Ilana Wiles knows how busy you are, but she wants to instill this cardinal rule of parenting into your mindset: No matter how much you have to do for everyone else, try to squeeze in a bit of “me time” each day.
“It’s important to maintain your own sanity,” says the New York City-based Wiles, who has 165,000 Instagram followers @mommyshorts. “If you need time away from your kids to be a better parent, that’s just as important as hanging out with them.”
The mom of Mazzy, 8 and Harlow, 2, has discovered a few ways to make sure she gets that much-needed solo time throughout the day — and night.
First, she steals a few moments to herself when everyone else is asleep. “My time awake without the kids is really important,” she says, adding that she likes to use “after hours” to read, write and catch up on the news. But she also takes advantage of the early morning stillness: “I like to get up and have a cup of coffee and peace of mind before the day starts,” she says. The alternative is too hectic: “If the kids wake me, and we’re rushing from that point on, it will be crazy.”
She also makes sure to carve out meaningful moments with her husband Mike. The couple makes adult time a priority by scheduling standing dinner dates at least once a week or once every two weeks – and they don’t cancel. “It helps us to stay connected,” Wiles says.
To keep costs low, they try to rely on family as much as they can for child care. An added bonus? Less guilt. “I know that if my mother can babysit, my kids won’t be upset if I go out — they will just be really excited to spend time with Grammy,” she says. (If you don’t have family nearby and the cost of a babysitter seems steep, consider asking friends to watch the kids and return the favor for her another weekend.)
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When babysitting is in the budget, Wiles — who also runs the blog @averageparentproblems — asks a young neighbor to help. “We use a 14-year-old who lives in our building, and her mom is always there in case of emergencies,” Wiles explains, adding that the arrangement could also work with a next-door neighbor.
“When she was 12 years old she started coming over after school, and it was great to have her just watching the kids while I was making dinner, or to play with them on a rainy afternoon,” says Wiles. “It gave me time to do what I needed to do, while establishing that relationship so when she was old enough, it was easy to leave the girls with her.”
Another thing that Wiles relishes is the opportunity to catch up with friends, either by going to a nearby pal’s apartment after the kids are in bed to binge watch a favorite show, or by meeting for dinner — or even breakfast. “I’ve found breakfast with friends to be really easy. We drop off our kids at 8:30 and most people don’t have to be at work until 9:30, so there’s that hour window when you can go out — and it feels so indulgent.”
But socializing is only part of the appeal; maintaining female friendships truly helps Wiles stay grounded. “I find those times with your girlfriends really valuable,” she says.
Also valuable? Knowing when to take a hard-earned break. “I love getting a massage every now and again. Just taking an hour to relax makes me feel so good afterward. It’s such an energizing thing.”