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How a Lack of Alone Time Affects Mom’s Mental Health

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If you’re a mother and you still have young kids, or you remember what it’s like to have young kids, then there’s a good chance you already know what science and therapists are about to confirm – that burnout is real, and the toll that never having any time to yourself takes a mental toll that can grow into real trouble.

Kids need us. The smaller they are, the more they need us.

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Partners need us, too, and so do bosses and our parents and siblings and churches and friends…it honestly never ends, so unless you’re able to establish some firm boundaries and stick to them, there’s a good chance you’ve had a complete meltdown at least once since having a baby.

Licensed therapist Emma Bennett basically confirms what we all instinctively know when she says “I consider alone time a necessity, not an indulgence,” and maintains that mothers who don’t get enough can and do experience burnout, resentment, overwhelm, anger, and a loss of sense of self.

If you think you can manage those things, though, psychotherapist Eric Djossa says you could be taking a big risk.

“Lack of emotional or physical support can put mms at higher risk of developing a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder and lack of support/understanding can exacerbate these symptoms.”

At least one study has pointed to a lack of friend and family support as a risk factor for developing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders as well.

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This surprised even me – a 2018 survey of 2000 parents found that we only have an average of 32 minutes a day of “alone time.”

No wonder aw all need more!

Djossa says we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it, and we shouldn’t feel guilty taking it, either.

“When moms are communicating they want time alone it usually means they want a break. I think that moms don’t get time alone when these connections and supports are lacking. They may feel both isolated and burnt out all at the same time. A remedy to this is ramping up supports and connections in order to have the ability to take a break. They need help. They are tired of being touched by tiny hands. They need a breather. But I think that this breather looks different for different moms.”

Watch a television show alone, read your book, talk to your partner, see a friend for coffee, take a bath – whatever it is for you, make sure you fit it into your daily schedule – but it should be something that nourishes and replenishes you to dig back in.

Moms, especially first time moms, can also be wary of leaving their babies with other people, but that’s something we can learn to let go of (to some degree) in time. It’s important to remember, Bennett says, that it can even be a positive thing for our kiddos, too.

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“Giving our children the opportunity to build other loving attachments to additional caregivers can be a good experience for children. It is OK to accept those feelings of nervousness and also try to work with them so you can have some separation.”

So, ladies, insist on some time for yourself. Even if it’s only a couple more hours a week, it’s better than nothing.

And, speaking from experience, absence really does make the heart grow fonder – and it also refills those wells of patience, too.