There’s not enough time. That’s what I used to say. While it’s true, I can no longer use it as an excuse.
No more excuses. That’s what I needed to tell myself.
The concept of me time changed after having my son and I used that as an excuse to do less. I didn’t have time to read, work out etc.
That’s not really true though.
It was how I managed my free time.
I prioritized writing and tried to crank out as many posts as I could in his nap time. Then I felt frustrated when I didn’t finish or didn’t get a lot of reads for the hours I spent. I was making something I enjoyed more of a burden and it was causing me to stress.
I had to change my way of thinking and doing things.
What really made me happy?
What made me feel most satisfied with my time?
How could I incorporate these things into my daily life?
The answers were simple. I needed to do more of what I already liked to do, but instead of spending all my time on one activity I might not finish, I should chunk out my time and spend a little bit on different activities. This was when I felt the happiest.
Cook something for twenty minutes. Workout out for half an hour. Read for fifteen or twenty minutes. Write for a half hour or so. Watch a murder mystery show or write more. Crochet.
Reprioritizing and changing my behavior has helped me have a more refreshed and happier outlook on how I use my time.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Ask Questions to Get to the Root of the Problem
What is most important to you?
What is necessary and what is not?
Where can it naturally fit into your life?
Prioritize and Tackle the Problem
Are there tasks that you group together? I put away dishes while I’m making dinner and doing a new load while my son is finishing his dinner.
Can you chunk out longer tasks into smaller ones? It may take me longer to read a book, but 15 min. a day is manageable and gets me further than saying I don’t have time to read and not read at all. Since I no longer have stretches of time to work on something, I need to be more goal oriented and small task driven.
Can you schedule a time to do a task and make it a habit? I know I have a list of chores I do at different times on the weekend based on when he’s asleep. I also make it a habit to pack the lunches for the day while breakfast is cooking.
Can you enlist help? Maybe there’s something that you need to do but it would be easier if it was a group effort or one less thing was off your plate. My husband watches our son while I cook dinner. Sometimes my son helps put the salad fixings on the plate and this gives him something to do while I prepare another part of dinner. Some families have a day where everyone has a part in cleaning and this makes the seemingly monumental task, much more manageable and more motivating because you’re all in it together.
For me, the answer to managing my free time was what I was focused on. Fixing this helped me live a more contented life. If you’re looking for more suggestions I really like this article in Forbes on the Habits of Productive People with lots of practical and interesting strategies anyone can do. Another article that talks more about the mental aspect of managing your time is from Lifehack about habits of productive people.
I tried to do a variety of activities with my son: blocks, cars, coloring, reading, red light, green light, etc. Still seven hours seemed so long when each activity lasted ten minutes or so. I scoured the internet for ideas. I wondered what stay at home moms did.
The most common suggestion was to get out of the house. That wasn’t very feasible when I most needed ideas from 7-10:30 before activities were open and definitely wasn’t going to work when the wintery roads were too bad to travel. I didn’t have any mommy friends for him to have a play date with either, so that option was out. I thought I must be missing something. People do this all the time and some people have their toddler every day. I asked my husband, who watches him one day a week, and he said that he does errands so it breaks up the morning and the day goes by fast.
I had to figure out what would work for me inside the house all day. Here’s what I found helped.
Chunk out the Time and Change Your Outlook
This was by far the best thing that helped me. If I thought about how many hours I had left to fill with activities I couldn’t come up with, I’d get discouraged and less engaged in the moment.
The best day I had was when I chunked out the time and this helped me be fully present in each activity. I played blocks for twenty minutes then thought of what else I could do for twenty minutes or so. We made a ramp and ran his cars down them then jumped on the same mats we used for a ramp. Laughter ensued. Soon it was time for snack. Here’s the routine I came up with and you can edit it to make it work for you.
Do Things you Like to Do
I love to cook. My son likes to help. He pours the flour, water, and other ingredients. So I get to do an activity I like and share in it with my son. Plus he gets to learn more about cooking and being helpful. I love to do more active things like red light green light, rolling the ball, playing cars because there allow me to more of a participant and stay interested in what he’s doing.
I love board games and card games. I wish I had more people to play with. Enter my son, a willing and eager learner. Win-win! The two hours with my older son at nap time was a lot more fun when we started playing games and cards together. We practiced numbers and the suits with a regular deck of cards playing go fish, war, and just matching. Sushi Go was also fun for matching. We practiced colors and numbers with UNO. We practiced letters with Scrabble, and spatial awareness with Blokus. It became special son and mommy bonding time because we were doing activities his little brother couldn’t yet.
Do Chores and Other Daily Activities Together
I’m not a huge fan of doing the laundry, but with my son it’s fun. He helps put it in or take it out and pushes the button to start it. Sometimes he’ll want to help put away the dishes. I’ll give him the plastic containers and he’ll carry them to the cabinet. It’s great that he makes chores more engaging. Sometimes he’ll earn stickers for folding or helping with a chore.
Final Thoughts: More Independent Play Time is Necessary
When I look at this routine, I see stay at home mom find sanity in chunks of independent time where their little ones play alone.
This stay at home mom has a very similar daily schedule to mine (except our son gets up at 6 am and sleeps for less than hers). She allows them a lot of time to play on their own. Here’s what she suggests to help you get started. My sons struggle to do this for more than 15-20 min. They’re social kids and like to do things with others, especially mommy or daddy.
Lately I don’t have to participate, but I need to be in the room. If I try to do something else like crochet, read, or write, they wants to be a part of it: I help (when I crochet). I read it (when I start to read). Kitties or giraffe (he wants to look at when I’m on the computer). So instead of working against this, why don’t I let them him or do activities where they can help?
Reflecting on this made me think: maybe the problem is me. Of course I want my son to be able to entertain himself and not expect others to think of ideas of things to do or be bored and want to rely on the television for stimulation.
My sons play the most on their own when I’m making dinner or cleaning up. I don’t have to say anything. They’ll just start playing. They’ll putter around the kitchen making towers, riding trucks, playing with a metal coffee pot, and chasing each other. When he was an only child he’d sit and play with the shoes singing to himself.
So upon reflection, my kids can play on their own.
The answer is a balance of time alone, bonding time with a parent, and time for just mom. We can do this. It’s just going to take some time, creativity, practice, and lots of love.
May you find solutions that work for you as well.