This piece was originally published at Her View From Home.
It’s 2:00 pm and I’m sitting all cuddled up on our old, brown couch with my son’s fleecy construction-themed blanket draped over me. I can hear him playing contentedly in his room. His sister is taking her daily nap. And here I am, alone. Oh, it feels good.
This time of day didn’t always look like this in our house. Traditionally this hour was the start of the rapid descent into late afternoon bedlam—the time of day when my overwrought children would turn into goblins and the harried, exhausted mommy became terrible. That was all before the days of quiet time. Ahhh…quiet time.
I’ve learned since becoming a mother that I really have to be intentional about carving out alone time, or it will not happen. These blessed little bodies are always around me. And I love it. I absolutely love that they want to be wherever I am. In my lap if I am sitting. At my side if I am working in the kitchen. Under my feet wherever I am cleaning or working on a project. I LOVE it. In fact, I live for it. The very reason we chose this lifestyle for our family (as in, me staying home with them 24/7) is because we wanted this for them. And I still do. More than anything else. More than having as much alone time as I might like.
But you know what? Sometimes it is hard for me to be around people all of the time. As beautiful and fulfilling as this job is, it can be extremely draining if I am not intentional about assuring that my internal needs are met consistently. And one internal need that I am very aware of is the need to be alone sometimes.
A few months ago I vented my frustrations to my husband as we climbed into bed, knowing it would only be a few hours until two little bodies would join us there. I expressed that it was frustrating to never have a minute alone. The kids were around me every minute of the day and even climb into our bed part way through the night and sleep on either side of me, their little arms wrapped around my torso. I couldn’t even use the bathroom or shower in solitude.
I explained to him that it was hard for me to do personal things while on the mommy clock, because I felt that it ended up being at the kids’ expense. I also had found out quickly that desperately scrolling facebook for an escape, while my 3 year old was asking me to read to him, was not relaxing or rejuvenating in the slightest. I hated the feeling of ignoring my kids while doing something for “me” but I was becoming completely exhausted by not having any time for “me.” How could I get some time to recharge so that I wouldn’t feel shriveled up inside?
That night as we talked over some ideas, this is what we came up with: the institution of a daily household “quiet time.” And I can safely say that the daily quiet hour in our house has changed my life.
We all need time alone with ourselves. Even the iconic social butterfly Marilyn Monroe stated “I restore myself when I’m alone.” Our modern world has convinced us that the opposite is true and that we ought to be constantly connected to each other, even when we may be alone in a room. These online connections, however, are often superficial and can leave us feeling empty rather than restored and restless rather than settled. Now more than ever moms need to be intentional about making time to be alone and recharge. Different things have worked for me in the past – joining a gym that has childcare while I work out, becoming a part of a mommy co-op that trades daytime babysitting, etc. But today I focus on the merits of a regular “quiet time,” which you will find can benefit every member of your family.
The idea of “quiet time” is just like it sounds—everyone in the house goes to a place to be alone and quiet for a designated period of time. Kids can play, read or nap. Mom gets to do what she wants. Here are some simple steps to get this routine started in your house:
1) Find a time that works well for your family. Could be after lunch or preschool pick-up. Maybe it’s during a younger child’s regular nap. This will become your family’s daily “quiet time.”
2) Explain to your child or children what “quiet time” is. It is a special time when they will get to spend some time alone playing or looking at books. Mommy will be taking quiet time alone too. A regular and scheduled hour alone gives kids the opportunity to learn to use their imaginations and entertain themselves. As tempting as it will be, try not to let them take tech toys like phones or iPads into quiet time—as this will not allow them to be alone with themselves and will inhibit them from solitary, imaginative play. It may prove helpful to have designated “quiet time toys,” toys that are only brought out during that hour of the day. The novelty of playing with these toys may be helpful as your children adjust to this new aspect of their routine.
3) If you want to avoid having your children constantly shouting “Am I done yet??” have them help you set a timer at the beginning of their quiet time. They will hear when it beeps and know the time is over. This one is a big deal for my son, as he is very aware of details and boundaries. When he knows that this will signal the end of his “quiet time” he is not as likely to continually ask me to be done.
4) Set clear boundaries about “quiet time.” In our house, if my children go to “quiet time” when I ask them to and don’t come out of their rooms or shout during the designated period, then they are allowed to play quietly in their room with the door open. If either of them comes out of their room or shouts and yells, I close their door for the rest of the time.
The first few days we instituted this kind of “quiet time” it was rough. My three year old was not a fan and I would spend the first ten minutes of the hour holding his door shut until he gave up on getting out and chose to go play with his toys. But after just a few days of being consistent, he really adapted. Now he walks to his room on his own after I start his timer and will stay in there quietly playing until the time is up. He has become very comfortable being alone with himself and is really good at using his imagination.
As for me, this daily hour alone has become a sacred space in my life. I try to be very intentional about how I use it as the minutes are so few. Sometimes I find myself ending up on social media or drifting around online, but I really am most fulfilled when I use this time in activities that feed my soul. These are often reading, meditating, or writing. Sometimes, it’s a nap, a bath or crossing a pressing “to-do” off my list. But however I use this time, I almost always come out of it as a more balanced person and mom and my children come out of it in a more balanced state as well. My husband also has noticed a difference in our house since we started this practice.
So, take it from me—if you are the harried, stretched-thin mom that I was several months ago, you may want to give “quiet time” a try. It is simple, easy and free and will likely prove to be a great benefit to your family. Every mom deserves some time each day to be alone.