By Jillian Dominick
For many of us with school-aged children, the approach of summer break can bring up many emotions. As the mother of a very energetic seven year old boy, a big part of me is really excited to have him home for two and a half months so that we can have different adventures and experiences together. I’m excited to have the gift of time to go to the beach; to museums; on hikes; picnic lunches; and to spend time with extended family and friends. At the same time, another part of me feels intimidated by the lack of structure that no school brings, and the idea of SO MUCH TIME to fill. We love our kids to death, and the time we spend with them can be so fulfilling and satisfying. At the same time, for many of us there is also physical tiredness that comes with parenting, and also the emotional exhaustion of constantly relating to another person all day long. That is why this is a good time to anticipate and plan not just for our children’s needs over the summer, but for our own self care needs as well. As the saying goes, and I always think of parenting when I hear this, we can’t pour from an empty cup.
Those of you reading this post may be in different situations. You may be working outside of the home, full-time or part-time. You may be a stay at home parent. You may be married, partnered, divorced or single. You may have very young children, or teenagers. You may be financially secure, or experiencing financial hardship. And so with each of these life stations comes different opportunities and different limitations for self care. While every situation can’t be addressed in one post, hopefully the following ideas can help you think about how you can take care of yourself this summer, and might start conversations amongst friends and fellow parents about how we might be able to help each other.
1. Take Time Where You Can:
When I think about self care as a mother, the first thing that comes to mind is the importance of finding pockets of time to myself. This time gives me an opportunity to recharge, which makes me a more present, patient and loving mother for the time I do spend with my son. One of my favorite tricks is to find another parent who is also home, and do a swap. For example, my son goes to a friend’s house for two hours, and then following that time I take both kids for two hours. That way, myself and the other parent both get a couple of hours to ourselves. I know parents who do the same kind of thing with multiple children as well. Sometimes a small block of time, even an hour or two, can do wonders in terms of helping us to regroup. If I’m having a long day, or feeling especially tired, I never hesitate to reach out to another parent and ask if they can take my son for dinner or for an hour in the morning, and then I always make sure to return the favor another time. If you’re able to afford an energetic babysitter (I have three trusty high schoolers who live nearby ), sometimes just texting them and asking them to take my son for a thirty minute bike ride can do wonders for giving myself a little time to catch my breath.
2. Tag Team Some Duties
For those who are married or partnered, think about building in time for yourself when your spouse is home to watch the kids. For example, try an early morning workout class or yoga class before your partner leaves for work. Many classes are offered during the early morning hours. The same could be done in the evening. Or if classes aren’t in your budget, take an hour in the morning or the evening to walk your dog by yourself. Or drive to a favorite spot where you can read, talk to a friend, or even scroll mindlessly through your phone if that’s all you have the energy to do!
3. The Power of Play Dates
Another way to indulge in some self care is to set up play dates for your kids with parents that you like spending time with. Plan to meet another parent someplace fun such as the playground , the beach, a park where you can enjoy nature, good conversation and see your kids having fun with other kids. Getting out of the house and into the fresh air can do wonders for everyone involved!
4. Give Yourself Permission for a Break
If your kids are old enough to safely entertain themselves for thirty minutes at a time, give yourself permission to give them 30 minutes of screen time while you take some time to yourself. So often, if my son is occupied I feel like I should be prepping for dinner, doing laundry, cleaning, or working on some kind of project. It’s MORE THAN OK to use that 20 or 30 minutes to do something for yourself. In fact, it will likely give your mental and physical wellbeing a boost which will help you to be more energized throughout the rest of the day.
At the end of the day, we love our kids and our instinct is to spend as much time with them as we can and to always put them first. In many ways, this is right and good but in order to take the best care of them that we can, we can’t lose ourselves in the process. When we are able, we need to get enough sleep, rest, and down time. Please comment below about creative ways you find to take care of yourselves as parents, during the summer and throughout the school year as well.
We’d love to hear from you!