Importance of Alone Time as a Parent

My feet are hitting the pavement in rhythmic time as my strides carry me through my run.  This is my alone time, my time to meditate and be creative.  I reflect on my day and think about creative solutions to problems I have encountered, I pull from my memories of parenting and imagine a variety of articles I could share on this site.  I breathe in a little freedom as my legs pull me further into a time when all that exists in my world is me, the pavement, and a playlist of my music in the background.  At times, I used to feel guilty about delegating my responsibilities as a mom to others and taking this time for myself, but I have discovered how very important this time can be.  This time varies in length for me from day to day, sometimes it’s only 20 minutes, sometimes it could be an hour, but this time has contributed greatly to me becoming a better wife and mother.

Whether we are working moms or dads, stay at home moms or dads, or single moms or dads, we all seem to feel a little guilty, for the same and different reasons, when it comes to taking time for ourselves.  As a stay at home mom, I used to feel super guilty about wanting to take alone time to do something I enjoy because I felt like it was my duty to take care of the kids all the time.  Whatever the reason for our guilt, it is important to know that you should not feel guilty about wanting and needing a little time to yourself.

According to Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, a psychologist and author,

Spending time with yourself benefits everyone because by having a happier and healthier mindset, you’re in a better frame of mind to take care of the people who are important to you.

She lists several reasons why alone time is very important, but as a parent, I think the most important reasons are:

Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind.

Frustration, anger and stress can build up inside of us if we don’t take time to refresh our state of mind and be in our own thoughts, uninterrupted. This is the time that we can breathe in some peace and quiet in our own way to prevent an explosion of anger and frustration towards the ones we love. I have been victim to this build up and explosion and have not been proud of the words that have come out of my mouth or the harshness that coated those words. I am not perfect by any means, and have had moments I wish I could redo as a parent and a wife, but I have learned from these mistakes and have found how truly healthy it is to unwind your mind and be in your own world with no distractions, even if it is just for a few minutes, so that the unseen pressure of constant motion is relieved and the brain is revitalized.

Solitude gives you an opportunity to discover yourself and find your own voice.

It is easy to get trapped in the role of being a parent and forget your own thoughts, feelings, needs and wants. Being a parent requires sacrifice, but it is important to remember to nurture yourself and respond to your needs as well. Reflection on your actions and decisions without interruption or outside input leads to discovering things you’d like to improve on, and things you are happy with, so that you can determine who you are and what you need to do to make sure you stay on the path that will lead to being the best you possible. This, in turn, will illuminate your relationships with everyone you love because you will have a healthier self image and be a stronger, more confident you.

Solitude helps you work through problems more effectively.

When you make the time to step into yourself and be in your own head, away from everything else going on in your life, and solely in the moment, your brain calms and you can look at problems in new light. One of the toughest things as a parent is reading book after book, article after article, asking other parents about a situation you are dealing with concerning your child, and all of the advise is failing. These are the moments where alone time has helped me become more imaginative, utilizing all of the information I have received, but then pulling in everything I know about my child and adapting the advice and information into a platform that is much more effective for his or her personality. Without alone time to really get creative with different situations and problems I encounter, I keep reacting the same way, and it just creates a cycle of frustration for both me and my child.

Find something you enjoy doing and let it be your escape so that you can have the alone time you need to be a healthier, happier, more confident you. For me, running has become my escape pod into the world of my mind. I get not only exercise, but the opportunity to delve into my mistakes, my accomplishments, unresolved problems, and the imagination portal in my brain. I have learned that it is not selfish to spend some time alone so that you can become a more efficient, productive, happier and healthier you. If anything, the time spent alone, without interruptions, is a great benefit to your children and all of your relationships because it allows you to remain balanced and continue walking down your path, instead of losing your way and stumbling repeatedly. Make alone time a priority in your life, even if you start small, taking just 5 minutes a day to unplug and be alone in your thoughts without distractions so that you can reconnect with yourself and get to know your joy, anger, sadness, disgust and fear better.

References:
Carter, Sherrie Bourg, Psy.D. “6 Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone.” Standard Blog. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 31 Jan 2012. Web. 22. Feb. 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201201/6-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone

Carter, Sherrie Bourg, Psy.D. “Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Stealing a Little Time for Yourself.” Standard Blog. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 01 Feb 2012. Web. 22. Feb. 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201202/why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-about-stealing-little-time-yourself

Family Unplugged

My husband and I always try to find ways to cut waste out of our lives and keep things simple and basic.  For the last three years, we have lived without cable television services and have saved a noticeable amount of money as well as gained peace of mind concerning our children and television.  We bought an Apple TV and Kindle Fire TV.  We have movies and TV shows that we previously purchased on the iTunes store, so it made sense for us to have both TVs.  We subscribe to Hulu Limited, Netflix 2 Screen + HD, Netflix 1 DVD disc Unlimited, and Amazon Prime.  Our total monthly bill for our television services is $32.22 per month, a total of 386.64 per year.  Not a single person in our household misses cable television.  My husband does wish that the NFL would sell a streaming service, even if it was just the Red Zone channel, and I wish Disney would sell their app for Disney Junior as a streaming service, but other than that, we do not feel that we are missing out on anything.

Financial savings is not the only reason we made the decision to unplug from cable services.  With streaming services, there are limited to no commercials, and you have better control over what your children are allowed to watch and when.  We have several educational, award winning shows at our fingertips to turn on for our children when we allow them to watch television.  Some of these shows include, but are not limited to: Tumbleweed and Creative Galaxy on Amazon Prime, Little Einsteins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Octonauts on Netflix, Wild Kratts, Word World and Sesame Street on Hulu.  Having these shows available at the time that we are allowing our toddler and 4 year old to watch television has made the experience of television more enriching.  Our thirteen year old enjoys the streaming service because she has had the opportunity to catch up on shows such as Dr. Who, Supernatural and Once Upon a Time.  My husband and I have been able to stay up to date with the Marvel cinematic universe through Shield, Dare Devil, Agent Carter, and Jessica Jones.  We are able to enjoy shows from the Food Network such as Good Eats, and were avid follower of the Daily Show.  The services we utilize have not left us wanting for anything except football (my husband misses this the most, but he goes out to watch his Eagles if we can’t pick the game up on our antenna). With cable or satellite, unless you have DVRed the shows, you are forced to watch what the networks are airing at that particular time. As opposed to paying for a service that supplies hundreds of channels that are never playing anything that interests us, we can select from thousands of shows on Netflix and Amazon, and stay current on shows we follow through Hulu.

There is also an app, for those who really enjoy the live television feed, called Sling Television.  This app, from reviews on Amazon, appears to work decently, though bugs are still being worked out, and allows users to stream ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family, CNN, El Rey, Galavision, Makers, IFC, A&E, HISTORY, H2, Lifetime, Polaris+ and Bloomberg TV.  There are also  packages that can be added on for an additional $5 per month per package. Depending on the networks you typically watch, this could be a huge savings compared to what current cable packages cost.  I have personally not used this app because we have grown to used to being able to select the shows we would like to see, and cannot vouch for it, but it is an alternative for those of you out there who have not switched because you enjoy live TV.

Below, I have broken down the cost based on two years of service with streaming and with cable/satellite services.  In my opinion, online television is a much better value than cable or satellite, but this is information for you to look at and decide for yourself.

Please note:  *Data shown below is over a two year period. Some cable companies did not provide information on what prices would be after a 1 year contract, so those prices were kept the same for both years. I based this on two years because some of the cable/satellite companies required a two year contract to receive discounted prices.  Equipment costs were hidden and difficult to find with most cable/satellite companies, but I included what I was able to find. Installation and start up fees are not included in calculations for Cable/Satellite companies. Monthly internet fee not included for prices with streaming services as that cost greatly varies.  If you are new to streaming services, you will have an out of pocket cost for streaming equipment if you do not already have a smart TV, a Playstation, X-Box, Wii, etc.  The Amazon Fire runs around $99.99 and if you are going to get Prime, is the most cost effective purchase. Prices valid as of 12/04/2015 as advertised online at official sites for companies listed.

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For those of you who have been tinkering with the idea of looking into streaming services, if you are not using Dish, the financial savings are incredible.  I was pleased to see that there was one cable company that was reasonably priced in comparison to streaming.  I have never received a bill from Dish, so if they do have hidden costs and fees, I am unaware of them.  For a more thorough breakdown of what I was comparing, please click on PriceBreakdown.

The most incredible information I came across was that even though cable and satellite subscriber numbers have been dropping, the revenue of cable and satellite providers has been growing.  I wonder if hidden fees have grown, or if subscribers even know how much they are paying after their first year in contract because most of the cable and satellite companies require auto payment set up to receive the discounted rates advertised.  There are no hidden fees or additional costs for online television, you pay the monthly cost and that is it.  The only additional cost that is not included is the monthly fee for internet service.

In summary, if you are interested in unplugging and have been hesitant, I hope that I have supplied you with enough information to consider taking the plunge.  Please feel free to ask me any questions about streaming services.  I am not an affiliate of any of the above services, and am not receiving any compensation from anyone for this article.  I just wanted to put this information out there so people could see the differences and ask any lingering questions they may have.  For those of you who have already unplugged, I believe we are the pioneers of the television of tomorrow and it is only a matter of time before networks will take the steps that CBS, Showtime and HBO already have, in selling streaming apps for their networks that don’t require a cable subscription.