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21 ‘Alone Time Tricks’ Parents Are Using Right Now

Now I’ve got teens who have been home due to school closing (and summer vacation). We’ve created a daily schedule that has the hours the kitchen is open and the hours when schoolwork happens. They know when I’m ‘Mom,’ when I’m working, and when I’m available to teach. It’s awesome! I need structure, or I don’t get my work done. My kids need the same, and because we collaborate, it works. It’s luxurious to build alone time into my day.” —Lisa H., 51

13. Take up gardening (or some other activity that your kids won’t ask to join).

“My husband and I both work from home, so we juggle our schedules and involve the older kids so that we can work and hang out as a family. We have a 17-year-old, a 12-year old, and a 3-year-old. That said, my garden is kid-free! I can generally find at least 30 minutes in the morning to enjoy some peace and quiet. Occasionally, one of the kids will want to join me, but generally, they don’t. My husband and I also try to find time in the day to walk, either alone or together. The kids have learned to honor our space, and we try to honor theirs, which helps when we just really need a moment alone. Let’s face it—we see a lot of each other, so space is necessary for all of us. I don’t necessarily feel totally recharged, but it helps me to be at peace with the given situation. I know the COVID quarantine won’t be forever, so I’m trying to stay present for the extra time I have with my kids. I figure we’ll have great stories to tell our future grandkids.” —Sydney M., 43

14. Stay up a little later if you can.

“I stay up too late after my 5-year-old has gone to bed. I’ve also taken a solo drive on a few occasions, since I live with my husband and sister. That’s pretty much the only thing I can manage with a full-time work schedule. Honestly, it’s been great—except that sometimes staying up too late interferes with my normal sleeping habits.” —Jill K., 39

15. After running an errand, sit in your car for a few extra minutes.

“If my husband is home, I will take an extra 10 guilt-free minutes to sit on my own. For instance, after I get home from the supermarket, I sit in my car to just breathe before getting into the house. I also enjoy just stepping outside to sit, breathe, even grab a pen and paper to write anything that comes to mind.

We have three kids (and a poodle named Chewy), so when I feel like I live in a zoo, even 10 minutes of physically removing myself helps give me new perspectives. If you’re trying to take space, don’t be shy: Put on a movie for your kids, so they’re occupied. You can sit in the same room but separate areas to breathe and do nothing. Stop the cleaning and moving, literally sit and try to push away all worries. One other tip: Tell your children, ‘We’re playing the quiet game’ and whoever talks first loses.” —Lori B., 36

16. Designate solo playtime (for the whole family, including adults) in separate rooms.

“I live in a 2-bedroom apartment in New York City with my husband and our 7-year-old daughter, Sophie, who is autistic. We are three people and we have different rooms, so we’ve designated alone playtime in separate areas. It gives each of us physical and mental space from one another. Even though apartment living during a pandemic is tough, those moments of alone time are freeing—sometimes either I need to cry, or blast music or sit in silence. Even 5 minutes is worth it. Breathing techniques help during that time, too.” —Jackie J., 44

16. Take the long way home after running an errand.

“I treat myself to a morning drive to our local coffee shop alone. Some days I go directly there and back to start working. But other times, when I need to be alone, I take the long way home so I can have another 15 minutes to sit in silence or to sing along to my favorite music. My husband and three kids have caught on. When I’m gone for an extra 15 minutes, they’ll say, “Mom needed some alone time.” It feels like a guilty pleasure because I can take time to reflect on what’s going on in the world, or simply have some personal freedom without being interrupted. No mom or caregiver should feel guilty about needing space to breathe.” —Terra B., 43

17. Repurpose a small space as your ‘quiet time’ corner.

“I live with my husband and our two kids. And, about two years ago, my mom, and my sister and her two children moved into our three-bedroom home with us. To get some alone time, I reorganized my small walk-in closet and made a ‘quiet time’ corner. My corner has a lounging chair and a repurposed nightstand (where I keep my books). It’s quiet, and I use my dresser to create a barrier between my clothes and my corner. It’s where I go to read, relax, journal, meditate, and I can go there any time of the day and not worry about waking up anyone because of the light.” —Marian N., 42

18. Don’t feel bad about resorting to the iPad.

“I don’t feel bad about resorting to the iPad. When you’ve heard “Mom I need…” 60 times by 9 A.M., it wears on you. So my advice? Whatever time you can find, even if it’s only 10 minutes of uninterrupted moments in the shower, savor it. Try not to think about housework or what you should be doing. Just try to silence your brain for a little while. It goes a long, long way.” —Maril V.

19. Wake up in the middle of the night (on purpose).

“My husband and I both work from home. My in-laws, who live in L.A., are living with us to help. Aside from the blessing of having in-laws living with us during quarantine and giving us some time away from the kids, we have had to be creative about getting individual time away. While my husband bathes the kids after dinner, I use that time to get things done. I’ve also woken up in the middle of the night to get some time alone. During that time, I can be productive without constant interruption.” —Mary Grace G.,36

20. Remember that work is not a substitute for alone time.

“My partner and I live together with our 2-year-old daughter. I work from home as a women’s empowerment coach. I’ve had no childcare during most of the pandemic, but I finally recognized that work, while fulfilling, is not alone time. Until recently, I was always with my daughter or working.

Lately, I’ve started scheduling time to chill the f#ck out. Once a week, when that notification pops up on my calendar, I’m reminded to stop. No chores and no work. I just chill by the pool, read or go for a nice walk. It works because it’s set up in a way that is non-negotiable. If I wait and see, I’ll always either be with my daughter or work. Scheduling solo time has been a miracle. Those moments feel like heaven. It may inconvenience my partner, but it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, and everyone’s better off when I do this. Plus, I’m teaching my daughter healthy self-care and boundaries by walking the talk.” —Michelle B., 39

Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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