Alone time, that is.
(Jeez, what else would I have been talking about?)
I am an introvert. I restore my energies with time alone. When I don’t get enough (or any) time to myself I become highly stressed. Things that never bother me really get under my skin. I shout at the kids more. I become critical of myself, talk myself down. I become my own worst enemy.
I don’t know a parent alive who doesn’t understand those feelings. Because as hectic as life is before you have kids, as busy as you are, as hard as you are working – before kids you can shut off. You can choose to not go out, you can choose to rest when given the opportunity, you can quite easily make it a priority to look after yourself.
But with your beautiful family comes enormous responsibilities. Unending responsibilities. And at certain seasons in life, those can really weigh you down.
Can You Make Time for Alone Time?
Sparky (bless the man) and I decided we would make my alone time a family priority. Because, in the end, I am a better family member when I am restored.
Each-ish weekend, we choose a half day that is my designated alone time. And I get the hell out of the house. Even though I may want to garden, or am overwhelmed by a mountain of laundry that needs doing, I just get. the. hell. out. Otherwise I get sucked back in to all the things I should be doing.
Nine times out of ten, I go to the library. Because I am
a dork awesome.
It’s quiet, I can write or read, or people watch. I can rattle around in my own head, and think full, uniterrupted thoughts.
It’s a very simple act, very plain and boring and mundane. But it’s also really wonderful.
How Do You Learn to Put Your Needs First?
Firstly you need to tell that little voice in your head – you know the one, the nagging one with the high-pitched voice telling you that you’re a jerk for wanting this – to shut the hell up, and then get out of the house as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you will think of many reasons to put it off. To stay at home. To undervalue your own mental well being.
Guilt was my constant companion for the first few alone-time excursions.
“I should be home. I’ve got so much to do. This is selfish. I shouldn’t need to be away from the kids and Sparky. I’m a horrible mum.” etc etc.
But then a funny thing happened. I started to see the value in my alone time. I am calmer during the week. More fulfilled. More satisfied. And do you know what? I started dreaming for myself again. I started to feel like a person in my own right again. I started to think I was capable of great things.
And do you know why? Because I was investing in me. It was only a few hours a week, but I was saying to myself, “There are 529 other things I could be doing with this time. And yet here I am, spending it on you. So make the most of it.”
I am a mum and a wife, yes, and it is the most important and exhausting job I will ever have. But I am also me.
And one day, in the not too distant future, our kids won’t need me like they do right now. They won’t rely on me so much for all their earthly requirements. And I will have time. And space. And what good will that time and space be, if I have completely deserted myself? What could I then build, if the very foundations of me have been eroded by neglect?
So, yes, to say that a few hours at the library every week is soul-saving and life-affirming feels as ridiculous as it sounds. But it’s true.
Investing in yourself, just a little, will leave you happier, healthier and better equipped to deal with the chaos life brings.
Do you spend time alone on a regular basis? Have you seen benefits from your time alone? Or do you need to be with people constantly?
* (This post has been edited from an original post first published in early 2012.) *