When’s the last time you had any alone time? If the answer is, “I can’t remember,” or just an eye roll, we feel you. Not getting enough alone time is a challenge for so many parents — moms especially — and the pandemic has only increased this need. Social distancing has limited my families’ babysitting options; schools and daycares are closed, and many non-essential workers are working from home. All of this amounts to a lot of families at home together around the clock, which is not a recipe for alone time. But you might be feeling like you need it — now more than ever. Here are some tips and tricks for how to carve out time for yourself — even if it’s just a sliver — so that you can recharge.
If you have a partner, take shifts
Tag teaming childcare duties is one easy way to get some alone time. Take turns being present with your child, with one parent on kid duty and the other free to spend their alone time however they see fit — showering, staring at a wall in peace, whatever it is you need.
Take advantage of bedtime or nap time
This might be an obvious option, but we’ve got to cover all the bases here. Consider spending this time doing something productive that’s a real challenge for you to tackle when your child is awake or just doing something that’s purely enjoyable to help you feel like the time is rewarding or even restorative. Rather than, say, fold some laundry — something you can likely do with your little one around (even if it might take a bit longer) — use this time to tackle a work report that calls for your undivided attention. Or just take a breather, throw on a sheet mask, and video chat with a friend. Exhausted by the options? Maybe even take a nap yourself.
Give your child something to keep them busy
Sometimes kids can spend hours engaged in free play on their own. Other times, you’re hearing “mom!” every other minute. If your little one needs to be given something to do, try a sensory play box or a “busy” box. A sensory box is any bin filled with tactile objects like rice, cotton balls, or blocks, along with a few cups or a spoon to sort through the objects. You can also add other exciting toys to the mix, like dinosaurs, race cars, or puzzle pieces. A “busy” box is any small container, like a lunch box, filled with materials for a particular activity: modeling clay and cookie cutters or a coloring book with crayons and stickers. And sometimes you can even just give your little one a toy they haven’t played with in a while — so exciting! If you have older kids, hand them a project or practical task, like making a birthday card for a family member or sweeping the floor. Depending on how old your kiddo is, maybe you can leave the room entirely or maybe you need to stay close — but you should be able to get at least a little mental time for yourself.
Just step away
Moms are so often the main axle that keeps the wheels of a family from flying off the road. But you may be able to give your family some more space to be left to their own devices. Maybe this just looks like you writing emails from across the room while your toddler dumps out all their toy bins and then figures out what to do next, or letting your big kid fix their own lunch, or asking your partner to handle your child’s bedtime routine on their own. Give yourself permission to be okay with a little more distance.
You guessed it: screen time
Let’s be honest — parents are allowing a lot more screen time these days. And if your child is getting more than they usually do, that’s really okay. Maybe you throw on an educational show or a movie they’ve seen a million times. Maybe you have them log on to do some school work or let them play a video game online with a friend. You know what’s right for your family and what keeps your little one occupied, so roll with it and use the time to recharge — or just fix dinner by yourself.
Set a timer
Sometimes play time or screen time or just-step-away time is a little easier with the help of a timer. If you’re finding it hard to get that alone time — or if your child is finding it challenging — sometimes measuring the time in this way can make it go over more smoothly.
Put it on a schedule
This very small act can often help everyone in your family, yourself included, recognize that you having alone time is important. So decide when you’ll be having some alone time — whether to work or scroll social media or do whatever else you need or want to do — and make it a priority.
Be honest about your need for some solo time
This can really help families get on the same page about mom needing some time by herself. If you have a partner, be honest about what you need. And while it’s often hard for young kids to be okay with you stepping away, you should also be honest with your child in an age-appropriate way. No matter how you choose to spend that time, it’s important to explain that everyone needs alone time once in a while. Eventually they’ll understand that it’s totally normal for mom to step away and call a friend, listen to music while prepping dinner, or do some YouTube yoga — and that alone time is important for everyone, themselves included.