A very wise person once said: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.
Need a hint? Was it Plato? Socrates? Nicodemus?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
It was Ferris Bueller.
And as many horrible choices as Ferris made, he sure did know how to have a great time! This kid made the most of his “sick” day: joy riding around Chicago, catching a baseball game and snagging a fancy meal.
While these might not be options for you (or me), we can still make some time to unwind and reconnect to ourselves. It might be challenging, but I can promise you it will be worth it.
A great first step is to think about creating small moments of relaxation daily. I found that my child’s naptimes are perfect opportunities for me to kick back and relax. Or at least watch a DVRed show while I write for a while.
For you, these mini-breaks might be created by getting up a little earlier than your munchkins, stepping back while they play solo or using the moments after they are down for the night.
One of my favorite things to do now that we have hit the toddler years is to sip my coffee, very slowly, while she lines up her princess dolls or colors or chases the dog or cooks me some pretend food. It’s definitely not hanging out at a local coffee shop with a book, but it does help me to create a small reserve of sanity first thing in the morning.
I also make some things work for me with my mini in tow. Some great ways to burn off steam or relax with kids, for me, are working out and running together. True, running while pushing my baby is definitely not as soothing as a long solo run, but I’m still running and producing endorphins.
And endorphins make you happy. And you know what they say about happy people…
While you may LOVE being around your spouse or your kids, and even sometimes both, we all occasionally need a break. Alone time is a great way to collect your thoughts, totally relax and start to recharge.
True alone time (no kids, spouse or interruptions) requires planning and coordination.
For people with kids and a spouse who deploys potentially frequently, this will likely require calling in reinforcements. One of my best resources for finding reliable child care is my friends!
I’m super lucky to have a close group of friends at my current duty station who happen to have children around the same age as mine. We will sometimes swap babysitting services while another friend gets a pedicure, goes for a long run or has a much needed date night. Or we will have a play or dinner date: the kids occupy each other and the parents can chat over coffee, tea or wine.
If you do have your spouse home, try and enlist him or her to take the lead while you decompress. My husband understands that he has morning duty on Saturdays and Sundays while I go for a long run. He has noticed that I am happier, more relaxed and generally a better person after spending a couple of hours pounding the pavement solo or with a few friends.
Since he knows that I shoulder a lot (read: all) of the cooking, cleaning and childcare duties, he has also been more than happy to help me create bigger chunks of time for myself. One way we worked this out was to schedule frequent playground trips. Usually on a day when he knows he is getting off of work early or on a Sunday afternoon, my lovely husband will spirit our child away to the playground, the library or some other equally exciting “adventure.” It frees up a larger block of time that I can devote to getting a pedicure, having my hair cut or even just napping.
escaped relaxed for a whole weekend! It was like finding the Holy Grail! A few days and nights of child-free relaxation was exactly what I needed to mentally recharge. This is not an all the time thing, but working with your spouse, parents or in-laws to orchestrate an overnight or a few days where you can step away from your normal life can be amazing.
As I evaluated the ways that I am able to carve out time for myself, I realized that it focused on 3 things:
- Ways I could relax with my children
- Ways I could relax during my child’s regular routine (naptime, bedtime, independent play)
- Ways I could relax with help from my spouse and/or friends
When you break down your day and week, try to find your own moments for zen. It could be as basic as putting on “Sesame Street” while you get your sweat on. Or as awesome as sending your children to school all day, which could really free up a lot of time.
Talk to your friends, family and spouse to find ways that you can support each other. If all else fails and your budget permits, hire a babysitter every once in a while.
There is definitely a way to create little segments of time so that you can unwind, reconnect with yourself and destress. I would love to hear about how YOU make it work for you!