How To Find Time For Yourself In Your New Life As A Parent

Frustrated mother hugging her child when interrupted while working at home

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Making time for yourself as a new parent is challenging. This is also true for experienced parents, but it’s especially true for new parents. There’s so much change, so much to learn, and it’s all happening at once.

You may be feeling like you have no free time. While this is partially based in reality, there are steps you can take to lessen that feeling of I-have-no-time and make time to relax—at least, for a little while!

The first step to feeling less overwhelmed is understanding why you feel like you have no time. Once you understand where these feelings are coming from, you can address them directly and implement practical actions to give you and your partner a much-needed break.

Why You Feel Like You Have No Free Time

Whether you’re adjusting to life with a newborn (or life with a newborn plus an older sibling or two), you'll inevitably have a lot going on. Here are some reasons why you may feel like you have no time for yourself during this period of adjustment.  

Taking Care of a Baby Is Mentally Exhausting

Even when you’re “not doing anything” specific in a given moment, you'll still be aware of where your baby is, what they are doing, and whether or not they are safe.

Constant awareness requires a ton of mental attention and can be unexpectedly time-consuming.

As a parent, you're always thinking about their safety. This is especially true once your baby starts crawling or walking—who knows what they could be getting into.

We Live in a Culture That Praises Being Busy

It's not just parents who fall prey to the culture of busyness, but it seems to hit especially hard in parenting. You can easily fill your days with baby care and house care.

Being busy is a badge of honor these days. People brag about how they don’t “have time” to take vacation days, that they “have to” work weekends.

“Being busy” is equated with being important, needed, and special—but busyness can be overrated.

There’s an endless sea of things you could add to your to-do list—but that doesn’t mean you have to or should.

Electronic Devices Are Time Sucks 

Smartphones can be a blessing for new parents. You can text a friend for help or support, search for educational articles and videos, or find something to entertain yourself when your baby falls asleep on your chest and you’re stuck in one place for the next hour.

However, screens can also be time sucks. How many times has your baby been peacefully sleeping or playing and you intended to get up and do a chore, but an hour later when your baby starts to cry, you realize that you’ve spent the past hour mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds?

When you have limited time, you'll feel better if you mindfully use the time that you do have.

Practical Ways to Make Time for Yourself

It might feel insurmountable, but there are some ways you can make time for yourself as a new parent—but you can't do it alone.

Be Clear on What Your Child Needs Versus What’s Optional

We live in an age of over-parenting. In the 1980s, parents sent their kids outside all day and assumed that they’d find a way to entertain themselves.

Today, if you’re not bringing your baby to music classes within the first six months, you might feel like you're “behind.”

The first step is being clear about the things that your child needs versus what is "nice to have" or optional. This will become even more important as they get older.

During infancy, many needs are basic. Your baby needs to be fed, to be clean and dry, to be held and comforted when they cry, to be spoken to and interacted with, and to be safe. They also need to get enough sleep and get their baby well-checks.

While there are benefits to using cloth diapers, homemade baby food, and "mommy and me" classes, if these things take up so much of your time that you aren't taking care of yourself, it's time to reassess.

Set More Realistic Expectations for Housekeeping

Regardless of your housekeeping habits before you had a baby, you may need to lower those expectations once your newborn arrives.

Your basic goal should be to make a home that provides a clean and safe environment for everyone living in it.

Think about what's necessary versus what's optional. Chances are your windows don’t need to be washed and your shelves don’t need to be dusted. Having clean laundry is more important than having folded laundry.

If you are really uncomfortable dropping your housecleaning standards, consider hiring help if you can afford it.

Make To-Do Lists—and Make Sure You’re on the List

To-do lists can help you think through what you need to do versus what you’d like to do. They also free up mind-space and make it easier to keep track of all your day’s tasks and appointments.

If you're not already, put yourself on your to-do list. You can start small: designate 15 minutes in the evening while your partner is home to watch the baby as “free time” for yourself.

You can work on adding time later. For now, just aim to put that time for yourself down on paper.

Become a Time-Hack Expert

One advantage of living in a world that worships busyness is that there are tons of websites, podcasts, articles, and books on how to make more time in your life.

Many of these resources are aimed at entrepreneurs and students, but they can be adapted to new parenthood as well.

Ask for (Or Hire) Help

As the saying goes, raising a child takes a village. You aren’t meant to do this on your own. If you’re a stay at home parent, you may feel like that automatically obligates you to figure it out on your own, but this is untrue.

Remember: everyone needs help sometimes and we all have to learn how to ask for help.

Who can you ask for help? Your partner is number one, even if they are working full-time, should make time to help you. You might also ask local family and friends or a trusted coworker or neighbor you have a good relationship with.

If you have older children, babysitting can be a good opportunity to teach them responsibility. However, keep in mind that a sibling-turned-babysitter of any age needs clear parameters and a safety plan.

For example, you may have rules and expectations about phone or computer use to prevent them from getting distracted. Your child also needs to know who to contact in case of an emergency.

Kids under 12 should not be left alone with a newborn. You might choose to make an exception if both you and your older child are comfortable with it, there are clear expectations, you are close by, and it won't be for an extended period.

For example, you may be OK asking your older child to watch the baby while you go upstairs to put laundry away.

You can also hire help if you have the financial means to do so. Cleaning services, grocery delivery services, and laundry services can be a big help and give you back some precious time. If you need help with childcare, you may consider hiring a babysitter or nanny, or research daycares.

Schedule Daily Me-Time and Weekly Me-Time Dates

Scheduling free time may seem contradictory, but as a new parent, you might find that if you don’t schedule it, it won't happen.

With the support of your partner, a family member, or a friend, make it a goal to schedule some time for yourself every day. You get to use this time however you wish.

For example, perhaps every morning, your partner (or family member) will watch the baby for an hour before they go to work. Maybe they will also watch the baby for two hours on the weekend. In return, you can offer the same so they have free time, too.

You’ll all be happier, you’ll finally get that free time you’ve been looking for, and you’ll feel much less stress.

Know That Me-Time Isn’t Optional—It’s Necessary.

You may struggle with finding time for yourself because you have unconsciously put yourself at the bottom of your priority list. Taking care of yourself is actually another way of taking care of your baby.

Self-care is essential for good parenting. If you are fatigued, stressed, or depressed, you'll be unable to interact with your children the way a well-rested parent could. 

Treat Time Like It’s More Valuable Than Money—Because It Is.

If you don’t have enough cash for something you need, you can consider getting a loan. Unfortunately, time doesn’t work that way—you either have it or you don’t.

When you get an open 30 minutes of time, think carefully about how you want to use that time.

For example, do you want to scroll Instagram for those 30 minutes? If you do, go for it! Just be sure you’re aware of how you’re budgeting your minutes. Once they are gone, you can’t get them back.

It's important that you learn to recognize how you're using your time and make a conscious decision to prioritize self-care. 

A Word from Verywell

Finding time for yourself is difficult when you’re a new parent. You may feel guilty taking time for yourself, or even feel like it's impossible. However, asking for help, keeping your expectations realistic, and making an effort to prioritize taking care of yourself, can help you find or create the time that you need. Like everything related to parenting, it takes practice, patience, and a dose of self-compassion.

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