I remember reading the oxygen mask instructions on my very first flight at five years old. You’ve probably seen them yourself, the “in case of emergency, fasten your own oxygen mask, and then assist those around you.”I remember asking my mom about it, and she explained it to me– in order to help others (like me), she needed to be able to breathe herself. It made sense at the time, on a very literal level.
As a kid, I thought it was kind of odd that they had to spell out what to do– why wouldn’t a person put her own mask on first?
As a parent, I now know that I am constantly giving my kids air to breathe while coming up short myself.
They say that a happy mom = happy baby, but it’s hard to believe it when you’re sleep deprived and fully immersed in being the parent to a newborn. How is going out for a few hours (while the baby screams endlessly, no doubt) going to make the baby happy? It completely depends on what you do for yourself in the those few hours.
Now that my kids are a little older, I have no problem with the idea of leaving them for a few hours here and there (besides working), it’s actually the logistics of childcare arrangements that sometimes stops up the process.
Here are a few ways that I’ve found to carve out some time in our very busy world:
Trade with your spouse/partner: If you are parenting and in a relationship, give each other some time off here and there. Send your spouse out, or better yet, my preference is for my husband to take the kids out and for me to really to be in our home, alone. The idea of something staying clean for more than five minutes, and to hear complete silence is something I crave.
Arrange a Child Swap with Friends: A while back, a girlfriend emailed every family she knew with kids roughly the same ages as her own. She proposed that we swap childcare on occasion and it’s worked out really well. We don’t really keep track, but for the most part, we tend to call each other about once a month for a few hours out in the evening. We also found a series of weeks where we were both free, with our toddlers during the day, and arranged a “mom’s morning out.” We traded, so each week one of us watched both boys and the other got three hours of time to do whatever. It was godsend.
Enforce Bedtime: I know so many people struggling with this right now, with summer schedules in flux and the sun staying high in the sky until well after 9pm, it’s tough. But a firm bedtime, one that ensures that you’ve got two to three hours of down time before you yourself have to go to bed can do wonders.
Exercise: I exercise for a number of reasons, one of which is that I can’t wipe butts while I’m doing jumping jacks. Sometimes I leave hubby with the kids, sometimes I use the childcare at the gym, and for the past three weeks, I’ve been getting up early to squeeze it in. There are definitely mental bonuses to exercising regularly, in addition to the physical benefits.
How else do you carve out time for yourself? It doesn’t even need to be kids literally sucking the air right out of you – I think other people, situations, and jobs can do the same thing. How do you cope?