As a parent with young kids, finding time to recharge can feel impossible. But it is so essential, at least for me. I think about the phrase "put on your oxygen mask first" when it comes to my own self-care which includes quiet alone time. As an introvert this kind of time is the difference between feeling like myself and being overwhelmed.
Personally I love having time to journal or to work on enjoyable projects like family photobooks or planning Christmas at a leisurely pace. I can tell that I am a more calm and present parent when I have met my own need of alone time. Chris, too, enjoys getting some downtime to play music, get into the weeds of our personal finances, or catch up with his sister.
During the past year and a half it has been hard for Chris and me to find consistent recharge time even as we probably needed it more than ever. Recently we've started two weekly rituals that are giving us individual recharge time and it's bringing me so much happiness. Both of these rituals already fit in our normal weekly schedule without too much demand from either of us. At the same time we're both getting more predictable time to ourselves and we are better for it. So I'd love to share what's working for us:
Monday morning reflection and planning
One place Chris and I are finding time to recharge is in the early morning on Mondays. I love starting our weeks with time for each of us to reflect and plan ahead. What's working for us is for Chris to go to the gym at 5 a.m. on Mondays. Afterwards he stops at a local coffee shop and takes an hour to drink coffee and work on his laptop. A while ago Chris had mentioned that while he loves a Monday morning workout the stress from his impending work week was weighing on him at the gym. That gave me the idea for building in an hour of planning time at the beginning of his weeks. It's been going great! During his Monday morning coffee shop hour Chris might catch up on email so that they aren't nagging at him. Other times he comes home giving me all sorts of updates on our finances. I think that extra hour is making a difference in helping him ease into his work week in a more pleasant way.
Chris is usually on early morning duty and makes breakfast for everyone but I'm happy to take this on when I know ahead of time. I also love knowing that Chris is getting some recharge time. On Sundays we try to get the house clean and tidy with all laundry done and the fridge stocked. Basically the opposite of Thursday house. So Monday mornings feel a bit easier anyway with drawers full of clean clothes and lots of breakfast and lunch options.
I've also built some recharge time for myself into my Monday mornings. I try to go to bed early on Sunday night (by 8:30 p.m.) so that I can wake up to my alarm at 4:45 a.m. on Mondays. The night before I set the coffee to brew and set out what I want to work on in the morning. I have been loving printing a fresh copy of the weekly intentions page (created by Tracy Benjamin) and putting it on a clipboard to fill out Monday morning. I don't always get even a full hour to myself on these mornings before Maeve is stirring but I make the most of my time. I usually at least have time to catch up on my Line A Day journal and write out my intentions for the week. Then I make the bed and am ready to be on mama duty feeling calm and recharged.
Tuesday evenings off
Another newer ritual for us is to alternate taking Tuesday evenings off starting at 5 p.m. This idea is inspired by the genius routine that Erica has of taking off every Tuesday evening. The late afternoon into evening is a very demanding time at our house during this season of life. There's fending off the boys from trying to snack as you make dinner while holding or feeding a sometimes fussy toddler. All the while the kitchen is getting messier and available counter space dwindles. After dinner there's dinner clean up and then herding everyone to baths and showers and into bed. All amidst wrestling or silliness or a sudden emotional outburst. So sending one parent out of the house during this time doesn't sound like the best idea. But surprisingly it is!
Something I've noticed is that sometimes solo parenting through evenings can actually feel easier than co-parenting! When I know I'm going to be solo parenting I try even harder to plan ahead. I feel more motivated to get dinner prepped, to lay out Maeve's pajamas, and to have the kitchen clean heading into dinner. I think I also mentally prepare to be calm and go with the flow. At the same time the boys are often really cooperative for me because I let them know that I really need their help since I'm the only parent. What might also be a factor is that Chris is the parent who wrestles and is sillier with the boys so when he's not at home they might get less riled up. I also take satisfaction in knowing that Chris has the evening off and is able to relax. I love expressing my love to him by giving him that time. Plus I know that the next week I'll get to take an evening off! On his first evening off Chris met his sister for dinner and also look some time before dinner to read and plan.
Since this is a newer ritual I just had my first Tuesday evening off last week. We've been trying to focus on saving money lately so I didn't want to take myself out to eat or go anywhere I would spend money. What I decided to do was to take my yoga mat and computer out to the studio. I started my evening with a 20 minute Yoga With Adriene video. Then I sat in our comfortable chair by the window and worked on my computer. I made notes in my Christmas spreadsheet – already brainstorming ideas! – and worked on the website I am updating for our school's PTSO (Parent, Teacher, Student Organization). I always have little projects I'm working on but they aren't always a top priority during my limited work time. It felt good to put some time towards them and I honestly find this kind of work relaxing.
I have to share that when I first proposed the idea of taking Tuesday nights off Chris was a little skeptical. He didn't love the idea of scheduled alone time because he said that sometimes at the end of a long workday he just wants to be with the family. However he was happy to plan on giving me every other Tuesday night off. What we came up with is that on his designated Tuesday off he doesn't have to take the night off if he doesn't want to. He really enjoyed his first Tuesday night off so I'm wondering if as we get into the routine if he'll start looking forward to his Tuesdays. Or sometimes not take them! That's fine too. I am definitely looking forward to my Tuesday nights off.
Just a month ago I felt like I had so little time to myself I felt like I was drowning. Getting into a routine with part-time daycare for Maeve has made a big difference. But these two recharge rituals are also significant. What I love about them is that they are predictable and fit into our lives without much additional scheduling and no extra childcare. It feels like a big parenting and life win-win .