Most people need some personal space and time on their own. Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to listen to music over a glass of wine, or maybe you recharge by a sweaty cardio class. But once you become a parent, those fairly simple activities are an absolute luxury. Suddenly your world is as much yours as it is your child’s.
Regardless of what people say, you have the right to spend time away from your children – not only for your own mental health and wellbeing, but also for the sake of being a better parent.
We are no experts, but here are some things we’ve tried to integrate into our lives to maintain balance (a.k.a. sanity). We hope it will inspire you to put yourself first every now and then!
1. Get a hobby
We’re not talking about some regimented activity that locks you in. One hour is all it takes to spontaneously throw on some active wear and get to an Express Barre class. The endorphins that follow overcompensate for the lack of motivation and excuses.
Or how about a pottery class (yup – this 80s trend is all the rage again)? You can buy short courses so you don’t have to commit long-term. It’s a lovely pastime with girlfriends over a glass of wine and maybe you’ll come home with something useful, like a jewellery bowl.
When life starts to emulate Groundhog Day, there’s nothing more liberating than trying something entirely different.
2. Go back to work
Yup. That’s right. There is life after maternity leave. When you’re jolted awake from the ‘holiday’ you romanticised in your head and realise that being a stay-at-home parent can be extremely difficult, it may be time to think about getting back to work. Get over your insecurity about having lost your edge (because you haven’t), and consider one of the many opportunities – casual, part-time or full-time – where your new perspective and work-life balance requirements can be accommodated.
Some of us at Bubze have experienced firsthand the thrill of mental stimulation and sense of achievement of being back at work. It’s amazing how working can give parenthood some perspective. It’s also a powerful statement to your kids, showing them that your passions matter too.
3. Schedule nights out
It hardly sounds spontaneous or romantic, but planning where and when to have date nights or time alone with your partner can give you something to look forward to. Studies show that even the anticipation of something good gives as much psychological reward as the act itself. Knowing when you can have a moment of relief and romance with your partner can make your weeks a lot more exciting.
4. Book a long weekend away
Many parents believe that leaving their children for too long, especially while they’re very young, is a cardinal sin of parenting. But Genevieve Shaw Brown puts it best when she wrote her book The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First is the Last Thing You Should Do.
‘Try gifting yourself a little of the care, attention, and love you so generously give to your family every day,’ she explained. ‘Putting yourself first sometimes is actually the best thing you can do for your kids.’
In other words: treat yourself.
5. Include childcare
Don’t shy away from daycare centres, babysitters, or even leaning on family members. They’re there to help you, not give you a massive guilt trip. When you need time for yourself, it’s more than okay to rely on childcare services to take care of your little one. And when your friends or family offer you babysitting – take advantage! Even if it's just for a couple of hours so you can grab a coffee, get your nails done, or simply do the grocery shopping by yourself in peace.
6. Plan things post bedtime
It's usually like clockwork: after dinner, you watch a movie or read a storybook before you put your kids to sleep. It’s in this golden hour – between their bedtime and yours – that you should use to focus on your own life. It’s easy and totally fine to zombie out in front of the TV (periodic 'slothing' is actually quite essential), but on the occasional night why not indulge in a bath, a face pack, a good book or some cuddle time with your partner? They’re all free, require minimal energy and will actually help you centre yourself.
Having time alone is essential for parents’ mental wellbeing. It can decrease the chances of postpartum depression and have a positive impact on your relationship with both your partner and child. The physical and mental exhaustion of parenthood isn’t something to be taken lightly and the best antidote is to step back from the commotion, even if for just half an hour. Remember that you are more than your child’s parent. Self-care is just as important as caring for your family.
What other tips can you share with other parents or words of support about finding time to reconnect with yourself?