Raising a child can be an all-consuming job but it’s crucial that parents put some time aside for themselves, writes parenting expert Dr Judith Locke.
Raising a child can be an all-consuming job but it’s crucial that parents put some time aside for themselves, writes parenting expert Dr Judith Locke.

It’s not selfish for parents to want some time out

Approximately 14 per cent of the parenting population are single parents and today I'll explain how they can maintain their sense of self in the middle of the intensive years of being a parent.

Talk to any single parent and you will know that it is a very tricky job.

Even parents who only have their child for a few days per week, know that it is a difficult juggle when you don't have another adult there to support you. Spending time on yourself is essential to ensure you have enough in your tank to do the hard slog of parenting.

Here are some key areas:

Taking time for yourself

One of the biggest issues I see for sole parents is that they don't put enough resources into their own wellbeing.

For those who have all of the childcare responsibilities, they might tend to put themselves last every day.

When you are with your child, try to carve out some non-demanding time.

Get them to have quiet time in their bedroom for an hour or so every day to ensure that you get some time to recharge too.

It’s fine for parents to take a break from parenting. Picture: iStock
It’s fine for parents to take a break from parenting. Picture: iStock

If children learn how to amuse themselves without your constant presence, then they'll be more independently capable in the future.

Have them become a little more involved in doing chores, to give you a little less to do around the home.

Even doing tasks together will enable you to spend time together, while also getting things done. This is also important for the parents who have joint custody.

These parents often do all of the chores and hard tasks when they don't have their child, so they can make themselves totally available to spoil their child when they have them.

This is not good.

Ideally, spend some of your childfree time doing things that totally relax you, re-energise you, and keep you healthy - such as fitness classes, bingeing favourite shows, or reading.

Then, when with your child, give them a more realistic environment where they are sometimes having fun with you, sometimes amusing themselves, and sometimes helping out.

Prioritise adult friends

I hear many adults describe their child as their best friend and a very close relationship is somewhat understandable when it's just the two of you.

But it is not truly a mature friendship as you can't share all of your adult problems with them.

Try to make sure you still have adult friendships, be it other parents from the school your child goes to or having a drink with the neighbour next door while your child plays in the backyard.

Make sure you keep in contact with your long-term friends, even if it is just a phone call to someone every couple of days.

Prioritise this so that when your child starts to spend more time with their friends, you too can increase time with your friendship group and not feel so alone as they become independent.

Banish guilt

Some parents can feel guilty about the impact of a relationship breakdown on a child.

But guilt brings even more problems and it's the enemy of good parenting choices.

Ideally, keep in mind that you've done the best you could and don't allow yourself to dwell on regrets too much.

Always remember, one of the biggest impacts on a child's mental health is their parent's mental health.

There should be no guilt in parents taking the time to practice self-care.

Originally published as It's not selfish for parents to want some time out


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