Mridu Khullar Relph
The world of a stay-at-home parent is a 24/7 occupation, and it often feels like a thankless one. The average salary is a basic living wage (room, board, expenses), and benefits are calculated in smiles and hugs rather than cash and stock options.
In what seem like never-ending days of chores, kids and household responsibilities, it can be difficult to even imagine finding time for just you.
"In the business of our lives and caring for our family's needs, we lose track of who we are," says Patty Lennon, CEO and Founder of Mom Gets a Life. "As any person grows and goes through life changes (like becoming a mom) what we love and who we are shifts." Lennon says that finding the time for stillness and quiet can be one of the greatest gifts we give ourselves in helping us stay connected.
Here are our top five ideas to get you started:
1. Get physical
Go for a walk or a run. Renew that gym membership you let expire during your maternity leave. Sign up for a dance or martial arts class. Classes are helpful because they create a schedule for you, an appointment to keep.
Not only will the exercise give you more physical and mental energy, it will make you a happier, more patient mama as well.
2. Relax your brain
Remember when you enjoyed spending time just lazing about the house reading a magazine or listening to music? Try to spend an hour or two in your week doing the things that mentally disengage you from the daily grind of housework, errands and kids.
Here's a tip from Bryce Gruber, single mom to a nearly three-year-old boy and editor of TheLuxurySpot.com: "There's something about a car ride that lulls kids to sleep. When I need a little time to myself, I pop my son in the car (he loves seeing all the other cars on the road), head out of the city to somewhere quiet, and by the time we arrive an hour later, he's already asleep or napping."
3. Reconnect with the world
The life of a busy parent can be all-consuming, and a common complaint is 'I never speak with adults anymore'. An occasional lunch date with a new friend or a phone call with an old one can work wonders for your spirit during or after a busy day.
But remember to make this time about you-- talking about the husband and kids might seem like the natural thing to do, automatic pilot, but this is your personal time. Make an effort to talk about something else besides your family.
Think it's impossible to ever have a personal lunch without a child or two attached to your legs?
Karen J. Bannan has a nine-year-old daughter and blogs at NaturalAsPossibleMom. She offers this possible solution: "With my first child I became close friends with another mom. She and I would do babysitting swaps. It was great," says Karen. "I would take her son so she could go out. She would take my daughter so I could go out. It was free, I knew my daughter was being well taken care of, and, as the kids got older, it was a great way to give my little girl a regular play date with a playmate she still loves and sees to this day."
4. Get those hands moving
There is no equivalent to getting down and dirty and playful. The next time you have a spare hour, get creative: draw, paint, bake, cook, sew, knit, crochet, make a scrapbook. It doesn't matter what you do as long as your hands and your mind are both engaged.
Not only is this a great way to de-stress, but you'll find many of your arts-and-crafts projects engage your kids, as well.
5. Time for some pampering
You spend your days looking after others, it's only fair that some days be just about you. A massage or a pedicure is great, but if you're trying to save cash, an hour in a hot bath with a book and a glass of wine can be just as soothing and rehabilitating.
"After my son goes to sleep, I make sure I take time to make a big pot of herbal tea, turn on some good music, and do some reading with a good face mask or eye pads on," says Gruber. "It's a 20-minute project that leaves my taste buds happy, my face clear, and I end up feeling seriously relaxed."
Mridu Khullar Relph
Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist who writes for Time magazine, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Global Post, Ms., and the Christian Science Monitor, among others. She is a contributing editor at Elle’s Indian edition and has also contributed to the US and international editions of Glamour, Vogue, Self, and Marie Claire.