The Case for Quiet Time (for You and Your Kids)

Nap time is a beautiful thing for a stay at home parent like myself. My child’s naps were crucial to my sanity and made me a better mom for the rest of the day. Then, one sad day, those naps came to a halt. I know that some parents embrace this change because it means they are free to leave the house and don’t have to schedule their day around the ever important nap time. Not me. I would support my children taking naps forever if they were inclined to do so. But alas, that is not in store for me. With the termination of naps came the birth of the glorious quiet time. So what is quiet time and why is it so important?

THE DETAILS:

In our house, quiet time typically happens when my baby takes his second nap around 2pm. My daughter goes into her playroom where she plays by herself for about an hour. Typically, she entertains herself pretty easily the entire time. Occasionally, she has trouble getting started so I will help get her engaged in some way. I will get out the Play-Doh, suggest an art project, set up a make shift tent, pretend her dolls are sick and that they need her doctor expertise to get better, etc. Once she gets involved, she is good to go and I get my much needed hour break (assuming the baby actually stays asleep).

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Occasionally I will use the beginning of my son’s nap time to connect with my daughter if I’ve had a busy morning. We might bake something, have lunch together, read a few books or play one of her make believe games before beginning quiet time. It all depends on how the day is going and what all of our needs are.

Also, there are times when my daughter entertains herself for a long chunk of time without me suggesting it. On these days, I will skip or at least shorten quiet time or I’ll put on a show for her later in the day when her brother is sleeping so that I still get my break.

TIPS:
  • Set a timer and let your children know that when it goes off, their quiet time is over. When I do this, my daughter is much better about staying in the playroom until quiet time is over.
  • If possible, start implementing quiet time as soon as your child is finished with naps altogether. This will make the transition easier.
  • Don’t allow electronics. This is not the time for shows or games on the iPad.
  • Be consistent. If you only have quiet time every few days, you are bound to meet some resistance. If your child knows it is part of the daily routine, they will embrace it much more easily.
  • Start slowly. If you are trying out quiet time for the first time, try starting with twenty minutes and add increments of time throughout the week until you are at your desired amount of time.
  • Let your child know when quiet time is happening ahead of time. I remind my daughter almost every day that when her brother goes to sleep, quiet time begins.
BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN:

Boredom is a childhood right and without it, our kids miss out on the chance to learn how to entertain themselves. We can’t expect our children to play happily by themselves if we don’t provide them with consistent, unstructured time to do just that. When a problem presents itself during quiet time, the child has to face it head on without mom and dad stepping in which builds their confidence in themselves. Self reliance is a fundamental life skill that can be encouraged at a very young age (I have to remind myself of this when the helicopter mom in me rears its ugly head).

By implementing quiet time every day, we are giving our kids an opportunity to learn about themselves and their interests. This is when their imagination takes ahold of them and they can immerse themselves in play and explore the things that spark their curiosity. When we quiet down the world around them, our children can listen to themselves more easily and deeply.

Quiet time is especially useful on busy days. Even if they don’t realize it, kids need time to process what happened at school or that playdate in an un-stimulating environment. If it’s go go go all the time, our children will eventually crash (usually right around dinner time) and they will turn into a tearful, raging mess. Children encounter stressful experiences just like we do, but they don’t always know how to cope with these stressors. Relaxing mid day is a healthy way to process life’s anxieties and is a tool they will continue to use into adulthood.

Young children crave routine because it gives them a sense of security in a world full of the unknown. Quiet time adds to the rhythm of the day which provides our children with comfort they can count on.

BENEFITS FOR PARENTS:

Quiet time for parents is like a deep breath. We have a chance to gather our thoughts, focus on what needs getting done, and just be alone for a moment. Parents can use this time to fold the laundry, prep dinner in peace, clean the bathrooms, take a shower, or just take a god damn break. I typically check in with my tasks for the day, try to get one thing done off my to do list and then do something just for me like listen to a podcast or read a book.  Some days. I focus entirely on tidying or cleaning and other days I am so exhausted that I just lay there on the couch, surfing the internet.

Sometimes we just need a little bit of space. Our kids are like magnets to us: crawling at our feet while we are trying to make dinner, popping their heads in the bathroom to say hi while we are trying to take a shit in peace, and literally hanging on us throughout the day. We love our children, but sometimes we need a physical break from them in order to recharge. Remember that old phrase, distance makes the heart grow fonder? It applies to our kids as well. When I was working part time, I would pick up my daughter from her Granny’s house and I swear she was cuter and sweeter than ever during that first hour of our reunion. Having a short separation during the day gives both parents and children the energy to seize the rest of the day together.

Do you have quiet time at your house? Leave a comment explaining what quiet time looks like for your family.

Make a Change, Part II: Dream Up a Kick Ass Version of Your Life

Now that you are finished writing your “what sucks about my life list”, its time to write the “my kick ass life” list. This is the one that addresses everything you wish your life was, but isn’t. Here, you will write all those things you’ve imagined doing, if only you had the time, money and energy.

Let me be clear, this is not just a typical bucket list that only includes lofty goals like moving to another country or jumping out of an airplane. Those goals might make an appearance on this list, but you will also want to include smaller ambitions that will concern your day to day life. Things that you could change immediately.

Start off by reviewing your sucky life list and begin problem solving. Imagine this is your buddy’s list and you are going to save the day and fix all of his problems. Not going outside enough? Go on daily walks. Feeling rushed in the mornings? Prep the coffee and do the dishes in the evenings to make for a calm start to the day. These solutions should make up the beginning of your kick ass life list.

The next step is to take a moment to imagine what you want your life to look like and then start writing down everything that comes to mind (leave a blank line or two under each idea). Here are some questions to get you thinking (don’t feel like you have to actually answer these, they are just to help get the ball rolling if you feel stuck):

  • Where do you see yourself living? Apartment in the city, cabin in the woods, big house in the suburbs, your van, bouncing from hostel to hostel, on a farm?
  • How would you make money? Would you be working from home or in an office with coworkers? What would your job be?
  • Does imagining yourself training for a marathon excite or bore you?
  • Do you want to live within walking distance to your in laws?
  • Do you prefer to go out for meals or would you prefer to eat at home?
  • Where do you want to vacation?
  • What kinds of things do you want to do with your kids on the weekends?
  • What time would you like to start and end your work day?
  • Would you prefer making your coffee at home or buying a cup at your local cafe?
  • Do you want to have sex more often?
  • Go on date nights?
  • Start your own business?
  • What kind of parent do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to interact with on a daily basis?
  • Do you want to join a local sports league?
  • What kind of friends do you want to spend time with? Describe your ideal friend and their interests.
  • Do you wish you had a smaller home that is easier to maintain?
  • Where are your kids going to school?
  • What addictions do you want to quit?
  • Do you want to move so you are closer to family?
  • Do you want to eat healthier meals?
  • What hobbies would you explore? Think back to high school or your childhood, what did you do with your free time? What were your high school electives?
  • Do you want to be in your yard, working in your garden?

When you are finished, use the blank lines below each kick ass idea to get even more specific. Go on more walks? Go on a walk through the neighborhood every day after dinner. Want to quit your job? Work on resume and research job openings over the weekend. Hoping to eat out less? Meal plan and shop for groceries every Sunday. Writing exactly how these goals would look in your day to day life is an integral part of implementing change.

Now, you have two very powerful lists at your fingertips. Check out “Make a Change, Part III: Make Room For Change” to learn how to set these ideas into motion.

Make a Change, Part I: Write Down Everything That Sucks About Your Life

As our lives continue to change, so do we, but not always how we hope to. Choices that were right for us at one point have lost their charm and we crave something different, but we’re at a loss as what to do about it.  In this three part series, you will learn to examine and address the problem areas in your life, dream up a life you would want to wake up to each morning, and learn what is necessary to make those changes a reality.

The first step is to write a list of everything that sucks about your life. Everyone has aspects of their lives that they dislike and want to change, but making those changes can feel overwhelming and we often give up before we even try. This feeling of defeat takes over when we have all these frustrated thoughts, but we never do anything about them or even directly identify them. By writing this list, you will begin to address these issues and start to take control of your life.

What should you include in this list? The massive problems as well as the itty bitty problems. Anything and everything that sucks about your life, even if you have no idea how you could fix it. Even if it seems silly. Here are a bunch of examples to get you thinking (some of which are from my actual list):

EVERYTHING THAT SUCKS ABOUT MY LIFE RIGHT NOW:
  • Not outside enough
  • Yelling at my kids too much
  • Boss is a douche
  • Watching hours upon hours of TV at night
  • No energy for sex
  • Living paycheck to paycheck
  • Eating too much junk
  • Bathrooms are always dirty
  • No time to do my hobbies
  • Feeling rushed in the mornings
  • Constantly distracted by my phone
  • Fighting with my spouse
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Tired of having roommates
  • My job is not fulfilling
  • Winters are too long where I live
  • Not enough ‘me’ time
  • Eating out too much
  • Overwhelmed by laundry
  • My commute is way too long
  • Don’t exercise enough
  • Want to travel more

Keep writing until you have it all out of your system. I have written many lists in my life, but I had never written a list like this before. There is something magical that happens when you take something from your brain and write it down. Ignoring your problems no longer feels like an option and you begin to imagine what it would be like to address these issues and start living a more intentional life.

Next up, Make a Change, Part II: Dream Up a Kick Ass Version of Your Life