Finding quiet time

A reader sent me an email this morning asking if in the busyness of motherhood, I crave time for myself, and what I do about it.  After I wrote an answer to her, I decided I’d share my answer here, and then ask you all to respond as well with ideas.

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Yes, absolutely I need time to myself.   I start most days with some Bible time– even 5 minutes helps. Often in the evening I stay up late to enjoy the peace and quiet.  However since I started running, I’ve been needing more sleep, so am trying to get to bed by midnight most nights. Sleep is really important for mood regulation in mom as well as kids.  Speaking of kids and sleep, most of our kids are in bed by 9 PM, so that helps with quiet time in the evening too.

I run to the store alone sometimes, or sometimes with just one child.  (When you have as many kids as I do, having only one along feels like no work at all!) Very occasionally I go out for coffee with a friend.

I’ve found running to be a good ‘getaway’ as well.  Usually I have a kid or two with me, but the ones inclined to run a couple miles are also ones with the good sense not to expect anything more of me than breathing and moving at that point.

Most afternoons I send everyone outside to play for an hour if the weather is not too bitter.  Ah…..quiet house….for a few minutes anyway.   But even with all that, sometimes I still feel like I am going to explode from all the noise and neediness.

Like yesterday.

Seriously, I almost texted my husband saying: I can’t DO this anymore!  And then I realized I was being melodramatic and instead I went for a walk with my youngest two kids.  And it turned out I could do it after all– I just needed some fresh air, some prayer, and a chocolate chip cookie.  I also made the conscious choice not to feel guilty about bowing out of an evening activity, the thought of which was mentally exhausting me.

I think it is key to realize you do sometimes need breaks and there’s nothing wrong with it.  Also, remember to use moments of quiet time doing things you enjoy.  Last night I did some knitting, and began the third of six running books that a friend gifted me with.   I could have graded my daughter’s grammar assignment during that time, but I needed a break, and so I skipped the work and played instead.

People are amazed that I find time for projects and crafts, but it’s simply a trade-off.   For every craft I do, I’m ignoring something else.  For example, at this moment, my laundry room is a pit, my little girls’ bedroom could stand to be dug out with a shovel, preferably a large one, and the kitchen floor is a crying shame.  But crafts and projects and reading help me feel more sane.   I choose to relax my housekeeping standards to take time off.
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So that’s how I do it.  I’d love to hear how other juggler-mommas find time to themselves!

{ 15 Comments }

  1. I just want to know what book series your reading. I’m assuming you like it, if you’re starting the third one.

  2. Wait I just got that! You meant six books about running, not six running books (as in six in a row). Nevermind!

  3. This is a really good post. Being a mother is the most wonderful and amazing job God has called us to do, but you cannot give when your cup is empty. It’s important to live a balanced life so our children always have “full cups”! I’m glad you shared this. It’s important for all mothers to realize there is nothing wrong with needing some quiet time!!

  4. Well, for the past 14 years, 2-4 PM has been naptime/reading time at our house. It started very simply. My first 4 children were just under 5 years, so I naturally had all of them taking an afternoon nap at the same time. When the oldest began to outgrow her nap, she was already reading, so in order to maintain quiet for the nappers and for myself, LOL, I gave her the option of napping in bed or reading in bed. Now we have 6 children and are waiting to bring home our 7th child (currently waiting in China), and the same rule still applies! (It is amazing how much they have learned from the hundreds of library books over the years!)

    With homeschooling, I have had to let go of most of this “by myself” time this past year. I now have to call one or two older kids in during this time to go over math or call out spelling words. I just can’t fit it all in before 2 PM anymore. But I like that it is still quiet during this time!

  5. A mother’s work is never done and so I agree that it is important to do things that refresh and renew you- even when there is a mess somewhere. Because there is always a mess somewhere. I am Dutch. I am surrounded by Dutch women. By “Dutch” I mean our grandparents were immigrants. That “cleanliness is next to Godliness” motto runs deep though and I am exhausted by my friends’ attempts to always have a picked up house. I am a rebel. I WILL not miss out on life because there are crumbs on the floor or laundry that needs to be folded! It will be there tomorrow! I have a need to read and spend time with yarn too 🙂

  6. Hey, Mary –

    You did a great job explaining that and giving good ideas for perspective. My hubby has been fond of helping me be realistic about what I expect of myself. Being a mom doesn’t mean you have to operate at full bore all the time. Many times, I have set up “requirements” for my “position” as mom that were impossible. Also, while we can be encouraged by other moms’ we need to be careful about comparisons. No two families are alike and no two families have identical priorities.

    Rest is important; it usually is best if it is a mix of actual physically slow times, exercise, and creative opportunities. I think that is one reason I have kept up with an exercise routine (except when I was pregnant). Also, doing the creative things (for me sewing, gardening, singing, playing the flute) give a different dimension to my relationships with me kids. In those things, I do not have to be “in charge” the same way and we can have fun together.

    Besides that, it is good to give the kids a chance to rise to serving the mom. I have always found quite a bit of satisfaction in seeing what my kids will do when I’m sick. I’ve come to view it as forced breaks designed by God to let the kids be in charge of me.

    On the other hand, if I’m always focused on wanting to have more time to myself, that leads to discontent. I found that working on my own servant’s heart was the most important step, being careful to not be too much thinking of what *I* wanted to do.

    Special (evening, day, week long) trips with my husband are always good, too! Don’t discourage the men when they want to “take you away!”

  7. thriftymomma says:

    I second the “quiet time” habit. It was a natural transition from napping to spend time quietly reading or sketching on their beds by themselves. Our kids are older now and an hour of quiet time is expected by everyone. It can even run to 2 hours if they’re really enjoying what they’re reading. I agree that lowering your expectations for housework helps free up some time. A big change now that the kids are older is free time in the morning(the teenagers get up a little later now)and I get about 1/2 hour after supper to knit or read because the kids are in charge of the dishes.

  8. We put everyone 12 and under to bed at 8:00. They’re welcome to read in bed as late as they’d like, but they have to stay in bed and be quiet. The kids 12 and over go to their rooms by 9:00 sharp. They’re welcome to hang out with each other, listen to audiobooks, read, whatever–but they have to leave their parents alone.

    Our kids do a limited number of activities, but it really adds up. I’m learning to art of bowing out of some evening activities as well. Sometimes a peaceful evening at home is just what the doctor ordered.

  9. Hi Mary, I blogged about your book and the school flags. I love them!

  10. Quiet time is my friend. For at least one hour every afternoon I send the kids to their rooms to play quietly or rest, and they can only come out to use the bathroom.

    My MIL told me about quiet time right when my oldest stopped napping and we’ve been doing it ever since.

  11. My youngest just started school in June and I am still working 4 days. My husband sort of expected me to go to full time work when school kicked in but I have stood my ground and find having that one day to myself for the 6hrs the boys are at school is precious. I got heaps done and sometimes I have even rented a girly chick flick and sat at home, on my own and watched it. Pure bliss

  12. Oh yes! Quiet time, time alone, time out, is a necessity for me, as well. I especially love your lines about choosing to do what keeps you sane means that something else has to go. And that it is OK!

  13. We just started quiet time a couple days ago. Wish I would have started sooner. The kids really seem to appreciate the down time as well.

    We all work together to keep the house running which leaves time for my hobby, knitting. The click, click, click keeps me sane

  14. LOVED how you said that your crafts were a “trade-off”. I never thought of it that way. I didn’t really think I had a choice, if something unpleasant really needed to be done. SO INTERESTING!! that I could choose to do something rejuvenating instead! thanks, mary!

    From a mother of 8 (and 9 on the way!)