Finding free time for mom—at least, for this mom—used to seem impossible. People would suggest multi-tasking as a way to gain time, but multi-tasking simply doesn’t work for me. Research reveals the inefficiency of multi-tasking; as quantity of work goes up, something suffers. A 2008 report called “Cramming the Most into Time” on ABC World News with Charles Gibson affirmed this.
If I don’t multi-task, how do I find a few minutes for myself—to write, read, Google something of interest, blog, pray, journal, or study the Word?
I’d like to propose thirteen ways that a mom can find five minutes (or more!) of free time. While I love spending time with my kids, I still need some time alone. I have in the past combined some of these ideas and over the course of a month, was able to patchwork together free moments for myself each week.
Once you carve it out, use this free time however you wish—to do something productive, to rest, or to spend time connecting with a friend, or with the Lord Himself. All are valuable. It’s your time to use as you choose.
1. Live simply.
I have learned to agree to fewer commitments and activities. By doing less, I have more discretionary time for myself or to be available to others in emergencies.
2. If you aren’t currently living simply, learn to say no.
Learn to say no to some new commitment that would otherwise suck up the only free time you carved out. Practice with me: “I’m sorry, but I can’t at this time.” (If you’ve already committed to something, however, I encourage you to see it through to the end.)
3. Hire a sitter.
Save somewhere else—maybe skip the Starbucks a couple of times—and use that money to pay for an hour of sitting. Our Kindercare has a drop-off program that I used one year with my youngest. The cost was $8 for an hour, and I would just call and give them a heads up, and as long as it wasn’t the middle of naptime, I could slip by and leave him for a couple of hours once a week.
4. Hire a “Mother’s Helper.”
Children not old enough to babysit on their own can be a “Mother’s Helper.” You’re still in the house somewhere to be on hand in an emergency, but the older child can occupy the kids. During the school day, try asking a homeschooling family in the neighborhood if you could hire one of their kids to entertain your young ones for a little while—maybe more than five minutes! How about an hour? Lock yourself in the bedroom. Sleep. Read. Pray. Flip through a magazine. Feel okay about this.
5. Swap babysitting or set up a Co-op.
I know that even finding $16 extra can be hard—besides, you may have multiple children, like I do, and that can really add up quick! When my kids were little, some friends from church and I set up a babysitting rotation. There are lots of creative ways to trade sitting. Here’s an article with several versions of co-ops. Here’s another one.
6. Order pizza.
Order takeout and ask the family to eat without you for dinner one night (hand them paper plates). You can skip dinner and fast, pray, or swing by the park and go for a walk.
7. Netflix…for the kids.
Find a good movie to occupy the kids and leave the dishes for an hour. One time won’t warp the kids or summon the health department. Even once a week wouldn’t.
8. Work outside the home? Set side a lunch hour.
Pack a sandwich, block off a lunch hour at work on your electronic calendar, and lock the door to your office if you have one. A “Do Not Disturb” sign should make things clear, or you could simply leave the office and go for a walk.
9. Quiet Hour.
If your kids are too old to nap, or don’t nap very well but can be trusted alone in their rooms, send the entire household to their beds as you announce a “Quiet Hour.” The kids can listen to soft music if they like. They can look at books. But they must stay in bed. Depending on kids’ personalities or ages, Mom can at least sit in the hallway with her own book, or maybe even retreat to her own room.
10. Turn off the TV (social media and other online activities, too).
Try weaning yourself from social media, surfing the web, scrolling Buzzfeed slideshows and TV programs–it’s amazing how much time you’ll save. Leave Oprah off one day a week–or (don’t hate me) stop watching altogether. Dr. Phil, too. And the morning news shows. Think of all those commercial breaks and entertainment spots they use to pad the hour—and think of how much time you’ll save…for yourself.
11. Vacation Day.
If those babysitting ideas don’t pan out, ask for a vacation day. If you work, ask for a day off. Then instead of taking the kids to a children’s museum or the zoo, let it be your day, just this once. Maybe your spouse could take the day off to be with the kids while you take off?
12. Wake up earlier, or stay up later.
Unless you need sleep more than anything else, stay up a tiny bit later or wake up a bit earlier and set those extra minutes aside for yourself. Promise? It’s easy for them to be absorbed into the morning shuffle, or lost while flipping on the 10 o’clock news.
13. Take a walk or jog.
These are two activities that allow for “multi-tasking” without suffering too much. The repetitive nature of walking allows a person to think or pray or sing or daydream. A competitive runner training for a marathon might not be able to let her mind wander, but a recreational jogger or someone walking briskly and rhythmically probably can. Exercise bikes, stairclimbers, and other machines offer a similar benefit.
Think creatively, and there are lots of ways to get a few minutes to yourself—and do so without feeling guilty. We don’t want to ignore our kids or shove them aside—it’s the opposite. By taking a break and taking care of ourselves for a few minutes a day or each week, we’ll fill up the tanks that motherhood obligations can strain and drain.
Find five minutes of free time for yourself today, and be sure to come back to the comments and share how you carved it out. We can all use more creative ideas to inspire us!
[If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy reading my book Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families.]