Okay, full disclosure.
This title is not completely reliable, as there’s no way I can be categorized as 100% sane. After all, I have three small children running around screaming most of the day every day. That being said, my sanity has improved a lot in the last few months. I would love to pass those tidbits onto you.
First of all, a little background.
I have what my therapist calls “mild anxiety.” In my young adult years, I had panic attacks, which mostly occurred when I let myself get too stressed or anxious (imagine that). I hadn’t had a panic attack in ten years…until this summer. Going from 2 children to 3 was way harder than I ever could have imagined. We moved houses this summer and some of our best friends moved out of state. I’m homeschooling my oldest daughter, working through therapy with my middle daughter, doing part-time in-home childcare, and am involved in numerous committees.
By mid-July, I was having trouble just getting through each day. Finally, I said to my husband, “Something has to change. I am too overwhelmed and I need to find a way to fix that.” So we came up with a system that so far is working beautifully. I will admit that this system works best with a supportive partner, but I think it could work similarly with any supportive friend or family member.
The first item I requested from my husband was one night off each week.
Now every Monday evening as soon as my husband gets home from work, I am off the clock. My husband is in charge of the children. He’s also in charge of supper, clean-up, and bedtime. This has made such a HUGE difference for me. Occasionally I still do stuff that needs doing around the house (because I’m still a mom). Sometimes I go to Target and walk around for a couple of hours. Sometimes I get together with friends. But I do it all without guilt, knowing that our kids are taken care of.
In all fairness, my husband gets a night off too. He takes Thursday nights off each week. He usually has friends over for a game night while I take the kids elsewhere. It makes for an extra-long Thursday for me, but it’s so worth the trade.
After making our agreement my wonderful husband asked, “So when is our night? The night we make sure that we get time together without the kids?”
We discussed that it’s probably not practical for us to go out on a date every week, but that we could have a date night each week at home. Now every Friday (or Saturday), after the kids go to bed, we order food, enjoy uninterrupted conversation, and usually play some board games (no Candyland or Chutes and Ladders allowed!) Prior to these weekly date nights, there were times I’d realize that I had an important conversation with someone important (like my daughter’s therapist) days before and still hadn’t filled him in on what was said. Now we have at least once a week to make sure that we’re communicating about both the important and mundane things in life.
Finally, we do try to make time for an actual date night out once a month.
Our favorite way to do this is to exchange a night out with another couple each month. We find two nights during a given month where both couples are free (this is the trickiest part). Then one of those nights, we watch their kids and the other night, they watch our kids. It saves on babysitting expenses and provides a time for me to remember that I’m not JUST a stay-at-home mom. This one we’ve been doing for at least a couple of years, and it has worked very well for us.
I love my kids dearly, but the last few months taught me that I show them my love better and am way more patient with them if I also make sure that my own mental health is in check. I have found that taking just a little bit of time for myself and with my husband each week is my biggest sanity saver.
Do you have other sanity-saver ideas? I’d love to hear them!
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