Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Can Find Alone Time!

I think that cliff hanger was pretty awesome.

In yesterday's post, Wolf presented three things (sanity networking, furs for perfumes, and thanks for angels) to help all of us find some alone time.  With this half, she will provide us with more specifics.

How to get a moment alone (and what to do with it once you get it) Part 2


Without question, it’s easier to build a network when your children hit preschool or elementary school. You have a built-in community with whom you share common ground. You can help each other in a pinch, including finding a way to get an hour or two to yourself. If your children are younger, you may be able to build your network from mothers you meet on the local playground, after church or synagogue services, or by other means.

  • If you don’t have a network, start building one. It won’t happen overnight. We’re talking about getting to know others who will potentially care for your children.

  • Is there someone you trust to spend an hour or two with your child? Someone from church, for example? Or a neighbor you’ve gotten to know over the past several years?

  • Is it possible to ask that person to stay during naptime – perhaps for an hour? Make it clear that you cannot afford a babysitter at this time, but you would be more than happy to reciprocate.

  • Suggest that you spend some time together first. Invite her (and her child or children) to your place – for coffee or tea. Get to know each other and see how it feels.

  • The act of sharing some adult time with another parent in your situation will be helpful. You won’t feel so isolated. And then give it a try – cell phone numbers exchanged – and don’t go very far the first time if you prefer. Maybe for a walk in the neighborhood. And eventually, an hour or two for yourself, every other week – or whatever works for you.

  • Tap into your blogging community. What other mothers may live near you, or have a sister or cousin or friend who’s in the same boat, who may live in your area?

Is it easy?

No, but it is workable. Am I a trained life coach, psychologist, or educator? Nope. One weary, single mom, offering suggestions from years of experience.

Exchange of services, including for babysitting

Need a way to find a babysitter that won’t cost $10 to $15 / hour? Not sure where to start?

  • Try your clergy, your neighbor, your alumni association, a local college. Well, you’re thinking, there’s no trading off kids in that scenario. True enough, but you could trade services.

  • Talk to people when you’re out. Be friendly. In line at Starbucks or Caribou. At the library. In the pediatrician’s office. You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone who can help, and whom you can help.

Are there skills you might trade with a college or graduate student? Absolutely! Perhaps it’s proofing, editing, Spanish tutoring, web site design suggestions. Believe me – you have skills, and they have value. Exchange them for something of value to yourself. Something like a little “me” time that will keep you healthy and sane.


There really have been angels on my life and the lives of my children. There is a remarkable woman in my neighborhood, a piano teacher, who gives lessons to my younger son. Free of charge. She also made arrangements for us to get a piano at no cost. We didn’t have one, and I certainly couldn’t afford it.

This wonderful individual has been teaching my teenager for 18 months. He adores her; she adores him. She is an angel to both of us, and in his own way, he is an angel for her. Unlike the little ones she’s used to, he wants to be there. He practices for hours each day, has begun composing, and has made remarkable progress in a very short time. She pushes him – hard – and surely she senses that she is influencing his future. Tremendously.

Angels are real. We are each other’s angels.

So what can you do with an hour or two and no money?

Think you can’t renew with an hour or two?

  • Even an hour is enough to browse a local bookstore, sit and read (without buying), watch people, write, or simply wander the aisles and poke around whatever is of interest.

  • That same amount of time would permit you go to a nearby department store and meander. Try the perfumes. Chat with strangers. Have your make-up done for fun. (It’s free.)

  • Or, talk to no one. Sit on a bench with a thermos of coffee you bring from home, and watch the world go by. No one is asking anything of you. (And remember to leave the credit card or check book at home – if I can do it – you can do it!)

  • No mall nearby? Take your thermos and a paperback and go. Walk to a nearby park. Sit, sip, watch, read. Breathe. Be part of the world in the most unobtrusive way. Free of charge, while you charge your own battery.

  • Perhaps you enjoy massage, but you can’t afford it. Furs for perfume. Perhaps you try a masseuse at a local hairdresser who might exchange a 30-minute session for practice with English as a second language. Or learning to crochet, or bake. Get creative. Trade. Ask.

Another thought? I used to be an avid quilter. I find it relaxing – especially the design and piecing of the top. I always quilted in small bits, and by hand rather than machine. That made my sewing portable, and also, when we use our hands, we seem to naturally unwind.

If you can use your hands to make something, consider it. Knit. Embroider. Knead bread. Try origami. Fold forms from paper and make a mobile for your babies!

A final word on how you spend your time

Even now, with teenagers, I’m a single mom with no “backup.” It’s not as crazy as it was when they were little; it’s crazy differently. I feel like I’m always on duty, or at the very least, on call. But over the past few years, I’ve slowly taken back chunks of time for myself. Probably not enough, or often enough, but I’m doing it. It’s good for my kids, and it’s good for me.

Even if all I do with that time is sit in a bookstore and watch, and write – I’m close enough to be accessible, I’m less isolated because I’m around people and movement – and that is the stuff that nourishes us as people, and fuels us as writers.

Last resort? Host a Latvian. Maybe you’ll find one who can babysit! And yes, hungry foreign students certainly add to the food bill, but the laughter alone is worth its weight in gold. Or rather, dzintars – and the irony in that? It is precious currency indeed, and it means Amber.


Wolf, I am deeply grateful for this thoughtful--and thought provoking--guest post/extensive comment.

I know that I have many angels surrounding me.  Many friends who would be willing to step in and give me a break.  But, I usually hold back because I don't want to be a burden.  With these ideas, though, I feel a surge in confidence.  I like bartering.  Both sides win.


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me, Amber. And you know, bartering really is a wonderful way to go. You feel better about asking, you feel better about taking, and you're giving at the same time.

    I know I struggle - still - with asking people to help. And my world has gotten too small, and I need to widen it again. Just last week, I asked an old friend to help with something critically important to me. From sitting with her, and talking since, it's clear that she needs me in her life again as much as I need her. There are many things I can do to help her, including being there, listening, and potentially encouraging her to do some things that are important for her right now.

    It isn't barter exactly, but it certainly is give and take for both of us. Had I not asked her what I needed, I wouldn't have known that there are things she needs. And we'll help each other.

    Barter is something I've done for many years. You're right - it's a win-win.

  2. Great ideas. I absolutely need "me" time and a chance to regenerate.

  3. Thank you, Wolf, for sharing your excellent writing and wisdom with all of us.

    I think that the situation you speak of *is *bartering, an irregular form albeit, but bartering nonetheless. I have a friend who leans on me to get through all her tough situations. She calls/texts me when she is feeling down and emotionally starved. Thus, I cheer her up. I don't need her in that way, but she is willing to baby-sit for us at all hours of the night. I mean that in the literal sense. She came and took Emily from us when I went into labor at 4 am. That's bartering.

  4. Nice post Wolf! Lots of good ideas. And I'm all about bartering too. Great guest post, Amber.

  5. Wolfie, if I find two hours--or two days, for that matter--of free time, ALONE time, won't you please come spend it with me. On the park bench. In the department store. Browsing books.

    Because the alone time is cherished. But the time with good friends even more so.

  6. Sarah, you got it.

    (I'll have my people call your people, tra la... )

  7. Ask! If you have friends who have casually offered to help you (and you trust them to adequately care for your babies), ask!

    One rule I have with my best friend T - she came up with it - is that we shouldn't have to repeat things or persuade. I guess it's a rule about honesty. If she offers to buy lunch, she's offering because she wants to. Who needs the whole back-and-forth of fighting over who pays? And if she asks me to go out, but I really don't want to, just say so. No excuses, no beating around the bush, no guilt. Just honesty.

    So ask your friends. If they really don't want to or can't, hopefully they will say so. And if they say yes, go for it! You can always "owe them one" and be happy to repay them down the road.

  8. Oh, and one more thing. You don't need to offer an explanation about what you're doing or why you need a break. If they don't have kids, they might not understand that you just want to sit and drink coffee on a park bench. Just say there's something you need to take care of, and leave it at that.

  9. Great advice, Wolf! I had an angel land in my lap just after #1son was adopted. I was 6 months pregnant with #2son. A fellow homeschooling mom would pick up my daughter (age 11 at the time) and #1son so I could rest/go to doctor appts./spend time with #2son once he was born guilt free. She was an absolute God-send. She seemed to know exactly what I needed. A true angel!

  10. Eva-I really like this rule. I think it also goes into the deeper issue of why we won't accept help! If someone asks, isn't it rude to flippantly say no? Great response. As always.

  11. Those angels seem to arrive just when we need them, don't they? One of life's marvels.

  12. I think another important reason to do some or all of these things that BLW has outlined is because without them we're isolating and isolation for moms with little kids (especially with husbands away for long stretches in school or no husband or - whatever!) is poison.

    I had a very hard time asking for help after I had my son. He was a preemie and any time he went anywhere his oxygen and apnea monitor had to go and his breast milk in bottles enhanced with formula to increase the calories! How was I going to ask anybody for anything? Yet, the more I isolated, the more depressed I got until I couldn't leave the house if I tried.

    Loved reading these posts!

  13. What a great miniseries. I'm just now getting to the point where I'm experiencing the sense of pre/elementary school community and it's like a whole new alien planet. I love it!

    And, BLW, I have to agree with you. An hour or two at a bookstore or a coffee shop can set me up for a week. There's just something about existing side-by-side next to strangers that is refreshing. They don't notice me. They don't need me. They don't nag or whine (and if they do I can leave). I love it!

  14. Great post and suggestions - and a little humbling, when I consider all the resources I am lucky enough to have!

    Amber - thanks for your kind words on my post - I'm excited to have discovered your blog and I'll be back...


  15. Oh, to "talk to no one." After using my patient voice and reiterating the same no hitting/let's all share rules day in and day out, I sooooo need this. Thanks for the reminder that it's OK to take it. And to remember to help others who need it, too.

  16. I am extremely fortunate to have an incredible support network and I get lots of opportunities to get out on my own and do so frequently. However, what I miss most? Time ALONE in my own house, to read, write, sit and veg, when I don't have two little boys literally hanging off my legs. I'm hoping that as the nice weather approaches that maybe I'll be able to find more of that. To find some free mental space in own comfortable space. That would be bliss!

  17. Yes, Linda, isolating moms is NOT a good idea!! I did not think about that!

    I am terrified of leaving my little guy, as well. Sure he doesn't have the equipment your son had, but what if he cries? Of course, these worries are usually in vain. He normally does very well with a baby-sitter.

  18. Ha! Yes! You are right: you can leave when strangers start to nag and whine.

  19. Peryl, thank you for hopping over here! I am so grateful to have found YOUR blog!

  20. Thank you for joining this conversation Christine (both today and yesterday). A support network is something that all women (and men) need to build. I am so glad that you have that!


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