Alone Time: How To Get It And What To Do With It – Without Any Guilt (Part 1)
Some of you may be thinking: “Ha! Alone time! And without guilt? She must be kidding!”
But this is no laughing matter. In fact, I’m dead serious about this topic.
I’ve heard too many moms (and dads) say that they put themselves last on their priority lists and don’t take care of themselves because they’re busy taking care of their kids, their parents, their co-workers, and their spouses. Taking care of themselves is yet another thing they know they “should” be doing, which only makes it seem like one more chore to add to the to-do list, causing more stress.
I want to help parents change how they think about taking time for themselves. To do that, we first need to understand why it’s so important to have alone time and then bust the excuses that hold people back from actually taking it.
Some benefits of alone time:
It helps you recharge.
Togetherness is great, but too much togetherness can cause drama. Relationships need to breathe. Some people need time and space to unwind after a busy day and connect with themselves before they’re able to connect with one another. For me, after I spend some time alone, I feel more energetic, more playful, and have a lot more patience with my family.
It allows you to think more creatively and focus more deeply.
I do my best thinking when I’m alone. Particularly in the shower, while I’m driving, or lying in bed. The name for this blog actually came to me while driving alone. Solitude allows the brain to work without constant distractions and interruptions, so problem-solving and creativity can flow more easily.
It creates space to see things objectively.
When I’m by myself, I often re-play interactions in my mind. With a little bit of distance from a situation, I sometimes gain new insights or see different perspectives more clearly.
It helps you appreciate others more (and vice versa).
As they say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” When I spend some time away from my family, we get to miss each other and be grateful when we’re reunited. Walking through the door and being greeted by “Mommy! Mommy!” and big hugs is one of the greatest experiences in the world. And it never gets old.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the benefits of alone time, let’s examine the most common excuses that I hear about why parents don’t take it:
1. I don’t have the time.
When something is important enough, we make time for it. I hope you’re beginning to see that alone time is not only beneficial for you, but for your entire family. I’m asking you to change your belief about self-care from thinking that it's a luxury you can’t afford to a necessity you can’t live without. In next week’s post, we’ll talk about exactly how to carve out the time you need.
2. It’s selfish.
Here’s something interesting — the word “selfish” is synonymous with “self-centered.” When people take time for themselves, it helps them become more centered (focused, balanced). The opposite of “selfish” is “selfless.” Most of us have been taught to believe that being selfless is respectable and noble. But when people only give of themselves and never to themselves, selfless = less self.
3. I feel guilty.
The only time people feel guilty is when they think they’ve done something wrong. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of you first. I'm not suggesting that you focus on yourself to the exclusion of others or that you spend hours and hours of time alone, while neglecting your responsibilities. I'm talking about making sure you get regular chances to refuel, so you aren't running on an empty tank. Just remember the wisdom of the airlines and put on your own oxygen mask first.
4. The kids don’t like it when I’m not around.
Let me say this: kids don’t like a lot of things – especially when they can’t understand how it benefits them in the long run. Brushing teeth, eating veggies, putting on sunscreen…many kids don’t like doing these things, but we don’t just throw our hands up and say, “Ok.” We explain the importance of these habits and the long-term results. Similarly, we can explain the need for our alone time to our kids and how it benefits everyone.
After I explained to Marissa that Mommy is a lot less grouchy and a lot more fun after spending time by herself, she didn’t seem to have as many meltdowns when I left the house. Also, the earlier we introduce the concept of alone time and teach kids the value of learning to play by themselves and entertain themselves (with us as their role models), the better.
5. I don’t trust anyone else with my kids.
I understand this one, especially if you’re single or don’t have close friends and family nearby. But at some point, you need to allow others to watch your kids. It’s good for children to adapt to new caregivers and learn different styles of interacting. Be diligent in your interview process and install nanny cams if you must, but do yourself a favor and hire a babysitter.
Despite what the media leads us to believe, I think there are a lot more trustworthy and responsible people in the world than there are people seeking to harm our kids. Some good resources for finding babysitters are Sittercity and UrbanSitter. They do background checks on all their sitters.
6. I don’t have money for a babysitter.
I just heard a statistic on the radio this week that parents spend an average of $60 a week on babysitters. That’s over $3000 a year! The good news is that there are plenty of other parents out there who also crave alone time. Maybe you could watch her kids one day and she could watch yours the next? Or you could barter services if you’ve got a skill or talent that they need. There are options out there. You just need to be open to them.
Did I leave anything out? What’s your excuse for not getting some much needed solitude? Leave a comment below and lay it on me. If you liked this post, please subscribe to the blog for e-mail updates delivered right to your inbox each Tuesday.
Be sure to read next week’s post about how to make time in your busy life to be in the Alone Zone.
P.S. Are we hooked up on Facebook yet?