I’ve had a 16-month old baby boy running circles around me, with a couple more tots to keep up with, so I know what is sometimes your heart’s desire, momma. If you are reading this, you see your time as precious! Separation anxiety is said to peak around 18 months, which can be a little disheartening if your baby is struggling with it at eight months. Toddlers often need to be in plain sight of you, no matter what, to help ease the scariness of their emerging independence. And don’t get me started on trying to lay down a sleeping infant and tiptoe off to the laundry only to hear that cry of alarm as you cross the threshold. Momma just needs five minutes!
Of course, there are the screens, however, we all know what the AAP has to say about this- can we get some serious mommy guilt? Many will recommend getting a babysitter, but they aren’t the ones footing the bill- it’s just not an option for moms on a tight budget.
Here are five free (and TV-free) ideas to get that elusive break:
1. Move to a different room
A change of scenery may be all baby needs. Have toy bins stashed in the den, in baby’s room, even one in your bedroom where you get ready in the mornings. You can be together but each doing your own thing.
2. Toy rotation
Keep a large container in storage, filled with all those “forgotten” toys. Once a month, pack up the less-played-with toys and bring out last month’s treasures- they are now new again which means a longer play session.
3. Book stations
We have had much luck finding box-style magazine racks at Goodwill. Again, keep one in each room possible- the kids’ rooms, the kitchen, the family room. Plop baby down, pull out a few, and see them magically get lost in a few good books while you do the same!
4. Child-swap with other mothers
Playgroups can be a great time to sit back and chat with other grown-ups (yippee!) Or call up a friend with children of the same ages with this plan: the hostess gets to leave the room for a short break to do whatever she needs, while the guest watches all the kids. Switch homes the following week.
5. Feed ’em
When all else fails, it’s probably time to eat again. In addition to three square meals a day, toddlers need snacks in between each meal. I have used the time my baby is in the highchair to bumble around the kitchen, flip through a magazine, or go to another room for a few minutes if older children or adults are right there, ready to announce any of baby’s antics.
Another strategy I’ve put into action is simply telling my older children to play with baby. They enjoyed pulling out a basket of baby toys and playing games with their little brother. Score!
Regarding the issue at hand, I get it and won’t gloss it over. As beautiful as mothering is, it can be hard every single day. One of my greatest lifesavers was placing this verse inside the cabinet I opened first thing every morning:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Most importantly, know that your children will grow more independent. This is only a brief life stage, although your days- and nights for that matter– may at times feel soooo long. Before you know it, they will be running off to play on their own, preparing their own snack, and, if you play your cards right, helping around the house (sometimes they will even do so eagerly!)
And please do share….how do you find a five-minute break? (short of locking yourself in the bathroom!)