Once you become a mom, finding time for yourself and the other adults in your life often seems like a lost cause. You're so busy keeping everyone's schedule humming that you don't realize your own is now seriously lacking in grown-up pleasures. But if you can schedule three playdates and a doctor's appointment in an already crazy week, you can find time for you, too. Ways to squeeze in a few minutes for the people (other than your kids) who matter most:
Seek out child-friendly stores
For years, one of my favorite places to shop was IKEA because the kids could hang out in a supervised playroom for 30 minutes. A few years ago, when my two older ones both met the height requirement, I'd go there even when I didn't need to buy a rug or chair; I would buy a cinnamon roll and coffee in the snack shop and just revel in my grown-up thoughts until my time was up. (I'm eagerly waiting for Mary Elena to grow another inch or so and be allowed in the ball pit.) Diane Houser of Aleppo, Pennsylvania, says she shops at only one grocery store because it offers a supervised play center. "I know the kids are safe, I'm accomplishing something on my never-ending to-do list -- and I get forty-five precious minutes alone," says the mom of four.
Block out "time for me"
The trick is to treat "mom time" as seriously as you would any other commitment. It's not an option. (Though ten minutes here and there, focused solely on you, can often be enough to recharge your batteries.) If you've dismissed this advice as unrealistic before, ask yourself: Isn't my mental, emotional, and physical well-being as important as some of the other "can't miss" things on my calendar (PTA meetings, playdates, soccer practice)?
Think "spa on the go"
The next time you need to be doing something that requires sitting still and listening (say, to your budding pianist performing a living room concert), give yourself a five-minute foot massage. All you need is a bottle of aromatic lotion and your own fingers. (Your praise at the end -- "Sweetie, that's the best 'Ode to Joy' I've ever heard" -- will sound even more enthusiastic.)
Stop and shop
When her 2-year-old daughter, Casey, wants company while watching Sesame Street, Melia Wilkinson of Cary, North Carolina, likes to grab a few catalogs from a stash she keeps at the ready. "I started putting them in a pile in the family room so I can go through them while she watches Elmo," she says. "It's a mindless way to relax, and I can do some shopping at the same time."
Have grown-up storytime
Stash a book in the car to dip into during those ten-minute lulls in your day (waiting at school pickup, for instance). Or download an audiobook (even better, check one out from the library). That way, you can relax with a novel or biography while you're driving to work or when your toddler conks out in the car seat. Great recent titles to try: Sweet Ruin, an emotional novel about motherhood and marriage by Cathi Hanauer, and The Boleyn Inheritance, the latest from the popular historical-fiction writer Philippa Gregory.
Team up with another mom
Maria Gracia, mom of 2-year-old Amanda, trades daytime babysitting hours with a friend twice a month. "Two hours of relief can feel like a lifetime," says the Watertown, Wisconsin, mom, who runs the website Getorganizednow.com. "The trick is to use them for something you truly want to do." No chores! Play the guitar, go for a walk (without the cell), or get a smoothie.
Charlotte Latvala writes a weekly column on parenting for the Beaver County Times in Pennsylvania.