Help for Single Parents with No Me Time

Why It Matters

Woman dreads looking at the clock
Photo © Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Do you wish you had more "me time" in your life? Most single parents do! In fact, not having time to enjoy life, your kids, and some personal breathing room is one of the biggest complaints among moms and dads fighting single parent burnout. And it's no surprise, because raising your kids on your own—or even with the help of a co-parent—takes all the time and energy you possess. One recent study found that most moms only get 17 minutes a day to themselves1.

That's probably a conservative number, and yet many single parents—moms and dads, alike—get even less. So how can you get more out of the tiny little bit of time you do have? Use these research-based tips for single parents with "no time for me":

Choose Quality Over Quantity

According to a recent study by Dr. Almuth McDowall, of the University of London at Birkbeck, what you do when you have a few moments of "me time" matters more than how much time you have to yourself. The study explored responses from 344 participants, who were asked about work-life balance, family relationships, engagement at work, and general life satisfaction. The results revealed that participants who engaged in what they perceived as high-quality me time activities experienced greater satisfaction than those who had more frequent pockets of time to themselves, but were less apt to use that time for something special2.

 

For single moms and dads, the takeaway from this study is that quality time matters more than quantity of time. So make every effort to be intentional about what you choose to do when you do have time to yourself. 

Say "Yes" to What Fuels You

It's important to see "me time" as a gift that involves choice.

Because, let's face it, it doesn't come around every week—or even every month! While "me time" can't always be planned in advance, avoid the tendency to use spontaneous pockets of time to do chores or catch up on work. Doing something you enjoy, that you might not otherwise get to do, will have a much greater impact on how you feel about yourself, those around you, and your life.

Examples of high-quality activities include spending time with friends, spending time outdoors, exercising, and enjoying a hobby. Turning to TV, Facebook, or surfing the Internet as go-to substitutes for high-quality, rejuvenating activities is common—but these are essentially time fillers, as opposed to activities that feed your deepest need for connection and vitality.

Don't Let Guilt Overshadow Your Needs

Another study found that guilt stops many people from taking time for their own self-care3. And this is an issue that's especially prevalent among single moms and dads who don't have the benefit of a co-parent or nearby family to help with the kids. Faced with the option of hiring a babysitter or forgoing "me time," many single parents simply press on and go another day, week, or month without time for themselves.

Avoid this temptation and try to carve out one evening of "me time" or social time per month.

Focus on the Benefits

When you feel burdened by single parent guilt, try focusing on the benefits you and your children experience when you do get a little "me time" now and then. In a poll we conducted here at About.com, more than 400 single parents answered the question: Having a little time away from my kids makes me _____.

  • 18% said "less likely to overreact or raise my voice"
  • 15% said "able to cope with stress more easily"
  • 14% said "more patient"

Rather than viewing "me time" as a selfish act, see it as something that can help you be a more loving, present parent to your kids. And remember to start small. Even just a couple of hours a month to do something you enjoy can leave you feeling more grounded and hopeful!

 

References:

1Coldridge, Alison. "Revealed! The Amount Of Time Mums ACTUALLY Get To Themselves." Mother & Baby. N.p., 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. .

2British Psychological Society (BPS). "Good quality me-time vital for home and work wellbeing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2015..

3Gardasevic, Sanja. "Do You Know Why Achieving Work/Life Balance Is So Hard? We Do! [Survey Results]." .Me. N.p., 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. .