The other day, I did it again.
I took time for myself.
When I rejoined the family, my husband asked me if I enjoyed my alone time.
Me: Yes. (Pause.) But now I feel guilty.
Me: I don’t know. It just seems like there’s so much else I really should be doing. Alone time seems like a waste of my time… and kind of selfish.
Husband: (With more passion than I would have anticipated.) So, you really think you should never take time for yourself? No. Everyone needs time to refuel. You should take time for yourself. It’s good for our kids to see you take care of yourself.
Hmm. “Good for our kids.” I didn’t think of it like that. Taking time for myself is a mental battlefield. I suspect it is for many moms. We know we need it. We know it’s good for us. But life is demanding — so it is sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to take time away. Or when we do sneak away to refuel, we might feel guilty, which makes it hard to fully enjoy our break.
But my husband is right: rejuvenating time for mothers (and fathers) is good — no, even great — for our kids. Here are eight reasons why:
1. Your kids learn to also take care of themselves.
What if your children grew up and never took time to do something they loved, like hiking, photography, gardening or reading? If my kids never saw me take time to refuel and rest, often through pursuing my hobbies and passions, would they grow up thinking they always have to be working, serving and doing?
2. Your kids learn coping strategies.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, at some point, everyone needs a time out. One of the best coping strategies we can teach our kids is to step out of a situation, breathe deep, refuel (often through doing something they enjoy) and gain a healthy perspective before they jump back into life. Let’s show our kids through our actions that a time out for adults is OK, too.
3. Your kids learn ways to unselfishly love their future spouses.
One of the biggest ways my husband loves me is by declaring it a “boys only” evening and giving me a little time off. My boys love their special time with dad and are always excited to see me when I return. My kids watch my husband consider my needs and treat me with kindness. He is teaching our children to someday do the same thing for their future spouses.
4. Your kids learn that community is important.
In order to have alone time, we sometimes need someone’s help: grandparents, an aunt, a spouse, a friend or a babysitter. When we build a community of friends and family who are willing to support each other, sometimes by taking each other’s kids, we teach our children that we all need each other.
5. Your kids learn to ask for help.
There are moments in life that can be stressful and maybe even dangerous if we do not ask for help. Our kids should grow up seeing us ask for help, so when they need to, they will also have the confidence to reach out for support.
6. Your kids learn to be brave and dream.
Sometimes, what we pursue in our alone time teaches our kids courage. For example, my favorite way to refuel is through writing and photography. It takes courage for me to let others read what I write or to look at my pictures. My kids see me being brave as I pursue my dreams. Teach your kids to be brave and dream big. They will learn if mom could do it, so can they.
7. Your kids learn a little bit about who you are.
What we choose to do in the limited time we get to ourselves often lets our children peer into our hearts and see a different side of us. They learn a little more about what interests us and what we enjoy doing. (And maybe, if we’re lucky, one of our interests might someday also interest them. At some point, it could be a place for us to connect.)
8. It gives you more quality time with your kids.
What? How is this so? If I haven’t had time alone, then during the time I spend with my kids I will sometimes be thinking of other stuff I want to do or should be doing. When I schedule my time a little better and include space for my kids and space for me, I can better focus fully on my kids when I am with them.
Mama who is reading this, are you like me? Do you need convincing to value your own needs? Know that your family works best when you are healthy. Spending time doing things you love is good for your soul. What is good for your soul is good for the whole family. I hope this helps. And I hope the next time you get a chance for some alone time you enjoy it, 100% guilt-free.