If your kids are anything like mine, they probably love baking cookies with you or tearing apart your craft cabinet in the name of entertainment. But what if you want to enjoy some of these activities alone? Is it OK to keep some hobbies to yourself as a mom?
"First and foremost, remember the airplane speech: 'Put your oxygen mask on before you put your child’s mask on,'" family therapist Belina Fruitman tells Romper. "That is a metaphor for life when I work with parents and/or any caregiver."
My kids have been at home all day, every day for the past two months straight. Yours too? Ha. Funny how pandemics work, right? All jokes aside, I find myself drowning amid chirps of "mommy, mommy, mommy" day in and day out, and I am 100% sure I'm not alone. Finding ways to recharge and enjoy some much needed "me time" isn't easy right now, but experts say it is absolutely necessary.
"Self-care as a parent is a must, and during this pandemic it's become even more of necessity," Laura Jordan, a therapist specializing in maternal and reproductive mental health, tells Romper. "Maintaining self-care allows us to function from a healthier, much lower level of anxiety and stress. When self-care isn't prioritized, the heightened stress filters into everything we do or try to accomplish, including parenting. Self-care helps us to be more calm, effective parents."
When it comes to self-care, bubble baths are great and all, but you can only take so many candlelit soaks before you run out of your stash of lavender-scented bath bombs and have to order more on Amazon. (And you know how backed up those deliveries are right now.) Some hobbies, on the other hand, are things you can pick up and do every now and then to let off some steam and refresh your mood — bike riding, baking, sewing, painting, crafting, gardening, and the like.
During quarantine, some of the hobbies that you may have enjoyed alone before have morphed into family activities. That's wonderful in the ways of family bonding, but when it comes down to it, sometimes you need to do what you like to do all by your lonesome. And that my friends, is totally OK.
But how do you explain to a child who is now home 24/7 that you need some time to do a fun activity without them? Although it sounds nearly impossible, with a bit of finesse, it can be done.
"You know how many parents put their kids in timeout? Well, let’s take that idea and apply it to parenting," Fruitman tells Romper. "Moms need timeouts too. Explain [to your child] that 'mom needs some quiet time to feel better, or mom will be happier after her workout or walk or bike ride.'"
Jordan explains that your approach with younger children will be a bit different than with older kids, as they are less likely to understand the need for alone time due to their developmental stage.
"So, with younger children, we have to get a bit creative," Jordan says. "If you are attempting to take a solo walk and you have a parenting teammate who can stay at home with the children, you may want to tell that child you need to go 'scope out' the path and make sure it's safe or that it's the coolest possible route we can take together later today."
For older kids, explaining the importance of taking time for yourself can help them feel less like they're being forgotten or abandoned during this time when they're already missing out on activities they love, but it can also be a great model for their future selves.
"Giving an explanation of self-care to an older child also sets them up to engage in this healthy pattern for themselves in the future," Jordan says. "It's a teaching moment and you'll be setting them up to function more effectively as an adult."
Does this mean you might have to kick your kids out of the kitchen the next time you want to zen out and bake some banana nut bread? Yes. Will they whine in protest? Possibly, but you can always throw in some ear buds to drown them out because the benefits you'll reap by allowing yourself one measly hour to chop, mix, and create something that will make your house smell like heaven will be absolutely worth it.
"The ultimate benefit of prioritizing self-care always, whether in a pandemic or not, is a happy mom who feels balanced and energized enough to keep giving," Fruitman tells Romper. "When our kids are young we need the energy both physically and emotionally to give of ourself."
Laura Jordan, M.A., LPC, LMFT, licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist at Jordan Therapy Services