Since having children I've worked between 20-40 hours a week, spent 3 years as a full-time graduate student and completed a year long internship. I assumed that my most recent stint as a stay-at-home mom would provide an opportunity to do all the things I was previously too busy for. My experience has been quite the opposite. There's always something to do at home, an appointment or errand, homework to review, meals to plan, etc. People may assume I having an easy go of it (cue the soap opera and bonbon stereotype) when in reality my days fly by faster than ever with hardly any time alone. The expectation is that stay-at-home parents have all day to themselves, but realistically we've been dodging telemarketers, taming tantrums, in the kitchen or shuttling kids in the car all day. Working hard to keep my family healthy, happy and high functioning isn't a complaint. As an adult I recognize we all have duties to fulfill and sacrifices to make. Whether you are a working professional or full-time homemaker, it's often hard to prioritize even just a sliver of time for the things we WANT to do instead of NEED to do. Making time to relax and recharge can relieve stress, improve your interactions at work and home, positively impact your physical and mental health and help you sleep better at night. But how do you find the time?
1. Become an early bird
When I go to bed exhausted the last thing I want to think about is waking up an hour early. However, if you're desperate for a little peace and quiet one of the easiest ways to get some solitude is to rise a bit earlier that the rest of your household. Set your alarm for 5:30 or 6 am. Use the stillness of dawn to meditate, deep breathe and start your day with positive affirmations. Stretch, take a run or do a little yoga. Make a cup of coffee or tea and grab fresh air on your porch or balcony. Starting your morning with peace and balance may allow you to carry those feelings throughout your day.
2. Give yourself a gift card
Lack of time can keep us from doing the fun stuff we enjoy, but sometimes it's a lack of funds that prevents us from taking advantage of an opportunity. Be prepared when the free moment presents itself. Once a month buy yourself a $50 gift card to your favorite spa, retailer or restaurant. When you see a great Groupon deal buy it! That way when you have a sitter or a free Sunday afternoon you won't have to worry about blowing your budget.
3. Standing salon appointments
4. Find a gym with childcare
I dream of a life where I hit the gym twice a day and get back to my pre-baby body in no time, but two and a half years later I'm still carrying a bit of belly bulge. I thought putting my career on pause would leave lots of time to focus on my physical health. Having to find childcare during workouts has been a hindrance (and an excuse), but there are ways to fit in fitness. Lots of people have success using DVDs at home or taking jogging strollers on their runs. I encourage readers to explore these options, but I've tried and they're not for me. I enjoy exercising in a gym - taking classes, using the sauna, access to a trainer etc. Now lots of facilities offer free on-site childcare for members. Do some research online, find a gym in your area and give it a try. Of course, take you and your child's level of comfort into account. If they're not used to the setting start off with a short workout and increase the length as you both become regulars. If you have older children try to schedule separate classes that meet at the same time. That way being active becomes a family affair, but you each have solo time to exercise and socialize with peers.
5. Buy tickets in advance
6. Take a class
I'm raising my children to be lifetime learners. What better way to practice what you preach than by beefing up your resume or adding to your skill set with a class or workshop? Sure you could use free time to take in a movie or visit old friends, but enrolling in a new field of study is just as rewarding. Again, you have the benefit of a schedule to aid in planning for regular childcare. Classmates and instructors can become a part of your network, or even new friends. The intellectual and creative activity will be a great joy, and your family will think it's cool seeing Mom or Dad as a student. You'll enjoy having something fresh to share at the dinner table.