I feel like I’ve written so much about having three kids but one thing I haven’t spoken about is how to make time for yourself and your partner when you have children. Whether you have one child or twenty children, it can be really difficult to make time for yourself.
We all know it’s so important but why does a bit of ‘me time’ always slip to the bottom of the to-do list? And I get lots of messages from people asking how we manage to have time together without the kids too!
So let’s start with the most important thing….
Don’t ever feel like you’re being selfish
I think women feel this the most – the ‘mum guilt’ of leaving your partner to look after the kids on their own. Or even feeling guilty about putting your kids into childcare simply to have some peace and quiet or some fun without them.
Don’t. Stop it now. Never feel guilty or like you’re being selfish for wanting some time away from your children. A little time away from them makes you a better parent and a happier person. Embrace it and never feel bad about it.
I’m writing this during the Easter holidays and my kids are at school holiday club now. I did feel a twinge of guilt for sending them into school during the holidays but they were so excited to go. I know they’ll have a great time and I’m very much enjoying a nice, peaceful house!
Encourage your partner to have time alone
Sam encourages me to go and do something just for me all the time because he knows that it then gives him a free pass to go out too! So encourage your partner to go and have fun too because they’re going to come home feeling happy and relaxed and that’s good for the whole family.
When we had George, our first son, Sam and I used to get jealous of one another when we went out without each other. Before we had kids we’d go out together all the time and most evenings one of us would be going out and doing something fun, so it was a big adjustment when we had kids.
That feeling definitely passed as we got older and settled into our role as parents.
Maybe it’s old age but I love it when Sam goes out now! We put the kids to bed together and then I can have an evening watching whatever trash I want to on TV and I don’t feel bad about eating all the chocolate!
It’s going to be difficult for the first 6-12 months
Something I should say is that it will be tough for the first 6-12 months – but it doesn’t last forever! Those sleep deprived nights can make it hard to do anything so throw all the tips and advice out of the window during that time! The first year is all about survival and caffeine! Embrace it, enjoy it and know that it won’t last long.
We’ve always found that it gets so much easier once your baby regularly goes to bed at a set time and mostly sleeps through the night. I know lots of kids don’t sleep through the night – our four year old still regularly gets up in the night – but getting up once or twice is very different to the frequent wake ups with a newborn.
Read more: Our first three months with our baby girl
The absolute most important thing for us is making sure the kids go to bed early so we can switch off and stop being parents for the evening. Our little ones go to bed at 6.30pm and George (6) goes up to bed and plays with his Lego until he’s ready to sleep.
I honestly think it’s strict bedtimes that has saved our sanity over the years!
Not only does it give us time to have a nice evening together, but it also makes it easier if either of us want to go out for the evening. You don’t feel guilty about going out and leaving your partner with the kids if you know they’ll all be asleep! And I don’t even mean going out for a big night out or dinner with the girls! Sometimes I’ll just go out for a walk!
Communicate your boundaries with your partner
If you’re going out without your partner, I think it’s really important to communicate how you’re both feeling about that. Remember, if you piss off your partner then they’re not going to be so encouraging for you to go and do your own thing next time.
For example, Sam and I don’t mind if the other person goes out in the evening and gets stinking drunk, provided we’re both there to help with bedtime before we go out and the following day isn’t a write-off due to the other person’s hangover! And we don’t mind if the other person wants a massive lie-in at the weekend, provided we take turns and we both get one over the weekend.
Have a family calendar and use it for everything
No one wants to have the conversation that goes:
‘I’m going out with the girls tomorrow night!’
‘No, I’ve arranged to go out with the lads tomorrow!’
Have a family calendar and put everything on it. Everything.
I don’t expect Sam to tell me every single arrangement he ever makes but if he can see that George has football at 4pm and Joseph has a haircut at 4.30pm and Alba needs picking up from nursery at 5pm then he’s going to know he can’t pop to the pub for a pint that evening!
You don’t need a fancy calendar, I just print one out and clip it together on the kitchen notice board. You can find templates on Canva to print.
Find enjoyable family activities you genuinely all enjoy
The key word here is ‘genuinely’ all enjoy. As parents we often kid ourselves into thinking we’re having a lovely time in the park while our kids are playing, but would you be there if you didn’t have kids? Probably not!
It isn’t easy to find activities that the whole family enjoys, especially if you have big age gaps between your kids but it gets easier as children get older and the gaps between their ages seems to close.
If you have lots of genuinely enjoyable family activities, you don’t feel the need to escape from the family and have some time alone so much. Don’t get me wrong, even a lovely afternoon together as a family can be quite intense, but the days are always easier when you’re all having fun.
This is one of the reasons I love having our caravan. While we’re at the caravan we spend most of our days at the beach and this is something we all love!
Read more: The pros and cons of owning a static caravan
Befriend people with similar age children
Another way to make family activities nicer is to do them with another family with similar age children. When kids get to about 3-4 it’s so much easier to just have loads of them together so they all run off and play, leaving you to relax!
If you’ve got toddlers then you might not be at the stage where it’s easier to have more children together yet! When they’re little they tend to fight over their toys and it can be harder to have more of them, but once they learn to share and play it’s amazing!
The 5pm whizz around
This is something we do as a family every evening and ignore it if isn’t for you but I really think it’s something that helps our family so much. Sam is always the instigator here but at about 5.00pm each evening he starts frantically cleaning up.
We all have to get involved with tidying the house, putting toys away, putting bikes back in the shed, folding laundry, tidying bedrooms, hoovering, mopping, brushing the dog and generally making the house lovely, clean and calm for the evening.
It’s become a family routine and it means that by 6pm we’re all ready to wind down for the evening and relax. Do it together as a family so your kids learn to tidy and so it gets done faster. It also means that one person (usually the mum!) isn’t left folding laundry at 8pm when she should be sat on the sofa with a glass of wine and a bar of Dairy Milk!
Get up early
This isn’t something I personally do but I know a lot of parents who get up super early so they have an hour or two alone before the rest of the family get up. If you’re a morning person then embrace the morning because it feels so good to have done all your things before the day has even started!
I have tried this but I’m not a morning person and George is a very light sleeper so he always wakes up and joins me! I’d love to say I regularly get up for an early morning jog along the beach but this photo was from Miami in 2014 when I had terrible jetlag, so I think that says it all really!