Parenting can feel like you're training for a marathon by running sprint after sprint without a breath in between. It might feel like you’ve got to keep going at full-speed all day long — but like any good long-distance runner, you’ve got to learn to build in some breaks. It’s the only way to recover and recharge for the next leg of the race.
Parenting a child can be exhausting in and of itself. But it’s unlikely that you can be a totally dedicated parent with no other responsibilities. Most parents today are juggling many competing and equally demanding responsibilities. It may seem like the only way you can stay ahead of these responsibilities is by giving up time for yourself — the time you may need to recharge, refocus, and re-center.
Finding time for yourself
Even when you think you’ve found some down time, things can change quickly. It could be a play date ending early, traffic you weren’t counting on, or that one final work email you answered that took an hour. As a parent, life gets chaotic and messy. There may not ever be an “easy time” to give yourself a break — so it’s important to find opportunities to practice self-care where and when you can.
Here are a few ideas of how to carve out a little alone time in the middle of family life:
1. Go with the fold: Folding laundry can be a mind-numbing chore. Could you add a little me time while you're doing the laundry? Maybe you use it to catch up with a friend by phone (use a headset so you're hands-free for folding!), or treat yourself to a few of the internet's best cat videos. Finding small ways to "gift" yourself in the middle of a crazy day may provide a little needed mental rest.
2. Give yourself a pep talk. Need a little emotional encouragement? Use your inner voice and talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend. It’s likely you are far more forgiving or encouraging with your loved one’s challenges or worries than you are with your own. Now turn that tone around on yourself. Think about where you need:
- Forgiveness: I missed my child’s soccer game but thankfully, there is another game next weekend.
- Acceptance: It’s OK that I said no to volunteering for the school, it just doesn’t work for me right now.
- Encouragement: I’m going to play tennis once a week because it makes me happy—and I deserve that.
3. Ten-minute time-out: As a parent, it’s easy to push your own hobbies or passions to the side because of (many!) demands on your time. Rather than aim for “enough” time, and ending up with none — could you start by aiming for just “some”? In just ten minutes time, you might be able to tend a small section of your garden, clean the chain on your motorcycle, or read a few pages from a book.
While ten minutes is only a small commitment of time, you might find it easier to carve out than twenty, thirty, or more — and it can help you stay connected to your passion. Plus, you might notice that putting in 10 minutes here or there starts to add up significantly over a week or two.
4. Make self-care a ritual. Can you make self-care a daily ritual? It’s doesn’t have to take long — just a few minutes where you take time to focus on yourself.
It can help to use predictable times of your day where you know you need to mentally regroup. If you have school-aged kids, the shuffle to get them awake, dressed, fed and ready for school can be chaotic. Can you make a 10-minute walk as soon as the kids are on the bus your daily self-care ritual? What about when you have been working all day? Try a five-minute meditation or prayer before you come home from work, before you start anything else. Building a self-care ritual can help you re-center yourself, and get energized for what’s next — and when there are kids around, there’s always something next.
The most important take-away is to find time wherever you can to focus on your needs — even if, for now, it’s only for a few minutes at a time. The goal is to find some calm in the chaos. Over time, you might find that, like a runner training for a long race, short bursts of self-care can help you build endurance for the marathon of parenting.
Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.
Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.