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My family gave me a great gift this week.
Grandma invited her son and grandsons to visit without me. I had a few teaching responsibilities, but otherwise I’ve been able to choose how to spend my time, and I’ve been spending it alone.
I am an introvert. Although I am not shy, and I enjoy time around other people, I get really drained if I don’t have time to recharge by myself. This mom gig doesn’t allow for lots of time alone, as all we moms who have hidden behind a locked bathroom door know.
My situation is complicated by the fact that I work as a teacher, I live with three extroverts who love to talk, and I live in a neighborhood with awesome neighbors who hang out together while their kids play.
Often, I go days at a time with almost no time to myself, and I feel my shoulders getting tenser and my temper rising. A retreat without our kids is hard to come by for most of us, so I’ve been striving to work some moments of solitude into my day even when I’m at home alone all day with the kids. Since I’ve got so much more quiet time than usual this week, I decided to make a list of some of my favorite ways that this SAHM grabs a moment alone while maintaining all my family responsibilities.
Nine Tips for SAHMs Who Need a Moment Alone
1. Wake up early (or stay up late if you’re a night owl).
This advice comes up all the time because it really works. Setting my alarm an hour earlier assures that I can start the day the way I want to without the first thought in my head being, “Ugh. Time to make breakfast.” Incidentally, you can buy yourself a few more minutes of quiet time in the mornings if you can set up the breakfast foods so that a preschooler can grab them himself. In our house, I’ll often leave out muffins or cereal and milk (in an easy-to-pour container) so that the kids can just eat when they’re hungry without my assistance.
2. Teach your kids early to respect a closed door.
I always knock on my kids’ doors when they are closed and ask for permission to come in or apologize for disturbing them. Kids model what they see, and I hope that, eventually, they’ll think twice before barging in on me while I’m coming out of the shower, pooping, or just hiding by myself for a few minutes.
3. Find a way to abdicate responsibly to another adult for a few minutes.
I solo parent a lot, and my closest family lives three hours away, so the buck stops with me most of the time. Childcare is expensive. As a solution to this, my neighbors set up a babysitting exchange. We each set out with a certain number of points, and exchange those points to ‘pay’ for childcare. The kids love it because they get to play with their friends, and the moms love it because we can carve out a few glorious, guilt-free (and money-free) minutes alone.
4. Make use of “quiet time”.
My kids each gave up their naps around age 2, and I hated the loss of the time to myself. I implemented quiet time. The kids didn’t have to nap, but they did have to do some sort of a quiet activity, whether it was looking at a book, doing a puzzle, or coloring a picture. Years later, quiet time still doesn’t come easily to these little guys, but it is often possible to engage them in an activity that doesn’t involve me and that holds their attention. (Full disclosure, that does sometimes involve coloring in crayon on our couch.)
5. Don’t be afraid to use the electronic babysitter sparingly.
Yes, sure, we’ve all read that it’s better for our kids if they don’t have a lot of screen time. No, they will not be irreparably damaged if you let them watch a movie while you take a few minutes to read a book, meditate, do a yoga video, or write in a journal. You’re sure to come back to them with more energy and a cheerier disposition, and that’s good for everyone.
6. Talk to your family when you need a break.
It’s not a crime to say, “I need a few minutes to myself right now” or “please give me my privacy” especially when your fuse is getting short. We’re teaching our children how to treat people and how to respect boundaries. You’re a person whose boundaries need to be respected, too.
7. Find a spot of your own (preferably with a door that closes).
It may be a bedroom, closet, or corner of the back porch, but find a place where you can regularly take a few minutes undisturbed. Try to keep the toys out of there, and try to make it someplace relatively calm and beautiful. Just three minutes alone meditating in my kid-free, toy-free bedroom helps my outlook a lot.
8. Visit a playground that allows you to supervise your children from a short distance.
At 4 and 7, my kids don’t need me standing right next to them at the playground anymore. Many of the playgrounds we visit have lovely little walking paths around them. I’m able to keep my kids in view while taking a nice little stroll ‘by myself’.
9. Remember the old saying, “the days are long, but the years are short.”
This is a temporary situation, even though it feels interminable when you’re in the thick of it. My kids are 4 and 7 now, and I feel like they get a little more independent, a little more mature, a little less needy, and a little less likely to die accidentally every day. I know I will be back to having much more alone time soon enough, and I might even miss the four-year-old breaking into the bathroom because he “just wanted to give me a hug”.
So there you have it–nine tactics I use as a SAHM for carving out a few minutes alone here and there. The fact of the matter is that this stage of life is a labor-intensive one, especially when I’ve complicated the whole situation by choosing to homeschool. Carving out these little pockets of quiet time for myself really helps me to keep my sanity. Well, that and at the occasional glass of wine…