once told me that being a parent is a lot like having a jug of water. Spending all day tending to other people’s needs is a lot like pouring water from your jug all day. You give so much of your water to others, that eventually your jug runs dry and you simply can’t give anymore. You might still want to, but with an empty jug, you just don’t have anything left to give.
It’s important that we refill our jug often so that we can keep giving to others when they need it. Taking time for yourself, to fill your metaphorical jug, isn’t selfish – it makes you a BETTER parent.
This isn’t new advice. You’ve probably heard it before. But so many of us ignore this important advice and it’s not just us that suffers, but also our families.
You owe it to your family to take time for yourself and replenish your jug’s water supply. Time spent on yourself is not wasted time.
Ah… but I used the magic word, didn’t I? Time!
How are we meant to find time for self-care? It seems like an impossible dream.
As a busy parent, whether you work inside the home, outside the home, or both, there never is enough time. Your “to-do” list gets longer each week and you never seem to catch up.
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Find Time for Self Care
I can hear what you’re saying right now – “That’s great, Sasha. You think I don’t know that I need to take time for myself… but when? I literally have no free time!”
I know the feeling. I’ve been there!
Like all parents, my life is hectic! I used to think that I had no time to look after myself. After all, I have three kids, a husband, four dogs, four cats, a house, a job, a business, friends, family… when am I meant to find time for self-care?
I had to MAKE TIME. I realized that taking time for myself wasn’t selfish, but a priority.
Below are some ways that I changed my life and routine to make time for self-care! And you can too!
Explain Why You Need Time
It’s unlikely that your children even realize what a drain it can be parenting them! All they know is that when they need you, you are always there for them.
That’s great! But it means they don’t have a full appreciation for how hard you work for them.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, but it’s also important that we show appreciation to those around us.
Teach your children this key life skill by explaining to them that sometimes mommy or daddy needs a bit of a break. Compare it to a time when they wanted to rest or relax. Or explain how you are like their toy with batteries, eventually, the batteries run out of energy and need to be recharged.
By explaining WHY you need time to yourself, your children are more likely to respect that time and give you the space that you need.
You might also need to explain this to your spouse or partner too, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent. It’s very easy for the working parent to assume that the stay-at-home parent does “nothing” all day.
Make sure they understand that staying home with the kids is just as stressful as working outside the home. The constant demand on your attention is exhausting!
Don’t just “ask” for time to yourself – make it clear that you “need” this time. Instead of saying “Would you mind watching the kids this afternoon so I can relax?“, you need to say “I need you to take the kids this afternoon so I can recharge and be ready to face the rest of the week.”
Big or Small Chunks of Time
Depending on your situation the amount of time you can take for yourself will vary. It also depends on the type of person that you are.
I like having 2-3 hours once every week or 2 to myself. But my friend says all she needs is 15 minutes a day to relax and recharge.
You need to decide if big chunks of time are what you need or small chunks.
Also, think about how you plan to spend that time. If it’s doing a craft, then maybe you need more time because you will have to get all your supplies out and tidy up afterward. But if you just want some quiet to read a book, then 15 minutes might be perfect for you.
Make it a Routine
It’s easier to accomplish something if it is part of your daily routine. I talk about the importance of routine when sticking to goals in my post about Strengthening Your Willpower.
By making it part of your daily routine, you no longer have to actively find time for self-care. The time is already there and blocked off for precisely that purpose!
Maybe you take 15 minutes to yourself while dinner is in the oven. Or you have a bath straight after the kids are in bed. Perhaps you set your alarm 30 minutes earlier and have a quiet cup of coffee before the rest of the family wakes up.
No matter what or when you do your self-care, if it is part of your daily routine it will be easier to stick with.
Another idea is to set a “date” with yourself. For example, try to get the other parent, a grandparent, or friend to watch your kids the first Saturday of every month. Or the last Friday evening of the month. That way it becomes a habit and you actually have time to look forward to it and plan something fun or relaxing to do!
Find Windows of Time
Throughout the day, week, and month we have pockets of time that we maybe aren’t putting to the best use.
I’m always super busy at the beginning of the week, but towards the end of the week things slow down a little. So I know it’s better for me to schedule my self-care time later in the week.
Also, look at your average day. Is there a time when you feel like your just wasting time while you wait for something or someone?
I like to arrive at my children’s school bus stop 15 minutes early every day, so I have 15 minutes of me-time! It’s the perfect break in the day to decompress between work and the evening. I think I would go crazy if I didn’t have that time. Yes, I could use that time to run a quick errand or stay at work 15 minutes longer. But taking a short break in my day is much more important!
Another window of time might be after dinner. The kitchen has been cleaned up, the kids have finished homework and everyone is unwinding before bed. You might be tempted to use this time to clean or do laundry, but how about you take 30 minutes to play Angry Birds on your phone or do a yoga routine?
Find What Helps You Relax
I love yoga. But that is something that I can actually do with my kids. So if I have a precious 30 minutes to myself I prefer to sit down and read instead. My house is always noisy, so quiet reading isn’t possible most of the time!
You need to find out what helps you relax. You want something that is easy, doesn’t require much planning, and that you love! There are dozens and dozens of things you could try, so experiment until you find 3 or 4 go-to activities for when you have that wonderful quiet time!
Quiet Time for Everyone
When you first have a baby, one of the pieces of advice you hear often is to “nap when baby naps“. I love to sleep, so I would always follow this advice! Yes, there were always more chores that needed doing, but there’s no way I would be able to complete them if I was exhausted.
After my 3rd baby was born, having that peace and quiet during nap-time became even more important.
As my children got older and stopped taking naps I missed that peaceful time to myself. So rather than lose that time altogether, we implemented ‘Quiet Time’ instead.
Children, just like adults, can benefit from having quiet time during the day. If your child is exhausted they are likely to throw tantrums at dinner time or bedtime! So making sure they don’t get overtired is just as important for them as it is for you.
It’s not easy to implement Quiet Time with toddlers, but stick with it. I would lay out coloring books, books, favorite quiet toys, and put on a movie.
To start with I would just nap on the sofa while the kids quietly played around me. But as they got older I was able to go to my bedroom for short periods of time.
My children are now 10, 12, and 14 years old and we still have Quiet Time after lunch every day that we are at home (weekends and school vacations). It’s an important part of our day. The kids are so used to it, that when I say “OK, it’s quiet time, I’m taking a nap”, no-one complains. They all go to their bedrooms and quietly do their own things.
Bonus Tip: If your older children wake you up during your quiet time, then before you lay down tell them “OK, when I wake up, we’re all going to clean the house”... it’s amazing how quiet the kids will be! They won’t want you to wake up because then they will have to start cleaning!
Time is the one resource we can never get back. It’s always possible to make more money, but we can never make more time.
I once read about a study that said we are happier when we spend money to buy us “time”, instead of spending the same amount of money on “stuff”.
Basically it means that if there is a task you really don’t like or you can easily outsource, then that is a better way to spend your money than just buying some material possession.
I hate grocery shopping! I don’t enjoy it and it always feels like I am “wasting” time. So now I use a grocery delivery service! It costs me $6 for delivery, plus a tip. This is money very well spent for me! I now have any extra hour or 2 (minimum) in my week that I can put to better use!
Maybe you don’t like cleaning? How about you hire a cleaner to come in once every 2 weeks to clean for you? Just think of what you could do with that extra time?
Try to think of other ways that you can “buy” time either at work or at home. Pay a local teenager to walk your dog. Get a lawn maintenance company to cut your grass. Find a handyman to do all those repair projects around the house.
Save Time to Make Time
I’m the Queen of Efficiency! I think it’s my engineering background that makes me look for the quickest and most efficient way to do anything.
I look to save time in everything I do! From finding a shortcut on the computer so I have 2 fewer mouse clicks to complete a task, to planning out my morning routine so I can have an extra 10 minutes in bed each day! I even pair up my cleaning tasks to make it more efficient to clean my house!
It might sound silly, but all these small-time savings over the course of a day add up. I like to speed clean my house (see these tips for Quick Cleaning) so that at the end of the day my house is mess-free and I can sit down and relax while I watch Game of Thrones and not worry about getting chores done.
Make Yourself a Priority
The MOST IMPORTANT thing to do when trying to find time for self-care is to make yourself a priority!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… SELF CARE IS NOT SELFISH!
The dirty dishes will still be there later. Your clothes aren’t getting any dirtier while they wait to be washed. The world won’t end if you don’t check your emails for a few hours. Your kids won’t mind if you don’t spend 18 hours a day being their personal entertainment coordinator.
Give yourself permission to make your well being a priority!
Guard your self-care time carefully. Don’t push off looking after yourself because something non-urgent has come up.
So how are you planning to find time for self-care? What ways are you going to guard your time, so that you can take care of yourself?