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Find Time for What You Love

It's the smartest parenting tip you'll ever get: Make time for yourself. Doing things you enjoy  -- whether getting your nails polished or reading a chapter of a delicious novel  -- actually makes you a better mom because it replenishes the well your kids are always drawing from. Otherwise, you'll be so tapped out you'll have nothing to give, which is bad news for everybody.

Great advice...but how can you actually follow it? Here, 9 easy ways.

First, cut yourself some slack
You don't have to be "on" every minute, stimulating your child or arranging her activities. "If you're always doing, doing, doing, you're likely to feel resentful, and kids pick that up," says Fran Stott, Ph.D., a child psychologist with the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development, in Chicago. Give your kid  -- and yourself  -- some breathing room.

Remember what you love
"Think about the last time you put your head on the pillow at night and said to yourself, 'Now, that was a great day,'" says Dawn Noble, founder of Balance and Beyond, a professional organizing and time-management company in Red Bank, New Jersey. (If you can't remember back that far, try to recall the last time you had a fantastic hour.) Ask yourself what activities and events made you feel so fulfilled, and make a list of those things, starting with the most significant, to zoom in on your priorities.

Figure out where your time goes
List the activities and chores that fill the hours in your week, and roughly how much time each of them takes up. What are the areas where the time you spend doesn't reflect your priorities? "If I can tear myself away from the tube at night, I get so much more done  -- reading, writing, or just relaxing," says Shana Aborn, the Queens, New York, mother of Daniel, 3, and Sarah, 3 months.
Are you too concerned with having a spotless home? Can you lower your standards a little? Are you sidetracked by phone interruptions? Try letting calls go to voicemail and returning them at your convenience.

Gay Norton Edelman is the mom of three boys in New Jersey and has written for All You and Family Circle.

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