When your kids are small, just infants and toddlers, it can feel impossible to find time to relax. Taking a moment to sit down – alone – can be near impossible. And when you do, it can seem like you’ll never have the energy to get back up again.
But sitting down and relaxing is exactly what we need to thrive as parents.
I won’t pretend that I always take the time I need to recharge, but I’m getting better at squeezing those precious “me-time” moments in. Even better, I’m figuring out ways to get some downtime alongside my kids – a valuable lesson for all of us in our overscheduled, over-structured lives.
And since there’s no better time than the lazy days of summer to practice fitting some relaxation into your life as a parent, some of these simple tricks can help get you started.
Pick your time (and stick to it)
Don’t just pencil it in – make relaxation a regular part of your week to get in the habit. It’s hard to get away and get out, even if all you’re trying to do is one downward dog in the middle of the living room floor. But the effort to get started pays off in the end.
Try scheduling in a weekly walk or a run with a buddy to help you stick to your plan, blocking the time in your calendar or booking that weekly babysitter so you won’t find an excuse to schedule out your downtime.
I find mornings, right after my kids leave for school, the easiest time to fit in a yoga class, a walk or a run, while many of my night-owl friends like to head out for some fresh air or a cup of coffee after work and once the kids are asleep for the night. Whatever time you choose, just making it a priority is a solid first step.
You do you
“To each their own” is the key mantra here. Some of us need to get out and away from our house and our kids to relax, while others can do a full meditation session amidst the clamour and chaos of real family life. And you don’t have to break the bank to fill the tank back up – even parents on a budget can find simple, effective ways to recharge every day while still leaving money aside for bills and savings.
So whether it’s savouring a cup of coffee for five quiet minutes, sneaking in a chapter of a good book during naptime, or a leisurely trip to the grocery store alone and unrushed, don’t let anyone else decide what your downtime needs to be.
If it feels relaxing, it’s working, and that’s all you need.
Let go of the guilt
I’m speaking directly to all the moms out there for a minute.
We all know this is often the hardest part of taking some me-time, sticking to it, and actually enjoying ourselves: letting go of the guilt to be a little selfish now and again.
I speak from experience when I say that it’s all part of the motherhood process to give yourself over completely to keeping a tiny human alive, and that we likely all struggle with the same guilt of leaving those tiny people for a minute, never mind a few hours, few days, or even eventually, one whole week.
But it’s also an important part of your parenting journey to let go of that guilt, a little bit at a time, so you can make time to relax, recharge and refocus, bringing your best self back to your kids and your busy work and family life.
If you’ve got a partner, friends and family in your life who can help you watch the kids while you enjoy some guilt-free, work-free time to yourself, ask for and accept that help. Leave the laundry, the dishes, the cooking, your personal and work-related emails and texts, and the rest of your to-do list aside for 20 minutes – and just relax.
Bring the kids along
Sharing is caring, as we often say in our house, so why not make sure everyone has some time to relax – parents and kids!
If your children are babies, you can often find ways to relax while they are napping or playing beside you. As they get older, it can be a lot of fun for everyone to incorporate some family downtime into a hectic day or week.
My kids like to take a few minutes and lie in the grass with me now and then, watching the clouds and talking about nothing. We take the long way home from the park or school on sunny days, and we sometimes even work in a little yoga on the living room floor. Some nights, we all climb into my bed and read our own books side by side, enjoying the peace and the quiet after a long day.
So whether you are getting ready for your first child, or preparing to send your first of several kids off to college, it’s always a good time and a better idea to make downtime part of your parenting routine.
It’s easier than you think, and you most certainly deserve it.