If you’re a parent, then you know that your wonderful children are also wonderfully challenging. No matter the stage of parenthood you find yourself in, challenges exist. From agonizing meals – just take one bite! – to seemingly endless bedtime routines, parenting can be exhausting and mentally overwhelming. You’re not alone. You and your partner need to take a break, regularly and on purpose. But finding time to get some much-needed (and well-deserved) “me” time is a struggle, especially if you work outside the home or have a slew of obligations, like soccer practice or band competitions. You might also struggle with two common parenting dilemmas that make taking a time out for yourself even more challenging: guilt and separation anxiety.
Feeling guilt over wanting “me” time is a very common problem that parents around the world experience from time to time. It’s particularly prevalent in parents with toddlers and infants. This feeling of guilt is especially hard to handle when you have friends, family or coworkers taking lavish vacations, spending money frivolously and traveling to their hearts’ content while you’re in the throes of sibling negotiations, sleep-deprived workdays and battles over breakfast. Guilt over wanting to take a break from your children is entirely normal. You just have to learn how to accept it and respond to it appropriately.
Guilt isn’t the only thing driving a wedge between you and your alone time. Believe it or not, separation anxiety affects more than just children and pets. You and your parental partner may be facing guilt, separation anxiety or a painful mix of both. You might struggle with:
- Fear of missing important milestones
- A loss of self – who are you without your child?
- Feelings of selfishness
- Not wanting to make another person care for your child
- A fear that everything could go wrong because you aren’t there to supervise
Practice makes perfect. Feelings of guilt and separation anxiety don’t have to determine your future or the relationship that you have with your child. Take baby steps to overcome these feelings so that you can enjoy your “me” time again.
How Do I Start?
Now that you’ve accepted that parenting can be tough and you need a break, how do you do it? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to take a mental breather from time to time. In fact, it’s essential to de-stress if you want to build strong and healthy relationships with those around you, including your kids. Taking some you time will soothe your frazzled mind, restore your soul and keep your sanity in check. We can all agree that a sane parent is a happy one, and a happy one provides better care for her children. Here are some other benefits to taking a parental time out:
These days, you probably hear some form of “mom” or “dad” when you’re being addressed because you’re surrounded by your offspring. Even parents of one child can struggle with remembering their identity outside of parenthood. Taking time out for self-care will help you rediscover your own traits beyond mother- or fatherhood.
Sweet, sweet rest
Back in your pre-kid days, you probably didn’t think twice about lazing by the window on a rainy Sunday to catch up on your reading. Those moments might be few and far between now that you’re on-call 24/7, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy rest when you can get it. It’s important to understand that rest doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping or lounging – although it certainly could. Rest simply means that you’re getting a break from the stresses of everyday life. Your version of rest may mean going for a quiet walk, taking an extra bubbly bath or watching a few episodes of your favorite crime drama on Netflix. Rejuvenate yourself so that you feel ready to tackle your duties once you return.
Thinking for yourself
So much of parenthood includes thinking for and about your children. How to protect them, how to make sure they’re getting the right food or mental stimulation, what to do in an emergency and which stores have the best public restrooms – these and other thoughts crowd your brain and leave little time for thinking through your own thoughts. By taking me time, you’re giving yourself a chance to relax and savor the thoughts you’ve been pushing to the backburner. Read, have a lunch date with your friends or go shopping on your own. Your mind will thank you.
With kids, there are no boundaries when it comes to personal space, especially with little ones. But even older kids might not always respect your need to be alone and untouched, on occasion. Leave the kids with your trusted babysitter or family, and enjoy the blissful feeling of having your own personal space back. Eat a meal without tiny fingers flying in your face, or take a long bath without worrying about revealing too much of yourself to your kids.
Remember – “Me” Time Isn’t Just about You
You might object to the idea of personal time because it can seem selfish, but your kids will learn how to take care of themselves by modeling your behavior. Recharge and live your life as the role model you want your children to look up to. Taking a bit of you time every so often will help you think more clearly, make better decisions, and stay calmer and more collected when everyday battles threaten to overwhelm you. It’s just as important for your kids to understand the benefit of taking a break as it is for you to take one. So go ahead and relax – at least for a little bit.