On my recent trip to the U.S. from where I live in Chile, I traveled with my 14 month old daughter and my partner was unable to come with us. We visited family and friends in two states, enjoyed eight different planes and six different airports. Though I was certainly not alone too much, being without my partner was a unique challenge. It was also a sweet blessing of one-on-one time with my daughter, great family and mama friend time, and some much needed solo time (often while my girl dozed sweetly on my chest in her carrier). This week, back in Chile, I left my dear daughter and partner for a little solo beach time - 40 minutes of walking, running, and climbing dunes while taking in our gorgeous little coastline. It rocked! So much so that I'm trying to prioritize a little solo time each day (or every other) when can swing it).
A dear friend told me soon after my daughter was born that she had read how important it is for a new mom to have alone time in her home with her child. I recall that it was at least four hours a week, and that it was an important aspect of reducing the severity of post-partum depression. Four hours a week may seem like a very little amount of time, especially to some moms who are left with little support when their partners finish a short paternity leave and extra especially to single mothers. However, there are some of us for whom the opposite is true - we just don't get much time alone. For moms like me who work from home with partners who do the same while co-parenting a little one (or a few), alone time can be very elusive.
Whether you feel isolated in your home more than you like or are just craving more space of your own, I think it is helpful to take a moment to consider the health benefits - mind and body - of having quality time to ourselves, and pondering ways to make that happen (whether with children alongside us or truly solo). I think quality is a key ingredient here.
Quality alone time can help...
- Rest your mind.
- Recharge your mental batteries.
- Regroup in times of emotional stress.
- Refresh your mental and physical perspective.
- Release the nagging need to be constantly available.
- Relax and unwind just about anything plaguing your body, brain or spirit (in my humble experience)
I found a few more elaborate explanations in a post at Psychology Today, if you're interested.
Ways to get more alone time with or without baby, and how make it count:
- Get up earlier and take 15 - 30 minutes to yourself before the house wakes up. I often try to sneak out of bed before our baby wakes up and start the tea kettle, even grab a shower. Sometimes my partner will handle the morning routine so that I can enjoy a walk alone and/or shower.
- Go to bed later and take 15 - 30 minutes to yourself after the house goes to sleep (harder). After my little one still nurses to sleep, and back down after wake ups, I can often relax on the couch with a book (or my laptop when the day's been too hectic to get work done). The trick here is prioritizing "me" time vs. chores and then not staying up so late that I miss out on valuable rest.
- Milk the solitary moments inherent in the day. I've begun to walk and otherwise move more slowly when alone to maximize the chill factor. When my daughter is napping and I'm choosing to stay up to get things done, I try to remember to breath and stay relaxed versus racing around "taking advantage" of the time in a productivity-forward way. I spend a little extra time in the bathroom, too.
- Take the long way 'round. Whether biking instead of driving, walking instead of biking, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting creative with your Point A to Point B can help steal you a few extra moments. You could even sit in the stairwell and meditate for two minutes. I used to love taking the subway to work instead of catching a ride with my partner. The walk to and from the station and the strange solitude of being surrounded by "strangers" was a bit refreshing.
- Ask for help to take care of yourself, and don't feel guilty about it. Maybe you don't personally want to say, "I just need to lay on my bed alone for half an hour" to your mother-in-law in hopes of extra childcare, but asking for assistance from family and friends to take care of yourself is completely legit. Really. Say whatever you gotta say, really, but leaning on others to recharge and refresh is a pat-yourself-on-the-back -worthy accomplishment.
- Take the baby along and savor your connected mobility. I often clip my daughter in to the Boba Carrier and go for a walk, or work in the yard and garden. She even nurses and naps in our carrier almost daily. I not only use this valuable mothering tool to get more done, but also to get more "me" time. It's amazing how much more relaxing it is to take care of myself knowing that the baby isn't possibly about to wake up on the other side of the house any minute. Though I've suggested dropping the guilt, each of us knows how hard it can be to release separation anxiety (it's biological after all). I find big sighs of relief in just keeping my daughter with me most of the day (while going it alone a few times a week when possible and relaxing).
Here's wishing us all a little more time to savor, a little more well-deserved peace, and a whole lotta self-congratulations for every thing we do (alone or alongside, solo or with co-pilots).
I'd love to hear ways that you get quality time alone (and what you do with it!). Drop us a note here to share your ideas.