Making Time for the Alone Zone
Last week I wrote about why having alone time is both a necessity (for our sanity) and a responsibility we have to our families so that they get the very best versions of us.
Since the most common excuse for not taking this much-needed time for ourselves is that there simply isn't enough time in the day, today's post is all about exactly how to carve out the time you need.
Different people need different amounts of solitude to feel balanced and at their best, but you'd be surprised how a small amount of time planned in advance can make a really big difference. You may feel so overwhelmed and stressed that you think you need a month-long vacation at this point, but by implementing alone time into your regular routine, you can start to feel better today.
As with any other important meeting or event on your calendar, your appointment with yourself needs to be scheduled in advance and written down. First, jot down all the things you’d like to do for your own personal maintenance: haircuts, pedicures, time with friends, classes you want to take, books you want to read, etc.
Then, go through your calendar and start filling it in with self-care time. Go ahead and put 20 minutes of reading time on your calendar if you love to read, but can never seem to find the time. When someone invites you to do something during your scheduled alone time, all you need to say is, “Sorry, I’ve got another commitment.”
Wake Up Earlier.
I admit, I haven’t tried this*, although I’m very tempted after reading all the benefits associated with getting up just 30-60 minutes earlier than the rest of the family to exercise, take a shower, sip some coffee, and get dressed.
It’s jarring to wake up to whining toddlers, crying babies, or moody teens and then hurry around making sure everyone has everything they need before rushing out the door. Waking up early allows you to have peace and quiet to go at your own pace and get yourself physically and mentally prepared for a new day. Morning people also tend to be more productive, make more money, and are healthier and more satisfied with their lives.
If you decide to do this, be sure to go to sleep earlier at night. When you continue going to sleep at your usual bedtime, your body will become (even more) sleep-deprived, and that kind of defeats the purpose of self-care.
*UPDATE – I now wake up at 5:30am (about 50 minutes before my kids) and I love how relaxed and organized I feel. I'm no longer scrambling to get everything done while trying to get the kids out the door, too.
Guess what? Those little people running around the living room screaming and the ones with their feet up on the coffee table watching TV? They’re perfectly capable of doing many of the household tasks on your to-do list! What’s more, most kids welcome the opportunity to contribute to the family in meaningful ways. It makes them feel competent and valuable.
You’ll probably need to spend a bit of time teaching your child exactly how to do certain tasks, but then it can become a part of their daily or weekly routine and one less thing for you to do. Kids as young as 2 or 3 can do simple jobs around the house. Click here to read a past post about giving kids more independence, which includes a list of age-appropriate responsibilities.
Get Comfortable Saying No.
School committees? Extra-curricular activities? Parties? Listen up, people pleasers: You don’t need to say yes just because you’re asked. You don’t need to say yes because you’ve done it before. You can say no with grace and confidence and without any guilt. It's true that some people might get upset with you for saying no, but that's their problem, not yours. Most people will just accept it and move on.
Say yes when you’re really excited about something or you see great value in it, and let the other stuff go. If the thought of driving an extra 45 minutes so that your kids can participate in one more after-school activity makes you feel stressed or resentful, it’s ok to say no to those feelings and YES to feeling calmer and more relaxed. Your kids are better off with a happy parent than they are with more organized activities to fill what could be their alone time.
Enlist Outside Help.
Recruit babysitters, friends, and family to give you more time for yourself. If you're hesitant about leaving your kids with someone else or don’t have the money for a babysitter, go back and read last week’s post that addressed these excuses.
Make Alone Time Part Of Your Family Routine.
Kids thrive on routines, so why not make alone time a family habit? In our house on the weekends, we usually do a family activity in the morning, have lunch, and then spend 30-60 minutes of alone time before reconvening for the afternoon and evening. I generally nap, Marissa reads, Gavin plays a video game, and Dalia plays with her toys. Let your kids know in advance that you are introducing this, and help them come up with ways to spend their time, so they’re not bugging you every 5 minutes and asking you what to do.
Speaking of what to do, next week's post will be about what to do with alone time once you've got it (hint: it isn't running errands). Also, I'll be doing my first giveaway! You won't want to miss it, so be sure you're subscribed to the blog and following me on Facebook for your chance to win. Until next Tuesday…