I always knew I was introverted, but I had no idea just how much of an introvert I was until I became a mom. I love spending time with and caring for my son, but I still need my space. And that's a good thing: There are definitely benefits of alone time for moms, according to experts, that go beyond simply keeping you sane.
"Moms need time to nurture the other parts of themselves — besides nurturing their children," psychiatrist and parenting expert Dr. Carole Lieberman tells Romper. "They need alone time to do this. A mom can only be as good a nurturer to her kids, as she takes alone time to nurture herself. She needs to replenish herself so that she has more to give her children," Dr. Lieberman explains.
The way I recharge my batteries is by having some alone time and not talking to anyone or being around anyone. And getting this alone time is definitely hard when you work from home and have a toddler. I know other moms definitely need their alone time, too — not just introverted moms. So whether you need a quiet bath once a week (in addition to showering every couple of days if you're lucky), dropping the kids off for a playdate once a week so you can eat breakfast or lunch alone, or just sitting in your bedroom with the door locked while your partner takes care of the kids for a bit, the benefits of having alone time as a mom are crucial for a happy family. And this goes for stay-at-home moms and working moms alike.
1. Nurturing Goes Both Ways
Nurturing yourself means you'll be able to nurture others, as Danielle Bayard Jackson, author and certified women's coach, tells Romper. Sometimes that means giving yourself permission to do less and be alone more.
"It's not about how much you do, it's about doing what counts," Jackson explains. "And you can't do all the things that count if you're tired, irritable, and worn down. While it may sound counterintuitive, it turns out that you can actually get more (meaningful) work done after taking a people break. Giving yourself a chance to recharge actually allows you to accomplish more of what matters with your children (and in your marriage)."
2. Prevents Resentment & Provides Perspective
"Sometimes when you're in the thick of things, it's hard to see the big picture," says Jackson. "Between the ever-growing dish pile, lunch-packing, and bottle-warming, it's easy to get lost in thoughts of, 'This is ridiculous! My kids are so overwhelming! What's the point of cleaning if they're only gonna mess it up again? I'm tired of repeating myself.'"
I feel like Jackson has been inside my head — or at least to my house after a long day of telling my son to get off the couch and leave the beagles alone.
"Being alone gives you perspective on all that you have going on. You'll be able to distance yourself from ongoing daily stressors and remember your purpose in motherhood. Alone time is a way to reflect on why you do what you do (and it gives you a chance to miss your little rascals when you're done)," she says.
3. Keep Your "Compassion Meter" Full
I know at the end of the day I personally feel touched out, don't want to speak to anyone, and need sit in silence for a while. It's hard thinking about everyone else 24/7.
"Alone time can help to prevent compassion fatigue. Moms have to provide so much emotional labor for others, and it can be hard to be constantly emotionally available for family and friends," says Katie Lear, a licensed therapist who works with parents and kids. "Especially for more introverted moms, time alone can be a chance to 'refill the cup' and prevent feeling fatigued. You can’t pour from an empty cup!"
Lieberman says this will also help you to be a better partner.
4. Helps You Remember Who You Were Before You Were "Mom"
"Alone time is an opportunity to connect with other parts of identity besides 'mom.' Taking time alone to read a book for pleasure, watch a TV show (that isn’t Paw Patrol), or doing some career development can help moms feed the parts of their identity that don’t revolve around caring for kids," Lear says.
In fact, I feel like I am a different person in more ways than one after I had my son. I have new interests now and am growing as a person, I believe. But if I didn't have a chance for alone time, I definitely wouldn't be evolving. I'd feel stuck as "just mom," not Abi.
5. Helps You Feel Proactive In Life
Do you always feel behind or like you're just getting through the day sometimes? Me too, and I'm sure a ton of other moms do, too. We aren't alone, y'all.
"It's difficult to get ahead when you're always in the trenches. If you're constantly feeling behind, it's because you haven't created time to plan," Jackson says. "Taking 'me time' gives you a chance to look ahead and intentionally plan the days to come. It will help you to feel more relaxed and in control, so it's worth prioritizing some time to yourself to finally get proactive instead of wandering in the chaos of reactive living."
6. Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Even after a hard day of chasing him around the house, I do miss my son when he's sleeping sometimes. They sure weasel their way into our hearts, huh? That's completely normal, apparently.
"Anecdotally, I often hear from moms that some time away from their children helps them remember how much their lives are enriched by their children’s presence," Lear says. "Whether it’s a week of solitude when a child’s at sleep away camp or a night out while the kids are with a sitter, getting an occasional break makes the wonderful parts of parenthood much clearer to see."
Jackson adds, "Being alone gives you perspective on all that you have going on. You'll be able to distance yourself from ongoing daily stressors and remember your purpose in motherhood. Alone time is a way to reflect on why you do what you do (and it gives you a chance to miss your little rascals when you're done)."
7. You'll Be Able To Enjoy A Meal — And That's Important
I can't tell you how much I appreciate it when my husband feeds my son while we eat dinner as a family so I can enjoy my food and eat it hot.
"It can be easier to eat mindfully while alone," Lear points out. "If moms are trying to feed themselves when also feeding a child, it can be hard to be present and really enjoy the meal. Earning alone is a great opportunity for mindfulness: put the phone away and really focus on the food. This can promote healthy eating and make us more aware of satiety."
8. Better Anger Management In The Future
"Time alone is critical for managing anger. If families are arguing, one of the first things I recommend is to take a break when the temperature starts to rise on a conversation," Lear says. "Taking a moment away to allow feelings to cool makes it easier to reflect on the situation, and helps us avoid saying or doing something we might regret later."
I definitely snap less and am in much better spirits and not so burned out after alone time. I think it makes me a better mom who doesn't snap as often or as quickly.
Dr. Carole Lieberman, psychiatrist and parenting expert
Danielle Bayard Jackson, author and certified women's coach
Katie Lear, a licensed therapist