(photo by Mark Shaw)
How in the world are you supposed to take ten minutes for yourself during the days you hit the ground running the moment the alarm goes off? I have had to learn how the hard way. After one too many pent up emotional outbursts and tired tears, I decided it was worth fighting for the ten minutes a day for myself, rather than apologizing for all the harm a hurricane of emotions would do if I didn’t…
My first born Gabriel didn’t really give us an accurate foreshadowing of what the prime days of parenthood would look like. The boy LOVED loved to sleep, rarely cried, and was an eating champ. We thought, well this isn’t so bad! We loved adjusting to life with three of us, and didn’t quite get it when friends joked about lack of sleep and the challenges of the first year of parenthood. In fact, we were eager for the next baby so Gabriel could have a sibling. We also were never going to be the parents that let their kids have meltdowns in public, eat off of our plates, or watch little to no television a day. Oh how we chuckle at our first year parenthood selves now. Let’s fast forward a tad…
Week 6 of our third child, Maximilian. He had silent reflux and needed to be held constantly. Add in a jealous two year old trying to adjust to the shift in family status + a four year old going through some emotionally delayed issues, and you have two parents looking like they just got placed in the middle of The Hunger Games arena. It was the hardest point of my life, and although I loved my children to pieces, I had to fight to catch my breath on a daily basis. I knew these little babes were my most important focus, but I didn’t know how to give them the best of myself in the process when I myself felt like I needed my mama!
Eventually our family found a new rhythm and those three are a close knit crew now following each other from room to room. Adjusting to our fourth baby is familiar territory. It isn’t quite as a shock, and we have established a better way to find balance in our daily routine. It isn’t easy by any means, but you learn to let go of the things that aren’t necessary in your life, and look for more meaningful outlets to give you the strength to offer your children a better version of yourself rather than distracted and spread thin. As you might guess, freedom to take a few minutes has dwindled throughout the day, and so I thought it would be important to share how I try to make this happen, in case you are in the same boat I was that summer three years ago.
Whether you have one child or ten, don’t ever guilt yourself for feeling like motherhood is hard. BECAUSE DAMN STRAIGHT IT IS! It’s okay to admit it, and then it’s okay to acknowledge you need more than yourself to make it through. It doesn’t change how much you love your children. In fact, it’s because you love them to bits that you recognize you need to take ten sometimes. Just a few ideas…
- Get up before your kids do. I used to be a morning person. Not so much anymore. I’ve got to peel open my eyes and drag myself out of bed, but I love to get a head start. Getting showered and dressed before my little ones get up, and if I am lucky, a cup of coffee and ten minutes of prayer/meditation to set my focus for the day. It makes a clear difference in my day rather than waking up to a toddler staring at your face begging for breakfast.
- Ask for help. We didn’t have the budget for a babysitter until recently, but before then, I would swap a short amount of time during the week with a sister or a friend to run a few errands on my own or go to the store all by myself. Oh the novelty! When our babysitter comes once a week now, I usually use it as work time to write blog content or shoot photos, but I also like to use a small portion of that time to have a little silence. Even if that means eating sushi in my car or having coffee in a corner of a cafe all by myself. Key words: ALL BY MYSELF! Suddenly you are crazy about your kids again. I swear, does the trick every time. If a babysitter isn’t possible, I guarantee you there are women in your school, church, or neighborhood community who would be more than willing to lend a hand to help you get an hour to yourself. We are so good at putting on a cape and trying to conquer life solo, but we were meant to do this as a tribe.
- Take the first ten minutes of nap time. When my little ones sleep, I have a list longer than actually feasible of accomplishing in that span of time, but I still force myself to take the first ten minutes to chill. Read a good mag, dabble in something you enjoy doing just for the fun of it, or maybe slowly sip that second cup of coffee. We kind of need a midday check-point and re-fuel by then, yes?
- Quiet time during dinner hour. My mom taught me this one. She would always announce quiet time in the evening at that time of the day when everyone kind of needs a time out. Before Gabe gets home can be a really challenging point when everyone is getting hungry and cranky. I will either tell the kids they have to do something constructive and quiet in their rooms, or turn on a netflix show (Mr. Rogers you wonderful wonderful person you). We also have an art table for painting, play-do, and drawing. Giving them choices of how to spend that quiet time usually works well, and when all else fails, I pull out the netflix card.
- Weekend dates. Gabe and I are really into the morning date hours right now. Every once in a while we go get breakfast together on a Saturday morning to kick of the weekend. It’s our chance to take a little time to connect with each other, and maybe even hold hands. You know, reminding each other how great this adventure really is that we get to do it together.
- After hours. After my kids are in bed I often would like to face plant into bed myself, but using the time once or twice a week to go for a run (my preferred kind of stress relief), make a game plan for the week, or just indulging in a good dessert and a movie always provides a good re-charge to start the next day on a good note.
I have friends who are single parents, who have husbands in the military, or with jobs that require a good deal of travel. Hats off and a salute to you, because I know catching your breath is much harder to do. These are just a few ways that have helped me over the last few years to take ten minutes for myself, but I would love to hear your ideas as well. Have a good start to your week!