How Parents Can Take Time for Themselves During Quarantine

Mom with coffee

Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Stay-at-home guidelines during the pandemic significantly reduced parents' access to alone time, with many feeling like they never get a break.
  • Being stuck at home 24/7 took its toll on parents.
  • In order to stay mentally healthy and have a positive attitude about social distancing, parents had to find ways to carve out time for themselves.

If you felt like your kids were always underfoot under normal circumstances, the worldwide onset of COVID-19 ratcheted things up a notch—a major notch.

Now that most of us are stuck in our homes 24/7, you may be starting to feel like you’re losing your mind trying to work from home, provide your kids with some semblance of an education, and (somehow) keep the place reasonably clean. Oh, and did we mention feeding everyone breakfast, lunch, and dinner? It’s a rough time, to be sure.

The luxury of taking a few precious moments for yourself may seem like the stuff of a bygone era. (You’re not alone if you’ve locked yourself in the bathroom at some point.) There’s no denying that, under quarantine, it’s harder than ever to get a little personal downtime away from your kids. But it’s not impossible. Here are eight ways to stay sane by carving out space for yourself during this difficult—and, thankfully, temporary—time. 

Your Room Is Your Sanctuary

When the whole family is cooped up under one roof, it’s up to you to set boundaries on where your little people are allowed. For the time being, let your kids know that your bedroom is off-limits. Doing so can give you a sense of autonomy and control. You can take comfort in knowing a part of your home is your personal “safe space.”

To make your bedroom even more of a personal haven, do your best to keep clutter like laundry or work-related items at bay. A clean, distraction-free space will be a far more rejuvenating space. 

Alternatively, if your bedroom isn’t an ideal choice, consider where else in your home could function as a sanctuary. A secluded reading nook, a corner of the backyard, or a bathroom (preferably one with a tub!) can all serve this important purpose.

Trade Off With Your Partner

Not every household has two parents, but if you and your partner are parenting in the same house, now’s the time for sharing the domestic load. Take turns watching the kids solo so you each have a chance to relax. You’ll both be better parents after a breather.

Use Outdoor Space, If You Have It

In generations past, it wasn’t uncommon for parents to send kids outdoors for hours at a time. Twenty-first-century parents can certainly dip a toe into this practice, too. After all, spending time outside is a known mental health booster for both kids and adults. If you have a private outdoor space where your kids can play, make the most of it! While they burn off energy under the sun, you can chill inside, or watch from afar.

To encourage your kids to spend time outside, create a welcoming environment for them in your yard or patio. Haul out the beach toys, the riding toys, and the sidewalk chalk and give them age-appropriate reign to play. (Now’s not the time to worry about making a mess.) Or send kids on mini scavenger hunt, having them find a rock as big as their hand, three things that are red, etc.

Get Up Early (Or Stay Up Late)

Ah, the peace and quiet of sitting alone with a morning cup of coffee! Depending on how early your kids rise and shine, this small pleasure may be tough to come by in the early hours of the day.

Setting your alarm ahead of kids' wake-up time can give you a few moments to yourself. Even if all you get to do is eat breakfast child-free, this brief interlude will help set you up for a more positive day.

On the flip side, depending on your kids’ schedule, staying up later might be a better choice. If your older children don’t go to bed until late, you can always opt for quiet activities like reading a good book or soaking in a bath to get some relief late into the night.

Set Up Virtual Play Dates

Throughout the many challenges of life under COVID-19, there’s a silver lining: In this day and age, we have the option to stay virtually connected to others.

Since you and your kids are likely craving social interaction, see about setting up a virtual play date with friends using FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Zoom.

If your kids are old enough to responsibly use a phone or tablet, they can occupy themselves by talking to friends while you have some much-needed downtime. And even if you have to stay present on the call to supervise younger kids, a bit of social time will likely brighten your spirits.

Have a Daily Quiet Time

For parents of younger children, naptime can feel like a blessing from heaven, allowing you precious time to unwind for an hour or two. But—alas—kids eventually outgrow naps.

Even so, you can still work a regular quiet time into the rhythm of your quarantine day. Set a timer for 30 minutes or so and devote the time to any activity that nurtures your spirit. And while you do something refreshing, older kids can read or work on schoolwork, and younger kids can play quietly in their rooms. 

It’s OK to (Sometimes) Give Them a Screen

We’ve all heard about the dangers of allowing kids too much screen time, and in the long-term, you certainly don’t want to let kids zone out in front of the TV or tablet all day.

But in these challenging times, when in-person activities are so drastically limited, it’s alright to occasionally park the kids in front of a screen for a little while so you can get some peace.

Keep tabs on what they’re watching—and for how long—but don’t let a few extra shows fuel the fire of parenting guilt. There’s enough stress going around already.

Have an At-Home Date Night

Personal refreshment isn’t just about being alone. Quality time with your spouse or partner matters, too. Even though you probably can’t go out to dinner and a movie right now, you can get creative about having a date night at home.

One night a week, try eating dinner in a separate space from your kids. This way, you and your partner can have a chance to re-connect (or just share war stories from the day).

What This Means For You

In these difficult days when schools and daycares are closed and shelter-in-place orders keep us homebound, it’s certainly not easy to carve out personal time. But necessity is the mother of invention.

As the weeks go by, you may find your own unique ways of refilling your mental and emotional reserves. This, too, shall pass—and by the end of it, you’ll have renewed appreciation for both time to yourself and extra time with your kids.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

By Sarah Garone
 Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.