Daily Lives: How to Gain More Time for Yourself

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By Jenna Hall

As an often-solo mother to four young kids, I do not have an awful lot of free time. In fact, I usually don’t have any free time. The two hours I have in the evening after my children go to bed is usually filled with household management and chores, neither of which are thrilling or could be considered ‘self-care’. But this year, I decided I wanted to change that. And so I began the slow process of training my children to be more independent so I could gain more time during parenting hours to get chores done, and therefore gain more time in the evening for myself.

Teaching your child to be more independent is a long, drawn-out process. It is not quick and doesn’t happen overnight. But by taking a few simple steps, I was able to get more free time during the day and as an added benefit, my children became much more independent and creative. Here are some of the steps I took:

Get out of your children’s way. Wean yourself from the scene. Are they drawing happily? Good. Go do something else. Spend time in a different room from them so they get comfortable with your absence. Don’t hover.

Provide less unprompted feedback. Don’t make yourself the only source of their sense of accomplishment and pride. Wait until they come to you to ask for feedback. And if you are out of the room, all the better, they will only come when they really want your feedback.

Make a few less rules for them. Keep them safe, but don’t make unnecessary rules that require you to stick around and enforce them. Keep track of how many times you say ‘no’ in a day and then try to halve that number the next day. Even if that means you have to go to a big, empty field for an hour with them.20130105-114424

Make a few more boundaries for yourself. Shut the bathroom door. Eat your meal without a child in your lap. Listen to that voice that says you need a nap on a Saturday afternoon and make everyone take quiet time so YOU can rest (and tell them so). Don’t cater to every whim, particularly if you are in the middle of something. No child has starved to death in 5 minutes (although my children would like you and me believe otherwise)

Give yourself permission to believe it’s not your role to entertain your children. I think as parents we get into the habit of orchestrating activities for our kids to keep them occupied for a few minutes so we can get our own thing done. While this works in the short term, in the long term, it means that they rely on you to keep that dreaded foe, boredom, out of their life.

Speaking of boredom, let them be bored. My son hates it when he comes to me and says ‘I’m bored’ and I respond with ‘Good news! That means you are about to be creative!’ But as much as he hates those words, it’s true. Boredom breeds both independence and creativity. If you don’t fix it for them, they are forced to figure it out for themselves.

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