I’ve turned into a ninja since having kids. For example, I want to style my hair and apply my makeup quickly, but my 3-year-old wants to be involved in the whole process. She wants “eyelashes,” “lips,” and “a half ponytail,” as well as to help me pick out my clothes, put toothpaste on my toothbrush and drop the odd comment about my being “a little fat.”
To avoid this scenario daily, I try to occupy her with other tasks, like feeding her baby doll breakfast, while I sneak into my bathroom and get ready as fast as I can. No lingering over Pinterest-inspired braids or messy buns. I’m just trying to get ready in peace.
Being a mom means giving up your time for your kids, but you don’t have to give up all of it. I’d like to offer some clever ways to steal back mom time for the things you like to do. See if any of them will work for you.
Ever tried to sew or craft with your kids around? Either they end up being too helpful, or your entire house gets trashed while you try to ignore the ever-growing chaos. Reclaim your hobbies by making time in your schedule. I’ve done several late night sewing and crafting sessions. The peace and quiet is worth the loss of sleep. Better yet, invite a few friends over and make a night of it. If it’s important to you, make time for it.
That being said, I’ve developed less time-consuming hobbies since becoming a mother. I make earrings and bracelets instead of intricate jewelry. I’ve put aside quilting until I have more time and money to devote to the craft. Be realistic, but don’t put aside all the hobbies that make you happy.
I think I’ve been tired for the last 13 years. I could take a nap every day. Maybe you’re not as sleepy as I am, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. When my oldest children were very young and I was very tired, we used to play a game called “Mama Bear.” It taught them about hibernation, which was very educational.
I would put out several toys in the room with the comfiest carpet and close the door. We’d play on the floor for a while, and then I would say, “Mama Bear is very tired. It is time to hibernate for the winter. You baby bears can hibernate too, or you can play very quietly.” And then I would fall asleep. Sometimes the kids would crawl all over me and try to get me to wake up, but I would still get at least a few minutes of precious sleep.
To steal a few minutes of nap time for yourself, you can try napping when the baby naps (good luck), setting up quiet time stations for kids to rotate through, or using screen time (video or computer games, TV or a movie). Once I fell asleep reading a book aloud to my kids. The crazy thing was, I kept reading.
It never fails. The minute I get on the phone kids start fighting, pulling on my clothing and making more noise than they were previously. I don’t mind too much if I’m talking to my sister, but if I’m making an appointment or settling a billing dispute, quiet is preferable. This is where your ninja skills come in handy. Occupy your children with a task and then sneak into the nearest bathroom or closet to make your phone call. Choose a room with a locking door if you really need to focus.
Older children can be told to stay quiet, but some kids take that as an invitation to need you, and only you, desperately. I’m told that someday I will miss the noise and chaos in my house. When that happens, I hope I have several phone calls to make.
If exercise is important to you, and I hope it is, it won’t disappear out of your routine as your family gets bigger and busier. There are times when you may only have 15 minutes to exercise in a day, and barely enough energy to complete a workout, but taking care of yourself physically is very important.
I like to wake up early and get my workouts done before my kids even open their eyes. That means a 6am wake up for me, but it is worth it. (See the nap section above.) I’ve also exercised with my children, taking them in a jogging stroller or doing a workout video together. Although not ideal, it is definitely better than nothing.
My sister and I used to trade babysitting for mid-week long runs, and many gyms offer childcare. I’ve also tried exercising in the evening when the day was too full but I felt the need for a workout. Carrying around a heavy baby and doing housecleaning counts as exercise, too, so don’t sell yourself short!
Do you ever have 4 or 5 short errands to run and dread the idea of putting several kids in the car just to get them in and out over and over again? It’s hard to shop with kids. My daughter thinks she needs something just for her in every store we enter, and I tire of explaining why she can’t have a new toy or article of clothing.
Shopping is necessary in life, but for many women, it’s also fun. If you need a couple of hours to try on new clothes or find the perfect presents for an upcoming holiday, plan ahead. Shopping in the evening is practical for many mothers as their partners are home to watch the kids. Take a Saturday afternoon with friends to socialize and shop. Use online shopping as much as you feel comfortable; some people buy most of their household goods online.
Now that my youngest attends preschool twice a week, I have some free time to run errands by myself. I am so efficient! Trading child care with friends is also a great idea, at a great price — free!
Mothers are creative, loving and devoted. They are also often guilt-ridden when they leave their kids or take time for themselves. Children need to learn patience and independence, and moms need to stay sane. Reclaim some time for yourself and start doing the things you enjoy. Find creative ways to make and schedule time and you’ll be feeling like a better woman, and mom, in no time.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.