Parenting can make us spend every minute taking care of our kids. Learn how to balance parenthood with other parts of your life.
Some time ago, I could drive to the gym at eight in the evening and still make it home in time to shower and read a book. I could also run errands (plural!) and feel accomplished for having done so much, all before noon. I would even cook home-made pasta, spending hours in the kitchen with my husband.
These days, with the kids consuming so many hours of the day, my schedule has changed quite a bit. As it should. Taking care of kids is one of the most difficult jobs, one where we’re on-the-clock, round the clock.
But perhaps you’ve found yourself overwhelmed with how parenthood has taken over your own life.
Hobbies you once enjoyed are long-forgotten memories. You can’t remember the last time you did something for yourself. And the thought of what you’ll do once the kids are grown leaves you with an identity crisis you never knew.
How to balance parenthood with other parts of your life
One of the first people that gets put on the back burner with parenthood is… ourselves.
And no wonder. We figure we don’t really need to keep up with our old hobbies. We make sure the kids eat dinner on time but don’t mind if we skip it for tonight. We even fill every spare moment with tasks, feeling too guilty to spend that time on ourselves.
But, as they say, a happy mom is a happy family. There is a way to balance parenthood, where we can still enjoy our former selves, past hobbies, and keep in touch with friends. You can even ease the guilt by telling yourself that your kids need you to practice self-care.
So, how can we do that?
1. Schedule a time for hobbies
Somewhere between sleep deprivation and kid-related costs, hobbies fall beneath other priorities. And yes, you can squeeze some hobbies during nap time (like reading), but many need a few hours (like hiking).
Consider blocking off a part—or even all—of a day to do something you enjoy.
Maybe you’ll sign up for a dance class, pick up gardening again, or set mornings aside for daily walks. By scheduling your hobbies and fitting them into your routine, you’re more likely to commit to them and treat as an obligation.
Rekindling hobbies feels refreshing, and the only way to make them happen is to treat them like priorities. Mark them on your calendar, set aside room in your budget, and honor them as you would any other work meeting or dentist appointment. Think of it as your parenting fuel, with periodic days to recharge.
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2. Go on a “date night”
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Even with all the hours in a day, many couples still don’t get a chance to talk. John de Graaf, author of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America, wrote:
“Recent studies suggest that dual-income couples find only 12 minutes a day to talk to each other.”
Twelve minutes! Seems incredible, but consider your full-time jobs, a daily commute, errands, and the hours your sleep. Suddenly, those 12 minutes don’t seem so surprising anymore.
Throw in a kid or two (or three!), and time with your partner seems even more scarce. It’s time to reclaim it with a date night.
Couples need time together, and preferably to discuss anything not kid-related. Preschools, what the kids ate, and who seems to have a stuffy nose—if these are the topics of your date nights, remind yourself to discuss non-kid topics too.
Date nights can be a night out for dinner and a movie, or even wine and cheese at home after the kids’ bedtime. You just need dedicated time to be with your spouse, with no distractions or work.
It’s easy to forget what life was like before kids considering how time-consuming they can be. But beneath the diapers, dishes, and play dates are topics you find interesting and worthwhile to share.
3. Reach out to a friend
Socializing with friends can look a bit different these days. There’ll be stretches of months where I don’t see my friends, and any kind of communication has usually been through phone calls or texts.
Still, even that can help you balance parenthood in a healthy way than feeling alone.
Not sure who or how to reach out to a friend? The next time you’re on Facebook and notice a friend’s post that interests you, reach out with a text or phone call. Let’s say a friend posted that she was feeling overwhelmed with staying home. Send her a separate text asking her how she’s been.
Another idea is to schedule a video chat with friends and family to catch up. It’s best to limit the number of people on the call so you can all take turns sharing and listening.
4. Make mornings easier
Morning can be some of the most stressful parts of the day, whether you leave for work or not.
Breakfast needs to get made and the kids ready, all while you’re trying to prepare for the day as well. You’re balancing household chores and remembering which extracurricular activities are happening that day. Never mind that you’re likely fumbling around trying to be productive while sleep-deprived.
Not exactly striking the right balance there. But, while you may not be able to avoid the madness of the mornings, you can prepare for them ahead of time.
For instance, wake up earlier than the kids so you have some time for yourself. Get ready the night before by setting breakfast items out (or at least knowing what to eat). Plan what you’re going to wear, pack any bags or lunches you need to take, and have everything you need to take with you by the door.
No doubt, parenthood changes our lives. We have less time to ourselves, hobbies, friends, family, partners and careers. For being such little people, kids sure do take up a lot of our time.
But no matter how much they need us, it’s still possible—necessary, even—to balance parenthood with other parts of our lives. It may not mean living exactly how we used to, but we can still incorporate our hobbies and special relationships into parenthood.
I’ve yet to make that homemade pasta again, and I haven’t driven to the gym in years (though I can’t blame parenthood for that!). But we can still find ways to prioritize other parts of our lives, even with the time constraints and family responsibilities of being a mom.
Get more tips:
- 6 Surprising Ways to Balance Work and Family
- 11 Ways to Practice Authoritative Parenting
- How to Stop Hovering Over Your Child
- 4 Benefits of Teaching Kids Responsibility
- How to Spend Time with the Baby When You Work Long Hours
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