As an introvert, I require regular alone time in order to continue functioning as a (mostly) rational person. Growing up in a family of introverts, logging the necessary quiet time was never a problem. Moving away from home as a young adult, I was still able to frequently carve out space to rejuvenate emotionally and spiritually. Even after marrying my ambivert (scaling heavily toward extrovert) husband, I was almost always able to prioritize me-time. However, this sacred (and much-needed) space was essentially dissolved when my kids came along. I really don’t mean to blame my kids for my problems (I’m sure they’ll blame me for their problems soon enough); but there’s something about having dependent, perpetually awake and curious beings around that makes creating alone time nearly impossible. To a certain degree, I’ve always understood that I need regular quiet space but I don’t know that I’ve always fully accepted, or prioritized, this as a part of my daily routine. This changed with the transition to my role as a full-time stay-at-home parent. Being “on call” twenty-four hours a day, has drawn attention to my energy levels and their limitations, forcing me to recognize that it is important to be intentional and creative about finding my quiet time.
I still love the idea of entire mornings or afternoons where I have the space to write, read, or simply think. I used to regularly enjoy that luxury: I would treat myself with an outing to my favorite coffee shop, with journal in tow, and revel in the opportunity to reflect and write as I processed various emotions, decisions, and circumstances. Other times, I would sip coffee while getting lost in a book on a quiet Saturday morning, or plug in my headphones and head to the gym. These mini escapes were the difference between a peaceful acceptance versus an everything-is-going-wrong outlook. Intuitively, I knew my me-time breaks were important, but I couldn’t necessarily articulate why. A book I read, Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” offered valuable insight into why these breaks were so important. This book spoke truth into my experience as an introvert and encouraged me to value the qualities that typically accompany introversion. It is an enjoyable and fascinating read and I highly recommend it for those of you who would like insight or validation into introversion.
For good or ill, the aforementioned luxuriously long outings and me breaks are simply not as frequent of an option in my current life stage. When I first became a mom, there was a span of several years where I attempted to push through without any breaks, even as I knew it was a good way to cause mental, emotional, and spiritual fatigue. I found it difficult, and guilt-provoking, to prioritize myself when I had so many other commitments and people who needed me. However, after several years of near burn-out mode, I’ve recently been trying to intentionally create more quiet time for myself. It’s not always easy to find and protect the time and it requires a decent amount of flexibility and refocused expectations for what me time looks like, but I’ve discovered that it’s a worthwhile shift in routine.
For example, I’m learning to love the “fringe hours,” as a friend recently described them. I’ve always thought there’s something sacred and beautiful in the quiet of early mornings and I’ve come to appreciate that time even more (of course, fringe hours aren’t just for early risers but can also apply to night owls as well). If I don’t protect this time and space for focused and restorative me-time, I quickly fall into the habit of filling it up with either chores or mundane but addictive internet scrolling. Establishing and pursuing this habit has, importantly, provided the grace to not freak out when my quiet space is interrupted (which it frequently is), because I know I’ll have another built in opportunity for quiet time the next morning.
Another technique I am practicing I learned from another friend: frequent thirty-second mental check-ins throughout the day. This resonated with me as a fascinating technique, since I no longer have hours a day to dedicate to my mental and emotional health. I do have thirty seconds, though, and taking time to briefly stop and mentally check-in as a way to process a circumstance or emotion has helped me better control my attitude and refocus my perspective. I have found this particularly helpful for staying calm when my kids are struggling to control their emotions and behaviors.
I feel like I’m always reading an article or hearing about the importance of taking care of myself in order to best care for my family. I’ve always found it easier to prioritize taking care of others over caring for myself, so prioritizing me-time has been challenging. But, especially in this particular season of life which requires a lot of giving to others, I’m realizing it’s a challenge worth pursuing.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having recently relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo taken by a Minnesota lake*