Moms of Young Kids Desperately Need Time to Themselves. Here’s How to Actually Make It Happen

Believe it or not, it’s actually good for kids to spend time away from you.

Alanna Gallo Kids
Alanna Gallo Kids

Encouraging independence in young kids is the best first step.

Courtesy Alanna Gallo

As pandemic parenting drags on, mothers are beyond overwhelmed. Doing the impossible; day in and day out, as only we can do.

In one real-life experiment, working parents were interrupted by their children 45 times within the span of three hours. In another video, one mom tallied 27 interruptions from her kids in only 10 minutes. It’s no wonder we’re at our breaking point.

As we move through this new school year, it’s even more necessary for us to be intentional about making time for ourselves. Forget the old adage, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” This implies we should simply be filling our cups for the purpose of pouring into others. We need to focus on filling ourselves to the point of overflow. While we all know balance is a myth, it is possible to get more time to ourselves with a shift in mindset and a few simple strategies.

Embrace the idea of “perfectly imperfect.”

In the times of Pinterest crafts and the flawless Instagram feed, moms are constantly bombarded with unattainable points of comparison. It’s time to let go of this idea of perfection. Understand that what we see online is simply a curated, tiny snapshot of someone else’s life.

Children don’t need perfection. They need authenticity, love, and encouragement. Focus on connecting with your kids daily and stepping away from social media if you feel it’s having a negative impact on your mental health. This simple mindset shift may not give you back physical time, but it will free up mental space for you to focus on other strategies that will, like these:

Encourage independence: Kids are more capable than we give them credit for.

One way to have more time for yourself is to encourage your children to be more independent. This can be a difficult shift, especially for parents who are used to swooping in and doing things for their children because it’s faster and easier—especially for the past two years while we’ve had so much time together. But letting go of perfection allows us to give our children more responsibility.

Children are more capable than we give them credit for, and allowing them to do more for themselves will inherently give you more time for yourself. Think about small ways you can give up control and allow your children to take the lead. It may take some front-loading to teach them how to pack their own lunch or fold their own clothes, but in the end, the amount of time it will save you will be worth it.

Alanna Gallo Son
Alanna Gallo Son

Certain toys are great for encouraging independent play.

Courtesy Alanna Gallo

Get comfortable with giving your kids time and space away from you.

One of the easiest ways to get more time for yourself is by giving your children time and space away from you. Set up a play space that is designed to encourage independent play. Make sure you give access to open-ended toys and store them in a way that’s accessible. Send them into the backyard to play without you, if it’s safe to do so, or set up a quiet activity area that is out of sight.

Giving children time and space to play without you in the room is a simple way to encourage creativity, problem-solving, and self-sufficiency. Parents often feel as though they need to be a constant source of entertainment and encouragement for their children, but research shows that overparenting isn’t actually all that great for kids’ development.

Think about it. If children aren’t given opportunities to figure things out for themselves now, how will they ever? Let go of the guilt and know that by doing less, you’re actually doing more.

Schedule time to connect with your kids—and time to disconnect from them.

Being constantly “on” isn’t sustainable; especially now with the increased demands of parenting that tends to disproportionately fall on moms. It’s important to schedule blocks of time where you can really dedicate yourself to connecting with your kids. Think about your family schedule and see where you might be able to fit in a solid half-hour to an hour to really lean in. Maybe it’s before bedtime while you read books and discuss the day.

Or, if you’re too tired to really connect at night, focus on creating a morning routine that allows for time to connect with your children; try morning yoga together, a quick family walk, or even just eating breakfast at the table sans electronics before the day starts.

Then, do the same to completely disconnect from your kids. Block time for yourself. Time to have dinner with a friend, go for a run, get a manicure—whatever fills you up. And don’t feel guilty about it. Make sure your family knows you’re taking time for yourself; explicitly tell them and explain why it’s important. Children internalize everything, so it’s important for them to see their mom taking care of her own needs.

Alanna Gallo is a former teacher and mother to four young children. She is the founder of Play. Learn. Thrive., and hosts a weekly podcast dedicated to empowering parents to raise confident and independent children. Follow her on Instagram or sign up for her FREE 5-day playroom makeover challenge.