Babies are completely time-consuming. After the birth of my first child, I couldn’t even remember what I had done with all the free time I had before she was born. Wasn’t I bored without diapers to change and breasts to pump and tiny clothes to fold?
And then I slowly began to remember—I really wasn’t bored at all. I showered every single day; in fact, some days I even took a shower in the morning and a long, hot bath at night. (Doesn’t that sound luxurious?) I read more than one sentence at a time, watched movies without interruption, finished my meals, slept. Like any mom, I adore my children and sometimes can’t bear the thought of being away from them. And then other days—well, other days, I think I’ll scream if I can’t have just five minutes without someone needing my attention.
I used to feel guilty about this, before I realized how completely normal it is. Many of my mom friends confess to feeling the same way, and really, what can you expect? Look at all you do for a baby in one day: feed him (several times), bathe him, play with him, rock him, carry him, love him. And what do you do for yourself? Probably not a whole lot.
Parents are notorious for sacrificing their own wants and needs for those of their children, which is not always the best idea. Studies show that moms who take time for themselves are typically calmer, better able to keep things in perspective, and more emotionally and mentally capable than those who allow themselves to be overwhelmed by parenting. Not only is there nothing wrong with admitting that you need to get away from your baby to relax and regroup, it also makes you a better mom—and in turn, your little one a happier baby.
So once you’ve decided it’s OK to take some non-baby time for yourself, you need to find a way to fit it in.
Steal your moments
We totally think that you should nap every time your baby does, but if you can stay awake, spend that time doing something equally important—bathing, reading, checking your email, whatever it is that rejuvenates you. Or ask your partner to take over baby’s bath duty so you can have 10 minutes to yourself while your little one is splashing in the tub. (It’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing!)
Look at the big picture
Will ordering takeout tonight—and saving your elaborate homemade dinner plans for the weekend—give you more time to unwind? If you let the laundry sit for another day, will it be the end of the world (or the end of anyone’s clean underwear stack)? Sometimes, “take time for mom” needs to trump “mop the kitchen floor” on the to-do list—you’re just as important as all those other tasks that need taking care of.
Recruit a sitter
One of the hardest things for me was leaving my children in the care of someone else, even if it was my admittedly saner and more competent husband. But if you try it with someone you really trust, you’ll probably decide (quickly!) that those precious moments of freedom are well worth the worry. (You’ll probably also realize that you were really worrying for nothing.)
Sign up for a yoga class, a book club, or some other activity that gets you out of the house on a regular basis. And then actually go!
Take what you can get
If you can’t squeeze in a physical break, settle for a mental one. If you leave your baby in her swing all day, every day, it’s a bad thing. If you strap her in long enough to flip through a magazine, it’s a good thing.
Take advantage of bedtime
Once my kids have fallen asleep at night, I fall on the couch and do nothing but listen to the beautiful quiet for about 30 minutes. I don’t clean. I don’t work. I don’t call my mom back. I just restore my sanity. I have a friend who does the exact opposite—she sets her alarm for 5:30 every morning, a full hour before her kids wake up, so she can enjoy a quiet house and a hot cup of coffee before her day begins. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, enjoying the peace and quiet of a home filled with sleeping children is a great way to steal some time to yourself.