Alone time is an important part of caring for our wellbeing.
Having time to just be who we are, to rest and relax, helps us feel happier, healthier, more energised and refreshed. Without it, in the long run, we can start to see negative impacts to our mental, emotional and physical health. A lack of alone time also impacts our parenting as it becomes harder to be patient, compassionate, joyful and present.
Despite the benefits and the fact that many mums are craving a moment alone, it can often feel like getting any alone time is near impossible. Or, when we do manage to find a window of opportunity, we feel guilty for doing something for ourselves.
Right now, while the world is dealing with COVID-19, we are spending more and more time at home with our partners and children. This means that being alone might feel even more impossible as you try to work out how to adjust your life. Even if you had alone time before, you may find that you need to adjust the ways you do that now. In the midst of all the current uncertainty and change it’s even more important to be intentional about finding alone time, so you can care for your wellbeing and continue to give your best to your family.
Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Decide that your alone time matters
The first step to finding alone time, is deciding that your alone time DOES matter, and making it a priority.
If you don’t make it a priority and take steps to make it happen, it probably won’t happen. At least, not often enough to really make a difference to your wellbeing.
You have the power!
This doesn’t mean that you can’t get support or help, but you need to see it as a priority first. You need to believe you deserve and need it, so that others will value it also. Ideally you want to make this decision before you start seeing the negative impacts on your health and wellbeing.
If you have a partner, get them on board with alone time
We often expect that our partners should just know what we need, but this isn’t a fair expectation. If we need something, we can ask for it. It can be as simple as “I need your help. I need a break”. It’s also worth remembering that your partner might like some alone time too!
So, have a conversation with your partner about:
- Why alone time is important for your wellbeing
- How you understand that they need alone time too
- How you can support each other in getting what you need.
If you want this conversation to be received well, consider one of my favourite communication tips from The Gottman Institute – turn your complaints into wishes. Rather than complaining about how you never get alone time, how your partner never supports you or never offers to take over so you can have a break, simply ask for what you need without judgement or blame. This is a conversation game changer.
If you don’t have a partner, is there someone else you can ask for help? Another mum, a friend or family member? Of course, in our current situation this may be more challenging than normal.
To start out you might like to trade equal amounts of time. For example, if you can give your partner an hour of alone time, he can do the same for you. In time, you can just respond to each others’ needs to provide support when either of you require a break. Or you can use a combination of these approaches.
Remember, after you’ve had alone time, let your partner see the benefits and how much better you feel.
Get your children on board
Depending on the ages of your children, you can talk to them about why alone time is important and how they need breaks too when they become overwhelmed, stressed, tired or are in need of some quiet.
If your children nap, then this is a great time for you to have alone time. If not, let them know what they will get to do during this time. Make it special, allowing them to choose something they love to do, or having a special box of books, toys or activities that are reserved for this time.
Another option is to get the kids involved in brainstorming fun things they can do on their own and writing them on slips of paper and placing them in a jar. If they are really stuck for ideas during your alone time, they can take an idea from the jar.
Older children may be able to help you out by watching younger children and you might like to consider how you can show your appreciation to them for this help.
Lastly, explain to your children that after your alone time, you will be back refreshed and ready to be with them and having fun together again.
Here’s a bonus tip! Before you have alone time, connect with your children! Give them your undivided attention for a little while and fill up their love tanks, one on one if possible. This will make it much easier for them to happily leave you alone.
Schedule alone time but be a little flexible
I suggest that you schedule your alone time at first, because if you’re not in the habit of having alone time, it might be hard to just “find” the time. The regularity also helps children deal with it, because it becomes familiar and expected. Once it becomes more natural and everyone is on board, you will find it easier to catch little windows of opportunity.
Some women like to get up before everyone else to have their alone time, or wait until children are in bed. This is a great approach, but you may find you also need a small break during the day. Having to wait until the day is done and kids are finally asleep (and staying asleep) can be a long, hard wait.
Children’s needs are constant and always evolving so maintain some flexibility in your schedule. If someone needs a snack or is upset, just tend to them first and start your alone time a little later.
How much alone time you need will be unique to you, how you are feeling and the stage your children are at. You might just aim for 15 mins per day sometimes, and at other times, you need an hour. You don’t have to be rigid about this. The important thing is that you have a little alone time each day.
What to do during your alone time
Lovely mum, please don’t default to doing chores during your alone time. The point of this time is to restore and refresh you. If there is a particular chore that does that for you, then go for it! Otherwise, find something else to do.
Here are some examples of things you can do in or around your house:
- Exercise/move your body
- Shower or take a bath
- Sit or lay in the sunshine
- Be still and daydream
- Have a cup of tea or a snack you don’t have to share
- Colour in
- Paint your nails
- Listen to music
- Listen to a podcast or audio book
- Do a puzzle
- Do some gardening.
There is no right or wrong here. Do whatever you feel you need to feel happier, calmer and refreshed.
If you and your family have a common interest, you could try scheduling it for everyone. For example, if you all love to read, you could have 30 mins of reading, where everyone grabs their books, heads to their favourite spots and reads at the same time (but not necessarily in physical proximity).
TV and scrolling through social media might be tempting options, but I encourage you to check in with yourself first and make sure they are really going to refresh you. Often we do these things and suddenly our alone time is over, and we don’t really feel any better.
If you really feel like you need some connection, you could use your alone to call a friend or family member.
Alone time doesn’t need to be perfect
Alone time isn’t another thing that you need to get “right” as a mum. It will definitely not go to plan all the time. Kids will need you, someone will be sick, or something else will happen from time to time.
Stay the course. Try again later, or the next day. Shorten the timeframe if needed. If you can only manage 5 mins, it’s still better than nothing. If the kids struggle with a longer timeframe, start small and work up to a longer periods. Setting a timer can be useful if your children are always asking you when you will be done.
If you keep getting interrupted, work with your children (or ask your partner) to come up with ways to avoid this, unless it is really unavoidable. For older kids, a closed door or a sign on your door can be helpful to remind them that you are having alone time when they feel inspired to come and talk to you. It might be helpful to agree on reasons it is ok to interrupt you.
If you find that you can’t be physically away from your children on a particular day, get them involved in an activity and just sit still for 5 mins in the same room. Take a few deep breaths, notice what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel, or simply enjoy your favourite drink. Keep it simple, do what you can and always try again.
When you feel guilty
If you’re feeling guilty about having alone time, know that it is ok to feel that way. You care so much about your children and their needs. But you matter too. So, let yourself feel that guilt, and remind yourself that it is just a feeling, not who you are. Then, choose to let it go. What would it be like if you didn’t feel this way? If you could really let the guilt go? Imagine that over and over.
When your alone time is over, return to your family and lavish them with love and attention. Tell them you’re so proud of how they played, solved their own problems, or had their own alone time. Have fun together and let them see how alone time makes you feel better.
Remember that alone time isn’t just another thing that people say you “should” do. It actually helps you unwind the stress you feel, improves your concentration, helps you think clearly and make better decisions, makes you more productive and allows you space to think and sit with your emotions (heal them or savour them). Alone time helps you stay resilient and keep giving your best to the people you love.
It’s worth it, lovely.
Where can you find a little alone time today?
Do you need support at the moment?
If you’re struggling to adjust to the changes in your life due to the current world situation, I’d love to help you. Many women are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, worried, and stressed. There’s so much that’s out of our control. But you can find some balance and peace amongst it all. Book a complimentary 30 min chat with me and I will help you put some strategies in place! Contact me here.