Self Care For Parents: 6 Ways to Create More “Me Time” in Parenting

9 min read

My favorite form of self-care is the time I carve out just for myself. It’s “me time” that isn’t work or home-related. Maybe it’s scrolling on Instagram free of guilt, taking a walk and listening to a book, or shutting the door to my bedroom and taking a cat nap.

But creating space for this kind of self-care can be difficult for busy parents.

“I have had to fight very hard to be unapologetic about the time that I need to restore and be attentive, not only to my children and my husband and my family and friends, but also to myself,” says CNN host Laura Coates, who has two kids in elementary school and a busy career.

Many experts agree that in order for parents to be the best versions of themselves for their kids and partners, they must take care of themselves too.

“The reality is, the only way to take the best care of your family is to make sure you’re taking time to take care of yourself,” writes Dr. Whitney Casares. “Can you push through and be a martyr for the next 18 years? Probably. Will it leave you resentful and angry? Most definitely.”

Casares says prioritizing self-care needs to start from the beginning.

“Taking small chunks of time for yourself as early on as possible is one of the best ways to keep yourself from feeling trapped as a new parent,” she says. “You forget that you need a​ mental break sometimes to recharge your battery.”

But self-care needs to be a priority for it to happen. Here are 6 things I do to make space for my self-care and “me time” so I can show up as the best parent to my kids:

Self-Care For Parents: Prioritize Quality Time

Quality time means your kids have your full attention and engagement when you’re with them. You’re not distracted by your work email or by trying to multitask. And when you prioritize the quality of time over the quantity of time, it also allows you to make room for self-care and “me time.” Let’s break out the math for this one: Rather than spending 1 hour playing with your kids but being distracted the whole time, you spend 40 minutes playing with them while you’re all in, and then the other 20 minutes you can use to recharge your own batteries.

“Many of us long for our children when they aren’t with us, and that slows us down with our other tasks and expectations,” says clinical psychologist Melanie English. “Then — when our children are with us — we think of the other things we have to do: the lingering deadline, the unfolded laundry, the dinner prep, etc. Be the best at what you are doing when you are doing that thing. You are the best worker when you are working. You are the best friend when you are with someone else, and you are the best parent when you are with your children.”

When it comes to ensuring the time with your kids is quality time, my #1 tip is: Leave your phone behind! And if you want to ensure that family meals are always quality time, then do not bring your phone to any meals with your kids. You’ll also thank your future self, because they will follow your lead when they eventually get a phone and know there is a house rule of no phones at the table.

Self-Care For Parents: Get Morning “Me Time”

I wake up one hour before the kids (in my case, 5 am) to get guaranteed “me time” in the morning. Morning alone time nourishes me far more than any attempt at evening alone time. I find I’m far less bothered by the small obstacles in life when I start the day with this intentional time and space for self-care.

One of my tricks for successfully rising early is to think about what I want to do in the morning with that “me time.” I am not tempted to roll over and go back to sleep for one more hour if I think about the book chapter I want to soak in, or the Masterclass I’ve been super excited to take (I see you Martha Stewart and I’m so in!).

Whatever it is you choose to do with that hour of “me time,” make sure you know how you want to spend it before falling asleep so you are excited to get up in the morning.

Self-Care For Parents: Sleep

This isn’t necessarily “me time” if you have a bed partner, but it is certainly essential self-care! I always aim to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night, so getting to bed early is critical to making my early wakeup doable. I usually watch one episode of a tv show with my husband (I highly recommend Fargo right now!), and then aim to be in my bedroom by 9 pm.

The “in-the-bedroom-by-9 pm-rule,” gives me time to wash my face, brush my teeth, and pee (hopefully for the last time before I wake up). Once I’m in bed, I’ll try to fit in some end-of-the-day conversation with my partner or read a little. This timeline ensures I’m asleep no later than 10 pm.

Hatch Restore 2 is my secret weapon for actually falling asleep. The gradual night light dimming and “Ocean Sounds” melts me into bed within 15 minutes once I turn it on. (Though obviously, you can choose the white noise sound that works best for you!) And instead of being awakened with a sudden alarm clock noise, there’s a 15-minute gradual brightening to start your day — Malibu Sunrise is so lovely to wake up to!

Self-Care For Parents: Pay People to Come to You

I will happily pay any vendor a $50 travel fee to come to my house to perform a service. This saves me time from rushing around in my car to and from appointments, and also lowers my anxiety and stress levels. I don’t have to waste time prepping to leave the house — primping, filling a water bottle, checking my purse for all the essentials (especially my beloved bag of nuts), etc. At minimum, I usually save about an hour by having someone come to my house for an appointment. Time adds up quickly in parenthood and I’d rather save those minutes for something more rewarding or productive.

Self-Care For Parents: Schedule

Every week, my partner and I sit down to plan the following week’s schedule. We review the kids’ schedules (whether that be nap times or school pickup/drop off times), acknowledge windows when either of us is unavailable, talk through our meals for the week, and coordinate time with family and friends. We also schedule time for date nights and for each of us to have alone, quiet time.

Planning is the ultimate form of self-care. It allows us to feel less overwhelmed at the moments when the rest of parenthood can feel out of control. Meticulously scheduling your days may not sound like the most fun self-care, but gaining a few hours a day of stress-free time is an immense trade-off.

Self-Care for Parents: Delegate

I delegate anything that doesn’t bring me joy in parenthood to either our nanny, housecleaner, or virtual assistant. One example for me is bath time. I know that’s not a popular answer — parents are supposed to love bath time. But five times a week I have the nanny run a bath while I take a 20-minute break. Once the kids are clean, I swoop in for PJs and books, which I LOVE doing.

Learning to be ok with delegating can be hard at first. CNN host Laura Coates says at first she felt guilty delegating tasks that she saw her own parents do for her growing up when they were busy with kids and their careers.

“I thought for some time, ‘I’ve got to duplicate, replicate that, otherwise, I’m dropping the ball,’” she says. “And my mom was like, ‘Laura, we didn’t have quite the schedule you had, number one. And number two, we did not have the services that you had, and had we been able to access them, we would likely have loved to use them.’ And so, it made me feel better.”

For tips on what to delegate in your home and how to go about doing it, check out my free parenting guide on 99 Ways to Do it All (Without Doing it All). And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive our latest articles in your inbox.

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