April 30, 2019/Mental Health

How to Get Some (Much Needed) Alone Time While Raising a Family

Strategies for coping

Woman cooking while holding infant son

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole parenting thing? You’re not alone. No, literally: As a parent, it can feel like you are never alone.

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Have to use the bathroom? Hope you don’t mind company. Need a minute to return a phone call or just gather your thoughts? Ha! Good one.

Parenting: There’s always a crowd

Every waking moment — and, yes, many of your sleeping moments — someone needs you. (“Feed me! Help me! Bathe me! Read to me! Drive me! Look at me! Mom! Dad! Mom! Dad!”)

For many, many parents, the lack of alone time can be a major shock to the system. So how do you cope? We talked to psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, about how to get through this intense stage of life.

Extrovert vs. introvert parents: flourishing in solo moments

Not everyone needs the same amount of alone time, Dr. Bea notes. Extroverts thrive in the company of others. For them, being with family members day in and day out might not be such a struggle. Yet, as wonderful as babies and toddlers are, their conversational skills can leave extroverts craving time with other adults.

Introvert parents, meanwhile, often find it much harder to get by without the solo moments they’re used to. “Introverts are more likely to solve their problems and soothe themselves when they’re alone. That’s where they flourish,” Dr. Bea says.

Schedule it (in permanent ink)

If your partner or another family member can take the kids for a while, let them. Even a 20-minute break to take a walk or sip a latte sans company is worth the effort.

And put it on your calendar so you’ll be more likely to stick to the plan. Having dates with yourself on the schedule also gives you something to look forward to — and provides a major mood boost on tough days.

Do something that fills you up

“Make sure the moments you do have to yourself are restorative,” Dr. Bea says. If you have a few minutes, don’t just scroll mindlessly through social media or flop down in front of a TV show you’re not actually interested in. Do something you truly enjoy, whether that’s playing piano, drawing in your sketchbook, calling a friend or spending time outdoors.

Leave some tasks undone

When you find yourself with time to spare, it can be tempting to power through your to-do list. But try to let go of those perfectionist tendencies, Dr. Bea says.

As a parent, it’s good to learn to tolerate a bit of chaos.

Instead of spending your toddler’s all-too-short naptime attacking Mt. Laundry, learn to be OK with a quick tidy-up — and then spend the extra minutes writing in your journal or reading a novel.

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Practice mindfulness

Yes, it can be hard to feel Zen when you’re playing Candyland for the 12th time today. But as much as you can, try to be present in the moment rather than worrying about what you could (or should) be doing instead. It gets easier with practice.

Recalculate your “needs”

Most parents would like more alone time. But telling yourself you “need”it could be making things harder, Dr. Bea says. Because it’s pretty miserable to feel deprived of the things you need.

Rather than dwelling on what you don’t have, accept that you aren’t going to have a lot of solo time for a while — and reflect on how well you’re doing without it. “Parenting is tough, so it makes sense that we need to toughen ourselves up a bit,” he says.

As you adjust to the always-on, never-alone parts of parenthood, go easy on yourself. “There is no effortless path up this mountain,” Dr. Bea says. But there is good news: At least you’ll have company on your trek to the top.

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