Sometimes the hardest thing to admit to as a parent is when we need a break. We convince ourselves we need to always be on; that we should always be attentive and never show when we’ve had enough.

But that’s not realistic. We’re all human. Sometimes we need a break.

I’m no different. This past weekend, I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I took a day off work.

On that day off, I didn’t do anything exciting or overly productive — and I was proud of myself for it. 

It doesn’t sound like an incredible feat, but I’ve been working a lot lately so it was a lot more difficult than you might imagine. I had to remind myself I didn't take the day off so I could have time to do more. What I really needed was to take some time for myself — even if that meant doing nothing at all.

It's easy to forget the importance of self-care, but it's really simple to actually do. After intentionally taking a "me" day, here are my tips for parents who need to take time for themselves.

1. Learn to say “no.” A common misconception of being a good parent — or a good person for that matter — is we must do our best to please others. That very rarely involves telling anyone no. Unfortunately, that can come at a very high price. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin by always saying yes to the demands of others. In more recent years, I’ve learned just how liberating it is to tell others no — my children included. It gives me back control of my time and, more importantly, my life.

2. Spend one-on-one time with friends and/or your significant other. As much as I love my children, sometimes I need a break from them, too. So I try spending time with my boyfriend or friends on a regular basis for some quality adult time. I think it’s important to connect with other adults and have conversations that don’t only focus on my life as a parent. It helps me appreciate the time I do spend with my kids that much more.

3. Do things that are just for you. Whether it’s going to the gym or getting your hair done, find things that are important to only you and carve out time in your life to do them. I know a lot of parents feel selfish for spending money on themselves or being aware from their children, but I’ve learned how fundamental those experiences really are to being a better parent. When I’ve spent time focusing on myself for a little while, I find I have more energy to do more and be more for others.

4. Take time off. Sometimes, just taking a day off from work or even from daily responsibilities can help improve a person’s mental health. Every now and then, I’ll take a weekend off from running errands to lounge around my house, or I'll take my kids to do something fun. Sure it might give me more to do the following day or weekend, but I never regret saving it for later.

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of staying conscious of my mental health. The everyday trials of parenting —  let alone those of being an adult — can really wear on a person’s psyche. When all is said and done, it’s important to take care of ourselves first — even when it seems impossible. Because let’s face it, it’s hard to take care of others when you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Parents: How do you take care of yourselves?

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Amanda Smith, a working mom of two children, writes weekly for momaha.comRead more from Amanda »

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