How to Find Time Away From Your Kids (When They’re Everywhere)

Tips for carving out me time

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

There’s a totally relatable comic strip that’s made the rounds on social media recently: The first pane shows an image of a woman from the waist up, deep in conversation with her toddler while breastfeeding her baby. The second pane zooms out to show that this tender scene is taking place in the bathroom, where the woman is sitting, pants down, on the toilet.

Sound familiar? 

Sometimes, as a parent, it feels like you just can’t get any time to yourself. Especially when you have multiple small children, they just seem to be everywhere, all the time. There’s always something that needs tending to, whether breaking up an argument, answering a hundred questions of “why?,” or wiping someone’s nose (or bottom).

So what’s a frazzled mom or dad to do when in need of some time away? Here are seven strategies to get some much-needed personal time and space when kids are everywhere.

Use Public Places Where Kids Can Play

Kids making you crazy at home? Get out of the house! Find a kid-friendly public place where you can keep an eye on little ones from a safe distance, like a park or mall play area. Some coffee shops and restaurants even provide play rooms, so search your area for options.

A change of scene can engage your kids’ interest away from you for awhile so you can take a breather. While kids play, allow yourself a few mind-clearing minutes to page through a magazine, listen to music on low volume in headphones, or simply breathe.

Budget for Time Away

Taking care of your emotional needs is a legitimate endeavor. Like any other worthwhile pursuit, it may sometimes require some cash. There’s a time and place to explore your budget to see how you can pay for additional childcare.  

Set aside some time to take a hard look at your monthly spending. What might you sacrifice in order to hire a sitter for a weekly date night or morning alone? Discuss with your spouse or partner how much you’re willing to pay, and make budgetary adjustments as necessary.

It may be a stretch to go without certain luxuries, but in the end, getting a break may do more for your mental health than other areas of spending.

Try a Babysitting Exchange

If hiring a sitter isn’t in the cards, consider a regular babysitting exchange with a fellow parent. You’ll watch their kids one day, they’ll take yours another. When your kids all get along and can entertain each other, even the days when you have extra kids may feel like a break. This way, everyone wins!

Designate a Space That’s Yours Alone

You’ve probably heard that, for your mental health, it’s wise to set emotional boundaries. But with young kids who don’t understand these nuances, there may be times when setting actual physical boundaries is advisable.

Try establishing a space in your home that everyone knows is just yours. If you don’t have an extra room, a closet or even a corner of a room can suffice. (Closets are preferable since they have doors.) Call your designated space “the Mom Zone” and let your kids know that, when you’re there, you are off limits.

It may sound silly, but going an extra step by personalizing this space can emphasize that this area is adults-only. The more you do so, the more your family will begin to respect this space as yours. Choose a comfortable chair or favorite candle to set the scene. 

Establish Quiet Time for Kids (Even When They Don’t Nap)

Ah, the blessing of the afternoon nap! When kids are very young, this mid-day reprieve is the saving grace of many an overloaded parent. Eventually, of course, every child outgrows the need for naps—but that doesn’t mean your family can’t maintain a daily afternoon quiet time.

Provide your child a safe space with plenty of toys or other activities, then let them play by themself for half an hour or so. Then, instead of cleaning the kitchen or catching up on email, allow yourself to use the downtime doing something you enjoy.

Keep (and Schedule) Your Own Hobbies

As parents, it’s all too easy to be consumed by our day-in, day-out domestic roles, letting our own interests fall by the wayside. But making time to keep up with a hobby (sans kids) can go a long way toward filling your own emotional cup.

You’re much more likely to make time for a personal interest by sticking to a pre-set commitment. Play an instrument? Join a band that practices one night a week. Always wanted to make your own clothes? Sign up for a sewing class at a community center or craft store.

Just knowing you have somewhere to go at a specific time can give you something to look forward to.

Get Up Before the Kids

Depending on your sleep situation, getting up extra early may be the absolute last thing you want to do (and may not even be advisable for your health). But for those moms and dads who are past the sleep-deprivation stages of early childhood parenting, getting up before the kids can be a way to savor some peace and quiet.

We’ll grant that some kids seem to have mommy radar that mysteriously wakes them up the minute you exit your bedroom. When this is the case, try going for a walk or out for coffee while your partner stays home.

A Word from Verywell 

Needing time away from your kids doesn’t make you a bad mom or dad. In fact, many (if not most) of us require alone time in order to be the best parents we can be. Having time and space to recharge without kids allows us to remember our own identity and nurture our own spirit. There’s no need to feel guilty about taking care of yourself in this way.

So go ahead! Schedule that babysitting exchange or rope off that closet for yourself. You may just be a better parent for the time away.

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