When we parents think of “Me Time,” we often feel selfish. That’s probably because of the ambiguities of parenting itself. Is it a job? Or is it a relationship? When can I take time off? Wait – can I take time off?”
To get clarity, ideas and inspiration on this confusing question, I did a little research by consulting parenting experts. What I heard is that “Me Time” is not a luxury; it’s really a necessity, and a big piece in the puzzle of effective parenting. “Me Time” is how we replenish our parenting energy. It’s how we model self-care to our kids. It’s how we create and uphold mutually respectful boundaries.
I spoke with the Dr. Lindsay Mallory, co-founder of Pandemic-Parenting.org and Associate Professor in Psychology at Ontario Tech University. “Ironically, it was the pandemic that gave me permission to say this is important enough for me to spend time on [myself],” Mallory admits. “Those breaks allow me to come back to the family refreshed, more patient and calmer with them.” She says it’s important that parents work on giving themselves permission to have “Me Time.” “Remember you matter too,” she urges. We also need to widen our lens on “Me Time.” Sometimes we think it’s just massages, yoga and bubble baths. But “Me Time” is also permission to say “no” – no to some optional things at work, no to the Pinterest cupcakes for our child when store-bought might work just as well. Remember, how we parents are doing affects how our kids are doing.
Lisa DiSciullo, parenting coach with Parenting Matters, emphasizes that boundaries play a big role in healthy relationships and boundaries begin with ourselves. Parents may want to give 100% to their kids 100% of the time, but that kind of parenting takes away from the parent’s identity and leads to confusion about where the child stops and we start. It also robs the child of opportunities to practice tools such as self-soothing, self-care and coping with boredom. DiSciullo says, “Carving out ‘Me Time’ helps illustrate to the children that we are separate people, we love each other, we are attached to each other and we are independent as well.”
She continues, “When parents have ‘Me Time,’ they are refreshed, gain perspective, get new ideas, feel stronger and more energized. You can’t do parenting totally alone. You need help.” Part of the “Me Time” task is to get creative on how to find that alone time. Try coming up with multiple ways – for example, 30 minutes while a cartoon or kid’s show is on, 15 minutes alone in the shower with a fresh pile of books for a child to thumb through on the bed, an hourlong weekly swap with a neighbor or a regular babysitter once a week for a date or social night.
One other solution I love for getting more “Me Time” is the concept of “Special Time.” Special Time is about 20 minutes spent one-on-one with each of your children. You always keep the date, you do what the child wants to do, you set a timer and you learn how to relax and enjoy your child. When kids get this nourishing, predictable dose of our attention, it minimizes their need for our attention all the time. When we respectfully give them due attention, they are much more apt to respect our “Me Time.”
We have so many excuses why we can’t do “Me Time.” I like to say, “Keep your excuses and do it anyway.” Yes, it is hard. No, it’s not perfect. Yes, kids will interrupt you. AND it’s worth staying in the “Me Time” game.
Get creative about getting help. Whether that’s neighbors you swap child care duties with, or bringing in grandparents, a teenager or an older sibling to give you reliable coverage.
Resist guilt feelings. Think of “Me Time” as Self-FULL (not selfish) time. You are filling yourself with what you need to thrive so you can give back to your family.
Let go of control. Accept that when you are taking “Me Time,” things might unfold a little differently than you’d prefer. The kitchen might be cleaned a little later, the clothes might be folded a little differently. And that’s OK.
Parent Input Please
Each month we have a parenting-inspired question and we ask moms and dads to share their tips on Facebook.com/washingtonparent. Then we share them with you the following month!
This month’s question: “Me Time” is a necessity for parents. How do you find alone time? What is your favorite “Me Time” activity?
Check out our readers’ responses from last month on their family’s favorite places to visit in the DMV!