*thank you to Laura Dolman for contributing today’s post
Everyone loves spending time with their children, it’s great seeing their little faces light up when they’re enjoying themselves. Taking them on a bike ride through the park or having a cuddle on the sofa can be the best part of your day but sometimes you need a break. Wanting to have some time away from your children doesn’t make you a bad parent. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. It would probably be stranger if you never wished that you and your children were at least in different rooms. As much as it’s important to have family time, it’s also important that parents have time to themselves. Whether you parent with a partner or you’re raising your children on your own, you deserve to spend some time on looking after yourself. And if you have a partner, you should still be able to have time together, without the kids.
Finding time to spend alone isn’t easy though. You have to work at it if you want some grown-up time. If you don’t make plans, nothing will ever happen. It’s not like before you had children, when you could spontaneously decide to go out for the night. Now you need to arrange childcare well in advance, and if that childcare falls through you can’t go out. There are plenty of ways you can get some time to yourself, as long as you plan ahead. There are even ways you can have the kids with you, but still spend time alone.
Take it in Turns
If you’re raising your kids with someone else make sure you each get opportunities to spend time away from the kids. Parents who live together can arrange dates where they’re allowed to have their day off, while the other looks after the children. Try to make it fair; if one parent does much of the childcare, perhaps they should get a little more “time off”. If you’re separated from your children’s other parent and have a custody arrangement, saying goodbye to your kids might be hard. But try to use the opportunity to get some alone time. You may miss your kids, but remember that they’re enjoying spending time with their other parent. You should have some fun too while you have a chance.
As with finding time to spend on your own, if you have a partner (whether they’re your children’s parent or not) you need to spend time with them too. Arranging a regular day to have a “date night” is a great idea to make sure you always get your time together. Set dates will give you time to organize childcare. And it will make it easier to have a standing arrangement, instead of needing to call someone in every time. It also means that both you and your partner know in advance not to arrange anything else. You can even plan backup childcare, in case something goes wrong with your original plan.
Parents who have family nearby should reap the benefits of any willingness to babysit. But don’t push it so much that your family feel like you’re taking advantage of them. Having family close by can be a huge blessing that many other people don’t have. If you have a parent or sibling who wants to spend time with your children then it’s beneficial for everyone if they do. You get time to yourself, and your children and extended family get to know each other. Plus, parents and siblings don’t usually expect you to pay them.
Finding people you trust to look after your children can be difficult. It’s understandable if you’re reluctant to let someone into your home to take care of your kids. But there are lots of safety precautions you can take when you find a babysitter. If you don’t know anyone in the neighborhood and don’t have friends or family who can help, there are several places to look. Some community notice boards or local newspapers will have adverts for people looking for work. You can also look online, using a reputable website that collects references for babysitters. Using these sites you can be sure that you’re hiring someone you can trust. Many older babysitters will even be education or childcare students. Or they are sometimes nannies who want to earn some extra money. So you could get someone highly qualified if you look in the right places.
Parents with Older Children
If you have children who are old enough (and responsible enough) to look after your younger children, you may not need to hire babysitters. Your older children probably don’t want to be looking after their siblings all the time, but it works for now and then. Check your local laws and regulations to see what age you can leave older children in charge of younger ones. And most of all, use your common sense. A 16-year-old is likely to be fine watching a 12-year-old, but it might not be a very good idea to leave a 14 year old with a 3-year-old.
Spend Time Together Apart
Apart from going out and leaving the kids at home, another way to spend time away from the kids is having separate vacations or days out (check out my post on tips for flying with kids). You can either go on completely separate holidays (e.g. the kids go to camp and you go to Paris) or you can go together but spend time apart. Vacations are a great time to send the kids off to do something on their own while you have some adult time. Send the kids for skiing lessons, while you sit by the fire and have a brandy. Or have them do activities in a resort kids’ club while you explore the area. Then you can spend time with them at the end of the day, eating dinner and talking about what you’ve been doing.
What’s your favorite way to escape it all?