With a sixteen year old going through the drama of high school dating, a four year old determined to overpower his oppressors and a husband who patiently waits his turn to have my attention – I find myself thinking, ‘single and child-free was kind of awesome‘. Of course, I don’t mean literally or permanently; I rather like the guy I married and the children we share. But, sometimes I just crave those before-marriage-and-kids nights where the only thing on my mind was my newest book and the hardest decision I had to make was ‘Do I feel like pizza or Thai food?’
Getting ‘me time’ is great, but it doesn’t erase the responsibilities that exist. Laying in the tub for 20 minutes doesn’t stop me from wondering if I signed the permission slip for my oldest’s band trip. Stretching out on the couch to read doesn’t stop my brain from switching over to ‘what am I packing for lunch tomorrow’ when I hear our toddler ask his dad for a snack. When you do get those rare times where the children are not present, you have to choose: personal need for space or spending time with your spouse to tend to your marriage. There isn’t a moment where nothing is on your mind except yourself.
Your gut reaction is to call yourself selfish or greedy. Your gut is mean. That craving for solitude is not the sign of a bad person. Thinking about it doesn’t mean you wish your family away. It simply means you are a normal human being in need of calm.
While I know it’s not possible to be ‘temporarily single and child-free’ I still need to take time to isolate myself from time to time and make sure I get the most out of those moments. According to Psychology Today there are important benefits to spending time alone, such as:
Reboot your brain and unwind. Most of us are diligent about turning off our computers and rebooting when things get sluggish. Yet, we don’t take time to do the same for our brain. We’re constantly turned to ‘on’ so everything gets clogged up. We need to defrag. Sleeping is a short break, but it doesn’t allow you to actually process through everything; instead, you wake up and pick up right where you left off.
Increase productivity. The constant buzz of every day tasks keeps your mind on the surface level of thought. You can’t think deeply because you’re constantly switching from topic to topic. Once you can remove yourself from all of the new input, your mind can concentrate which raises creativity and results in better productivity.
Enhance your relationship with your family. When you have time to be alone and think, you can hear yourself better. You know what you’re really thinking and feeling because you don’t have all of the outside noise that comes with your typical day. Introspection, concentrating on what is inside instead of outside, helps you find your ‘inner voice’. That’s the voice that tells you what you need, want and can provide to others. Knowing those things about yourself helps you better interact with the people around you – especially those you care about.
Realizing the benefits is only half of the solution; you still need to find ways to actually put it into practice. So how do you grab alone time?
- Learn the power of NO. Decide to turn down the next favor, event, bake sale etc that comes your way. Schedule that time for yourself instead.
- Sitters aren’t just for date nights. When the spouse is at work, grab a few hours from your favorite sitter, family member or friend. You can stay home, go shopping, go to the museum – whatever you want. The time is yours.
- Put it in your calendar. Treat your alone time just like you would work, an appointment or any other important event. Change according to your schedule or make it a regular thing. “Every Thursday – 2 Hours Reading” If you plan ahead you are less likely to get overwhelmed and have to skip it.
- Get up early or stay up late. This is my typical plan of attack. If my days are full with no break in sight – I stay up to watch a movie alone or get up early to run at the gym. Taking time to decompress before sleeping actually helps me sleep better. And, as hard as it might be at first, learning to enjoy an extra hour in the morning can change your entire day. It can be something as simple as having a cup of tea while you sit at the kitchen table…in complete, blissful silence.
- Stop Letting Guilt Set Your Schedule. Let go of the self judgement. If you feel like you need alone time – you do. Accept that you’re human and you have to flip the switch to OFF once in a while.
Do you get overwhelmed? What is your favorite way to escape and recharge?