I know... you're thinking... what free time?
We were talking about free time over in our Toddler Approved Positive Parenting Facebook Group recently and I loved hearing how different parents find time for hobbies and other things while also being busy parents.
Today I'd love to hear tips or thoughts from you regarding how you find ways to fit some free time into your busy schedule as parents. Does it happen? How?
A friend and I were recently talking about self-care and how she often puts herself on the bottom of the list. She mentioned how on airplanes they always tell you to put on your own oxygen masks first and then assist any children. She compared that to caring for ourselves as parents. Our mental and physical health is important to take care of... and finding time to do fun things for ourselves (unrelated to our kids) can also be really beneficial too!
How do you spend your free time? Do you have any hobbies or favorite activities you fit into your day? When do you fit them in?
About five years ago I started this blog when I had a bit of free time. My only son was about 18 months old and was finally sleeping a little bit more, so I started photographing activities we did together and writing about them every evening. Ironically what was once a fun hobby for me has turned into a job, so blogging isn't my free time activity any more (though I still love it)!
Now, as a work from home mom with three kids (ages 7,4,2) I am MUCH busier. Finding time to put away laundry and do the dishes is hard enough... but I know that when I do get a moment to do something for ME I come back much more energized and happier.
Here are seven ways I spend my free time...
1. Going to the doctor/dentist/hair salon
I never knew how enjoyable these experiences could be until I became a mom. I am practically giddy every time I go to the dentist because the chair is so cozy, they'll give me earphones with music to listen to, and they even give me a cozy blanket if it is cold. I sometimes even take a nap! As a mom I've found taking care of my health is critical to staying happy and on top of things with my kids. If I am sick or hurting... I have a hard time being a good mom. Sometimes my appointments get put last on the list or I have to cancel when something comes up, but it sure is awesome when they happen!
2. Going to Target by myself (yes, this is probably number one on my list)
I usually do this on a Saturday afternoon or on a weeknight after the kids are asleep and my husband is home. Often I am just buying groceries or craft supplies... but it is such a treat to grab myself a diet coke and aimlessly wander the store and try things on if I want or just browse. Target is totally my happy place... especially when I manage to leave there without having spent $300!
I am a runner. One of the best ways for me to feel happy and de-stress is to run. Ever since I had my third child I have had a really hard time finding a regular running time. I love running early in the morning but love staying up late... so I can rarely wake up before my husband leaves for work. This means I typically run very infrequently while pushing a double jogger. Stopping and starting while pushing the kids is not relaxing. My goal is to start running in the morning soon and stop staying up so late! (wish me luck!)
4. Scrolling Instagram
I love Instagram and love checking in on my friends and seeing what they are up to. If I have a free moment while I am in the parking lot at pick up or while I am standing in line by myself at Target I will look at cute pictures of friends or favorite bloggers and comment. Instagram can be a huge time suck, so I try and only do it for a little bit... otherwise I could be on there all night!
5. Girls Night Out
Every few months a friend has a birthday and we manage to organize a birthday lunch or dinner and either my husband is home in the evening to watch the kids.... or I snag a babysitter during the day. Connecting with other moms is so energizing and relaxing! I love talking about challenges with the kids, sharing advice, and just listening to each other!
Recently I started hiking on early Saturday mornings or late weeknight evenings with some girlfriends. The trails have been intense and I have loved having time to chat while sweating and getting our bodies moving. I really wish it was something I could do every week... but our schedules are so busy that it is hard to fit it in. Afterwards I always feel AMAZING.
7. Date Nights
My husband and I are pretty bad about scheduling official date nights out, but we'll often have hot fudge sundaes at home and watch a favorite show together after the kids are asleep. Occasionally we'll get a babysitter to go out on a weeknight as well. I love just going out to dinner and chatting. I think that taking time for ourselves as a couple is a really important way to help us be better parents and help our marriage thrive.
I also spend free time planning, sending emails, volunteering, making treats for friends, editing photos, posting photos on Facebook, decorationg, cleaning my house, shopping for fun, doing the dishes, pinning on pinterest, reading (blogs more than books), serving in our church, and planning parties... just to name a few.
Here are a few ways that I get "free time"...
- I count naptime as free time... even though my 4 year old is awake. She has quiet time in her room and mostly stays up there having fun playing. I use the time to do work, clean the house, or sit and veg on Facebook.
- I hire a babysitter. Usually I only hire a babysitter to work or watch the little kids so I can volunteer in my older son's classroom or for a date night, but occasionally I'll treat myself and have a babysitter come so I can go running or on an important shopping trip. I wish it happened more often!
- Once the kids are asleep (really asleep), then that is where I get most of my free time. I usually stay up way too late because I am so excited to have free time... which ends up making me super grumpy the next day.
- My husband watches the kids while I run errands or go out for a mom's night out. I do the same for him so he can go to the movies with friends or go on a bike ride.
- I swap with friends. I usually prefer to just hire a babysitter, but occasionally I'll watch a friend's kids while she volunteers at school and then she'll watch mine while I get something done. It is a fun way for the kids to get to know one another and have a playdate too.
- I wake up early. This RARELY happens, but if I run or hike before 7am no one is awake. It feesl great to get up that early (once I'm awake), but I have a hard time doing it!
- Family members help out! Once a year or so my parents or my mother-in-law will watch our kiddos so that my husband and I can go on an overnight trip. It is amazing and so sweet and generous of them! Watching three kids (under 7) is no easy task. We are always so grateful for the time away to connect as a couple!!