Taking ten (or maybe even 15) for yourself.

February 29, 2016

audrey hepburn


(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…

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Leave a Comment

  • Thank you, Anna! So glad to hear another mom who finds 3 little ones a tipping point! This list is fantastic for anyone — so honest too (I would be eating sushi in silence in the car next to you! Ha!)


    • ha ha! You know it! And yes, three was a doozy but worth every bit of the hard work. My favorite thing has been seeing their friendships grow.

  • Out of curiosity, how did things work out with your little one who had silent reflux? I have an almost 5 month old with silent reflux and it’s been such a challenge. We have him on medicine which seems to help, but he wakes every 1-2 hours all night and cries so much..just wondering if there are any tricks I should try!

    • Hi Mary,
      Oh I am so sorry. That is so tough on both the baby and the parents! Luckily Max grew out of it pretty quick, but I did cut out dairy and that helped a good deal. Often times the foods we eat affect them so much! Hope you can get some rest soon. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel;)

  • Mary Boctr

    Great tips, Anna. The transition from two to three was also our most difficult, even four to five has been a breeze in comparison.

  • So many good bits I’m taking away from this post and holding on to dearly. “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.” I needed to hear that. And quiet time during the dinner hour will be implemented immediately. And you’re absolutely right- a slow sip of coffee (or wine) in the quiet is refueling in every sense of the word. Thank you for your words. We got this.

    • Julie so happy this could help a little. It’s so easy to get lost in survive and swim mode when a few adjustments to our day can turn the quality of our routine to big positive changes.

  • You’re sooooo on to something, here. I tell ya, I’ve been convinced for awhile now that I need to get my ass out of bed in the morning before my girls wake up. This used to be easier to do with my first, who always woke up around 8am. But my second (who’s only 10 months now) was waking up around 6-6:30am every morning and I just couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) allow myself to be up in the 5am hour! Also, add in the fact that she was waking up multiple times a night. I was going to get in every single minute of sleep that I could each night. But now, wake up time is closer to 7am so I guess it’s about time to re-introduce myself to my alarm clock. Haven’t used it in…Um , can’t remember when. I truly think that starting my morning on my own terms, in peace, with coffee…will make a huge difference in my day. And I love your tip on quiet time during dinner/in the evenings. I’ve mentioned this before to my husband but haven’t enforced it. I think this would help mellow out the tribe and also create more opportunities for closer family bonding time over books, drawing or even a quiet board game. Love this post, thanks for sharing!

    • Misty I know exactly where you are coming from! I don’t do before 6AM …ha! In fact, there was a good time where it was impossible to ever get up earlier than they would. Every age asks for different shifts in schedule, but hopefully you can at least get some quiet time at some point in the day! Helps tremendously for our heads to breath a little;)

  • Three kids was a tipping point for us too!! We seem to have found a good rhythm with 4 🙂
    All your tips are great… my mom emphasized some of the same ones (she had 10 kids!)

    • Four isn’t easy but maybe because it’s familiar territory it feels easier than three? My mom always reassured me the same when and she is proving to be right!

  • This has been my new years resolution for 2016. I just went from 2 to 3 kiddos, and its totally kicking my butt! Love all your ideas. I’ve had all these great ideas at the beginning of the year, but everything has kind of fallen through. The only thing I’ve been consistent on is taking a long soaking bath on Saturday’s. It totally refuels me.

    • Diana, I hear ya. Hang in there, because it will get smoother! I wasn’t able to catch a break that summer with a new baby and adjusting to three, but hopefully you can find a way to re-fuel mid day or even mid week!

  • Marianne

    I have four kids ages 7, 11, 13, and 14. I remember those early days all too clearly. I honestly felt I was in survival mode and tried to enjoy it as much as I could since everyone told me the time would go by too quickly (definitely didn’t believe it at the time). Having 15 minutes to myself in a doctor waiting room was a luxury for me at the time! I do think all your advice is wonderful for moms who are in the trenches of littles at home. It is SO important to make some quiet time for yourself. You are doing your family a disservice if you don’t take time for yourself. You’ll be a happier mom/wife if you do! My mom (who had 6 kids) told me to nap/rest myself when the babies were napping. The cleaning could wait until they were awake. It is definitely bittersweet now that my kids are older. Hang in there, moms!

  • Thank you for keeping it real! It is so easy to get caught up in how everybody’s life except your own looks easy-peasy. I really, really appreciate your candid and honest posts! Although I do not have children of my own, I understand the need to take time for yourself. Even though it’s just myself and my husband, we tend to spread our calendars thin. Because of that, I have also learned the importance of taking some time to just unwind, slow down, and do something I enjoy. And part of that is reading your blog posts!

  • Love this!! Good points!

  • This is so wonderful to read! I am currently pregnant with our first little one, so I appreciate hearing your words of experience and wisdom as the adventure of parenting speedily comes towards us 🙂 I think it’s really awesome that in the past year or so, so many moms are bringing the importance of “me time” to the blogosphere! A lot of my friends, like me, grew up in circles where many of the loving mothers seemed to think that caring for their kids meant literally always putting themselves aside for the sake of being with their kids. But that only causes mommy burn-out, which isn’t good for anyone! Again, thank you for this-I like how your approach is very take-charge, instead of just letting yourself be swamped and destroyed by all of the rough stuff that comes your way 🙂

  • Portia Antonio

    I really appreciate all of this! Our number 3 is 9 months and we are still trying to adjust. I was randomly watching I’ll have what Phil’s having on Netflix, and the show made a big point of how people in different cultures make self-care or slowing down to just “be” a part of their daily routine (i.e. Tea breaks, the beautiful parks in the middle of the city, and siesta! I vote for siesta. Really am inspired to include these!

  • “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.”

    Preach it sister! So very true and beautifully stated. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • “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.”

    Preach it sister! So true and beautifully stated. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • tired tears! the worst! I like the day date idea. must be some super babysitter too! we just found one and it’s a game changer. three kids under three. hands full.heart fuller!

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