A 2018 study found that the average parent gets just 32 minutes of alone time every day. If you are a parent, this lack of time for you can cause a high level of stress and can lead not only to mental and physical health problems, but it can negatively affect your ability to parent and eventually end in burnout. This especially in mothers. Check out how not having time alone affects their mental health.
Mothers, who generally have less time alone than fathers on a daily and weekly basis, are often the most affected. Research in recent years has shown that alone time is essential for mothers (and fathers) to recharge and to make sure they are the best parents they can be.
Why mothers need alone time?
Psychology says that mothers who don’t get enough time alone are more likely to suffer from parental burnout.
This type of burnout can have serious consequences for both parents and children and can make parents feel separated from their children and unsure of their parenting skills. This can cause worse problems, such as increased parental neglect, harm, and thoughts of escape.
Time alone is a necessity, not an indulgence.
The consequences of a lack of alone time can also manifest themselves physically and can cause headaches, backaches, sleep disturbances, weight gain, increased susceptibility to illness, heart problems, and worse overall health.
Parents who don’t take care of their own needs, as mentioned, also tend to use poorer parenting practices, exhibit less patience, and experience less satisfaction and joy in their roles as parents. When this happens, they are more likely to resort to extreme measures to discipline their children, putting them at greater risk for child abuse.
Mothers need support.
Mothers not only need more time alone, but they also need a lot of emotional and physical support from their spouses, friends, and family.
When they cannot handle the mental, physical, and emotional toll that motherhood places on them, they are more likely to experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS).
Women who do not have adequate support from family or friends are more likely to experience depression during or after pregnancy. Symptoms of peri- or postnatal depression include:
- Feeling sad, depressed and crying a lot.
- Decreased interest in being a mother.
- Feeling worthless or guilty, especially for not being a good mother.
- Strong anxiety, tension and fear about your future child or other things.
- Sleep problems (not being able to sleep despite feeling very tired or sleeping more than normal but not feeling rested).
- Thoughts of wanting to be dead or wanting to commit suicide.
- Have little energy.
- Loss or increase in appetite or weight.
- Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions.
- Feeling restless or irritable.
- Having headaches, chest pains, palpitations, numbness, or hyperventilation of the heart.
For moms, alone time is not just about being forgiving and more about needing support – wanting alone time means they want a break. Without a good support system, however, it is difficult for mothers, who tend to take on a higher percentage of parental responsibilities, to find time for themselves.
Mothers who do not have these connections and supports can feel isolated and drained at the same time, and the only remedy for this is to increase their support system.
They need help. They are tired of being touched by little hands. They need a break.
How to get more time alone?
Just a moment could be just watching a show that no one else wants to watch, taking a bath, or reading a book. Time alone isn’t just about being alone, but spending time doing something that nourishes you and helps you recharge.
The goal is not to have rigid rules or expectations, but to be able to identify what your needs are on any given day and make sure they are met.
It means that one day you may want to watch a show alone, but the next you may want to talk to your partner or a friend. Whatever “alone time” is, you should always prioritize what you need at the time.
For many mothers, particularly new mothers, leaving their child with someone else can be stressful. For this reason, it is important for mothers to establish trusted caregivers and set clear boundaries with them. However, mothers also have to accept that other people will not care for their children in exactly the same way.
Giving our children the opportunity to build other loving attachments with additional caregivers can be a good experience for children. It’s okay to accept those nervous feelings and also try to work with them so that you can have a bit of separation.
Concerned mothers can gradually set times in tolerable increments. This could mean leaving your child alone with grandma for as little as five minutes at first and building up from there. However, if your anxiety is debilitating, it may be helpful to see a therapist for support.
How to be a mother and have more time alone?
If you are a mother trying to incorporate more alone time into your day, consider taking these helpful steps:
- Prioritize and commit. If you want alone time, you have to take the initiative and commit to doing it, no one else can do it for you.
- Gather support. This won’t happen alone, so make sure you have your spouse or co-parent on board, your friends and family on board, and your children on board as well. This means that you should ask those close to you for help. When it comes to your kids when they’re young, be sure to use naps as time just for yourself. As they get older, talk to them about your need to be alone and help them understand and respect that need.
You deserve a break.
Although it may seem selfish or self-indulgent, taking a break from the demands of caring for a family will ultimately make you a better mother and partner. Whatever your personal care, whether it’s having coffee with a friend, reading a good book, or listening to your favorite album while taking a shower, time alone is crucial for mothers.
The next time you’re debating whether or not you should take time alone, be kind to yourself and do it. Regular time alone will prevent burnout and make you a happier, healthier mother.