This military life is crazy. It’s full of uncertainty, hurry up and waiting, and lots of packing or unpacking. As military spouses, we move, we take care of the house, we work, we raise kiddos, and then we repeat.
All day, every day.
It can be easy to lose yourself in all that chaos.
Putting yourself last because of your spouse, your kids, or your obligations can become almost second nature. But when we don’t take time, even just a few minutes, to recharge and reconnect with ourselves, it is so easy to become overwhelmed and deeply unhappy.
Even as a stay at home, I found it hard to make time for myself. Between my active toddler, launching a freelance writing side hustle, dealing with whatever the military wanted my husband to do, and prepping for an inevitable move I was burned out. I couldn’t trip over another one of the army toys for kids we have laying around the house without pulling out my hair!
Instead of melting down, I stopped and took a step back from it all. By honestly looking at what was and was not working for me, and prioritizing some things over others, I was able to carve out some small slices of me time daily. And I hooked my husband on the idea of regular longer recharging, too!
1.Find natural down time.
There are lulls in almost every day. When I was teaching, it happened right after the kids left each day. I could finally take a deep breath, pop a piece of dark chocolate, and stretch a little bit before I got back to the grading and planning.
As a stay at home mom, the kids’ nap time is my best friend. I have at least an hour, and sometimes more than two hours, to tackle writing assignments, catch up on my DVR, and peruse Facebook. My daughter is getting older, too. She is doing more independent play. And that frees me up to sit back with a cup of tea and my cereal while the princesses get into line or she colors.
2. What makes you happy?
This can be as basic or as creative as you want. Maybe kicking back with a good book helps you to feel better. Or perhaps pounding the pavement for a few miles is your jam. Perhaps you just really enjoy savoring a sweet treat or a glass of wine.
Think about it for a few minutes.
Now, try to connect your happy places with your natural down times. If you child still naps, maybe relaxing with a book, watching TV, or joining the slumber party would be a great fit. After bedtime, it could be time to pop open a bottle of wine and sit down to a hot meal with your spouse.
3. Do double duty (sometimes).
With work, volunteering, kids, a spouse, deployments, PCSing, and just life getting that alone time can be very challenging. Think about the things that make you happy. Mine are: reading, running, working out, sipping wine, and chocolate.
Can you occasionally do two things at once?
For example, I frequently pop my kiddo into the jogging stroller and we run together. I get the exercise and endorphins I crave, and she sees her mom living a fit lifestyle. Or we’ll bake chocolate chip cookies together. I get chocolate, and she gets the fun of mixing, measuring, and also chocolate.
4. Enlist your spouse.
While you definitely can maximize your time by combining a “fun” thing with your children, sometimes you just need to be alone. For this to work, you need help. Luckily, you are likely married to your biggest supporter: your spouse.
Talk together about how you can support each other. Maybe your partner wants to golf on Saturday mornings, and you would like to run on Sundays. See if this is something that you can make work. You would each get some time alone and an opportunity to connect with the kids.
Spouse deployed? Talk to your tribe! See if you can do kid swaps: one friend watches the other’s children while she recharges and vice versa. You could even make this a fun event by hosting multiple friends for a dinner party/play date while a few other friends get together for adult time. Just make sure to switch up the pairings to include everyone!
5. Take me away!
Then there are the times that you need a really loooong time out. I’m talking overnight, multiple overnights, and a few full days even.
This was the best thing my spouse ever did for me as a parent and for our relationship. He booked me a room at a local hotel that had an on-site restaurant and bar, plus a pool. He even packed a cooler with mini bottles of champagne! When he picked me up the next day, I felt like a new woman! I had a full night sleep, an uninterrupted meal at a leisurely pace, read a whole book, and treated myself to DIY spa treatments.
Yes, some of this is totally doable all by your onesie. Adding a child to a workout, cooking up a treat, or slowly sipping that glass of wine while you watch Frozen for the millionth time are all things that you can do by yourself. The last two ways to reclaim your sanity and recharge? Yeah, these need a support network and some coordination, but are still totally realistic.
I noticed a change in my outlook on life, parenting, and what I could achieve the moment that I stopped moaning about my lack of me-time, and started looking for creative ways to make it work for me.
How do you fit relaxation time into your day? Or what do you think you will change to add down time?
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger, and freelance writer/editor. She is published on Homefront United Network, National Military Family Association, NextGen MilSpouse and the Education Tourist. Meg currently writes about all things education at MilKids Education Consulting.
Want more on military life?
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- What Military Marriage is Really Like