Being a parent can be the most fulfilling role you’ll ever have, and while you wouldn’t change it for the world, you still need balance in your life. Taking time for self-care is vital to being a healthy parent for your child and your family.
Finding this elusive time to recharge your batteries is easier said than done, and self-care means different things to different people. Some parents might feel energized cramming in a workout at 5 in the morning before the kids wake up. Others might prefer to use their me-time to read a good book. Whatever form of downtime appeals to you, here are some ideas to help you create that space in your day.
Make chores a family affair.
While it may not be possible to involve your infant in cleaning duties, although baby wraps and carriers do exist, toddlers are at a unique age where they may see chores as a way of practicing and demonstrating competence. For example, some toddlers love helping to sort laundry and bringing it to the right room. While your kids are finishing up their meals, try sneaking in a load of dishes and have your kids bring you their plates when they’re done. Ask your kids to pick up their toys before naptime and bedtime. Putting their toys into a laundry basket or toy box can become a fun game for them while being helpful for you. When you finish, hugs and high-fives all around reinforce the importance of teamwork.
If you find yourself using all your downtime to scrub the tub and mop the floor, and it’s causing you significant stress, consider scaling back. What can be left undone or done less frequently? Are you able to hire a cleaning company to help out, even once in a while? Not everyone can, but considering all options can help you prioritize and create more space for yourself. If you have a partner, sit down and discuss how you can divide and conquer the household chores, so neither one of you is overwhelmed.
Adjust your sleeping schedule.
Some kids seem to sense your sleeping patterns and intuitively rise when you do, but if you can manage it, taking an hour for yourself before your kids get up can be an excellent way to center yourself. If your children go to bed early in the evening, regularly schedule time for yourself then. Of course, there are periods when babies go through night-waking, and any amount of alone time seems farfetched, but take heart in knowing that sleep struggles won’t last forever, and you’ll soon be able to carve out some time for yourself.
Indulge in nature.
There’s something about the sights and sounds of nature that inspire renewal and calm. You don’t have to live near the ocean or the mountains to find beauty in your backyard. When the weather allows, try to take your kids outside for a while each day. You’re all likely to feel refreshed. If you live in a land of ice and snow in the winter, get a membership at a local botanical garden or zoo, so you have a place to push the stroller and soak up the fresh air.
Finding time to exercise is certainly challenging for many parents. Getting outside is particularly helpful for making an exercise routine you can stick with, whether it’s cycling to the store, jogging with the stroller around the block, or doing pull-ups on the monkey bars and tricep dips off the playground bench.
Some kids enjoy “exercising” with their parents. Exercise balls, resistance bands, and jump ropes can be lots of fun for kids. If your toddler loves to mimic and move, try dance workouts and aerobics. Swimming is another big hit with little kids. You won’t be able to go off and swim laps, but just playing in a pool together is sure to get you moving and meet some of your physical needs while having fun at the same time.
Find time-saving meal strategies.
In a perfect world, you’d have a month’s worth of menus plotted out with shopping lists made. However, that takes time, too, right? The time you don’t have. Using your slow cooker is a quick, easy way to have a hearty dinner ready with minimal prep. You can also try making double batches of meals and build up a freezer stash for those incredibly hectic days.
If you have a partner at home, perhaps you can take turns meal-planning, grocery shopping, or cooking. Many stores have grocery delivery services available. Even if it’s not in your budget long-term, taking advantage of such services during bustling stretches can ease some burdens.
Know your triggers.
You can probably tell when you start to feel irritation building. Take a moment to stop, breathe deeply, and ask yourself: What do I need to stay balanced? It might be a glass of water, more sleep, something to eat, or a moment away from the action to breathe. You should note which times of day tend to be more challenging. You don’t want to feel consistently overwhelmed by your kids, so come up with a plan to take charge of these troublesome times of the day.
Even if you’re not able to take a nap whenever you start feeling overwhelmed, recognizing your triggers will help you manage your feelings better. If you don’t have time for the break you need, try to find another way to ease your tension. If you have a solid support system, lean on others to help during these moments. Maybe you can call a close friend and chat for a few minutes while your kids play in the background. Taking a little time to connect to those who support you is a surefire way to lift your spirits and energy.
You’re doing your best, but some days you’re still exhausted. Your kids have no idea how spent you are. You are the pinnacle of grace, confidence, and patience to them. Even if you have to “play dead” while they play doctor, your love knows no bounds. Plus, it’s a chance to lie down.
Give yourself some grace and realize what an amazing parent you are. Even when you feel depleted, you are exactly what your kids need, and your love for them will not go unnoticed. Enjoy these moments and know that it will get easier.