Having some time in the day at home with the kids that I can generally count on to get a break is really important for me. For me, it used to usually happen when my younger son was napping and we usually did quiet time with my elder son: which meant he played in a different room with his toys for about half an hour (and I would chill in another room). For that half hour, I’d usually read or sometimes write. Sometimes, I’d call a close friend or just be.
Carving Out Intentional Breaks (+ The Benefits)
Having such time in the day is vital for me to feeling ‘topped up’ for the afternoon. I feel more able to relate to my kids and the rest of the day from a better place. Keeps depletion away (most of the time! Mummy depletion is neither cool nor pretty: snappiness hollers at me and I begin to respond)
Carving out such intentional breaks then – which will look different based on individual circumstances and/or needs – I feel, can really help us to feel like we’re not running on low (at least, not for the majority of the time).
These little breaks, if we take them, can allow us to fill up our tank a little bit so that we can function and move through our days from a better place. We can use this time to work on an individual project, to nurture a personal dream even in small but consistent time chunks (even if it’s just 15 minutes daily), to just be, to nurture ourselves; and this helps nurture our families.
These days, we don’t do quiet time but my children have a set amount of screen time most days (usually in the afternoon) and I generally use some of that time for replenishment/reading.
On The Days That Break Time Doesn’t Work Out
If, for some reason, break time doesn’t work out for a continuous stretch of time – even if ‘brief’ like a few days – finding another slot of time where the kids are safely occupied, like bath time or independent play time helps – even if it’s just an intentional 5 or 10 minutes on some days. This, coupled with getting (re)intentional regarding committing to pre-planned break times, helps in getting back on the consistent daily break time train. We can (and do!) all sometimes fall off any good habit train, but I think it’s just about learning to course correct quicker.
If there are days when break time isn’t happening at all, then I like Dr Laura Markham’s suggestion of making a deal with ourselves: to nurture ourselves in the evening when our lovelies sleep.
For me personally, especially in the summertime when sunset is later in the UK, I opt for a walk in the early evening after the kids’ bedtime when I feel I need some me-time – this happens infrequently but it’s there as an option.
When We Don’t Take Breaks (Pitfalls!)
I have gone through phases where I don’t take these breaks for whatever reason, underestimating how useful they are for me. Sometimes, Smiley used to ask if we could take quiet time together or play together and I, at times, said yes, so as not to refuse the sweet boy who wanted to connect and play with his Mum. I’d (at times!) feel bad refusing that. But then I’d often regret it.
Taking quiet time together in the same space didn’t work for me, as even though beautiful young kids mean well, they don’t always get that you’re reading (cue: lots of talking and questions and the quiet time not being so…quiet). Which is fine in that it is to be expected with young kids. But I found it to be a trigger for me (because I don’t get a break and it’s not playtime for us, so we don’t get to enjoy each other completely).
And the times when I’ve thought that maybe we could just skip quiet time altogether and just have one-on-one time, it mostly hasn’t worked out as, towards the end of the day or afterwards, I’m okay but would be feeling like I needed to switch off a bit. So I’d find myself wishing I had taken that time…so that I’d keep as well as I can – so I’m beneficial to myself and them.
So when we did quiet time, kindly and firmly upholding that we have quiet time apart worked better so that we could all rest insha’Allah and spend time together post quiet time. There would be resistance at the beginning but I continued with kindly redirecting; and to b honest, getting annoyed and not being so kind on a few occasions, and then striving to fix that…like establishing anything new, the process will be neither perfect nor mistake-free on both sides.
Now that I take time during screen time though, we often take time *together* in the same room; I use some of their screen time as reading time and they are into what they’re watching so it works for now, alhamdulillah.
Getting Ready In The Morning
Intentional ‘me’ time is also getting ready in the morning for me (not always!). Taking this investment into the day can allow us to feel good rather than sloppy, and that makes the challenges feel less…weighty. They feel like ‘I feel good and I got this’. I’m not wishing away any morning tantrums or challenges etc. There’s something about neat hair, a clean face, and being dressed in day clothes (as opposed to PJs) that can make us feel put together and for me, feel like ‘I can captain this ship’. The ‘feeling together’ feeling of being ready can induce a readiness to engage with the day. But if I don’t get ready in the morning, I feel sloppy and unfresh, and more pertinently, I am more likely to be wishing away the challenges, resistant to them rather than going with the flow and accepting whatever comes up.
So what can we do to carve out intentional breaks, insha’Allah? Here’s what works/has worked for me:
1) We can look at our day and see if there is a time when our children are consistently busy. for example: a consistent time of the day the kids play independently; nap time; screen time etc, and perhaps consider using some of that time to do something replenishing: reading Qur’an, reading good books, watching a lecture, getting some exercise, or something else personally uplifting and/or replenishing for you.
2) Consider if establishing quiet-time would be of use to you. Here is a useful article on how to establish quiet time and things to keep it in mind for quiet time:
When we did quiet-time, I went for 30mins – but at times, set the timer for about 40-45mins; to account for the occasions when my little one would come in or resist or come and ask some questions; the little extra time would allow me to be a bit gentler in handling it and redirecting him to quiet time (without the time buffer, I was finding myself frustrated at times).
3) Weekly time-off can also be incredibly nourishing – an afternoon, morning or evening where you take time to nurture yourself.
I hope some of these tips help insha’Allah.
And I wish you great days with your littles 🙂