I read a meme the other day that made me both laugh and cry. It said, “Sitting alone in your car outside your house counts as self-care.” This hit home for me because since Shelter-in-Place started many weeks ago, I find myself desperate for alone time. While I love my family very much, this working from home and constant quarantine has helped me appreciate the overlooked value of my commute to and from work each day.
That is something I never thought I’d hear myself say. For years, I’ve cursed the endless minutes wasted sitting in traffic on El Camino and the 101. I hated how my kids were often the last ones picked up because it took me 40 minutes to drive 5 miles. I felt equally guilty needing help in the mornings before school, so I could make it in time for that early meeting.
And I’m not saying I want that stressful commute back. But I have realized that it did have a few benefits. It was, in essence, my “me time”. My commute created a consistent time and space for myself, where I could sit quietly with my thoughts, choose the music I wanted to listen to, call family or friends, or listen to a podcast that maybe wasn’t appropriate for my kids to have on in the background.
Now that my commute consists of walking downstairs to my office, that just isn’t quite cutting it for me. I miss that free time. Alone. And so yes, like that meme, I fantasize about sneaking out to my car, turning it on, and being alone.
Unfortunately, between my husband, two kids, and my puppy, my hiding spot would be discovered in about 90 seconds. So, I’ve had to be creative about how to instill more “me time” while still constantly surrounded by others. This takes serious effort. I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities to maximize me time, and work hard to create those times, too. Here’s what’s working so far:
I listen to podcasts while I cook dinner. This is less than ideal, but I pop in my headphones and see how far I can get through an episode before I’m interrupted.
I call my family when I’m doing laundry, taking the dog for a walk, or even sometimes with the kids screaming in the background. It’s crazy how much loud noise I can tolerate these days!
I do what I can to get out of the house. I go for a walk or run whenever the opportunity presents itself, even if I don’t quite feel like it. Sometimes I bring the dog, and sometimes when I’m feeling particularly ornery, I leave her at home. If I can’t leave the house, I try to squeeze in some form of exercise or way to move my body every day. Preferably without kid and dog interruptions but I’m not that picky these days.
I listen to music when I clean. This is an activity I tend to do solo a lot for some reason, so I pop in some earbuds and get the chance to put on music I like.
When my kids are engaged in an activity, I sometimes sneak away to go do something quietly, if I think they won’t notice or care. I try to use this time for stuff I enjoy, like reading a book or writing this post, and not housework.
I know in the future I will miss this quieter, slower pace of life, but I also know I have to find small ways to sustain my sanity right now. I try not to feel guilty because we are spending a lot of quality time together and taking these little breaks for myself help me be more present with them in the long term.