Once upon a time, in a far away land, a mother was lounging by the pool, the summer’s hottest book in one hand and a margarita in the other. After a quick dip to cool off, she stretched out on her chaise, tipped her wide-brimmed hat over her eyes and drifted into a long, relaxing afternoon nap.
Of course, this is only a fantasy, since any mother knows this type of relaxation simply doesn’t exist in reality. Still, even the busiest parent is often met with a small period of time where the stars align and the kids nap at the same time, or a compassionate spouse, parent, or friend gives you an afternoon off. For those fleeting moments, from the pre-planned to the spontaneous, here are some ideas for self-care so you don’t use that time to fold the laundry.
I’ll admit that until well into adulthood, I hated being out in public alone. After having kids, however, this is legitimately heaven. The opportunity to have a quiet meal (that isn’t at my desk between meetings) is a luxury these days. Sometimes this is as simple as fixing myself a gourmet sandwich at home and eating at my patio table, and sometimes I treat myself to my favorite restaurant. Whether it’s simple or glamorous, it always feels good to eat a meal where little humans aren’t screaming, throwing food, refusing to eat, insisting on sitting on my lap, and requesting to go potty.
Take a Bath.
The key here is to set the mood. Light some candles if that’s your thing. Put on some mood music. I keep a higher-end bath soak that I only use when I’m really desperate. If you’re feeling extra fancy, pop open a bottle of your favorite champagne. Above all else, lock the damn door. No matter what time of day or night, it’s like my kids have a radar and if the bath turns on, all of a sudden there’s a toddler at the side of the tub asking for a snack or a husband holding a fussy baby. Do. Not. Get. Out. If emergency personnel are not required, they can wait.
Get a Manicure.
If you can, splurge for that shoulder massage or the upgraded foot treatment. Making yourself feel like a celebrity for a few minutes might help you forget that you haven’t washed your hair in three days, you have spit up on your shoulder, and dinner tonight will consist of a mishmash of the week’s leftovers, which you’re certain your kids will refuse to touch.
Take a Fitness Class.
Always wanted to try that barre or pilates class but never had the time? So many studios offer a free trial class, so call them up and see if you can pop in for one. Maybe you’ll make a complete ass of yourself if you’re like me and haven’t done any physical activity in about 4 years (unless lifting a 25-pound baby on the reg counts), but maybe you’ll enjoy the challenge and a good sweat. If it’s free, what do you have to lose?
Call a Friend.
Seriously, when was the last time you had a long, meaningful conversation with a close friend where you weren’t being interrupted every 10 seconds? Catch up on each other’s lives. Discuss the latest episode of The Bachelor if you’re lucky enough to have caught up on any television lately. Bonus points if you can actually overlap a time where a fellow mom has a free moment to talk.
Go for a Drive.
Maybe it’s because I’m Californian and we literally have to drive everywhere, but I love taking a drive. My secret sauce for a good, cathartic drive is to do it after dark (so I don’t have an audience), turn the volume way up on my favorite songs (hello, showtunes and late ‘90s punk rock!) and sing my heart out. Sometimes I’ll drive out to the beach or through the canyon near our house for extra mind-clearing ambiance, but often, I’m just driving around the neighborhood hoping to come back to a house of sleeping children.
Admittedly, I’m bad at capitalizing on those fleeting free moments, but self-care is essential to successful parenting. Having a couple of ideas up your sleeve will make it more likely that when that moment does arise, you’ll jump on it. What are your go-to activities when you have a quick break?