Here’s a scene common to most households with kids: The kids are in bed – finally. It’s been a long day/week/month/year. You’re starting the second (kid-free) part of your nighttime routine, but you just don’t have the energy. Your batteries are drained. You look over and your partner is in the same state you are. You both need a mental break. Badly.

Somewhere along the parenting path, we stop prioritizing taking breaks for ourselves. They get demoted into annual occurrences like birthdays and anniversaries, but that’s simply not enough. A study found that most parents only get 30 mins per day of me-time. Yikes!

One of the reasons we put off taking time away (besides the guilt, but that’s another post) is that we think time away needs to be extravagant. Dinners out, spa days, going to the movies — all things that cost money. When you add the cost of a sitter on top, it often seems rational to put it off.

What if we shift our thinking on what’s truly a “sitter-worthy” occasion?
Here are some ideas for cheap/free relaxing activities that can help recharge your batteries:

1. Take a Bath

Close your eyes. Think about the last time you had an uninterrupted hour for grooming. If you can’t remember the last time, this is definitely a sitter-worthy event for you.

2. Take a Nap

Every parent — literally EVERY parent — could use more sleep. That’s just a fact. Moodiness, lack of focus, weak immunity, and high blood pressure are all symptoms of sleep deprivation. There’s no shame in saying “I need more sleep” and calling in the calvary to help you pick up an extra hour or two.

3. Exercise

Yale and Oxford released a study that shows regular exercise makes us happier than money. So why not invest in a proven happiness generator? You don’t have to go to an expensive gym—try some free YouTube yoga classes or go for a walk/run/bike in your neighborhood.

4. Watch TV

Forget the movies—it’s the golden age of television! Send the kids to the park with the sitter. Plop down on the couch, grab your (not $15) bowl of popcorn, and play catch up on all the shows everyone has been insisting are must-watch.

5. Read a Book (Outside of the House)

This is for those of us that can’t make it through a book because the only time we can read is in bed at the end of the day. That means you’re lucky if you make it 1 or 2 pages before passing out. Grab a book and pick your ideal spot to get lost in a story. It could be your backyard, at the park, or coffee shop.

6. Go to the Store

Yes, this one is more practical—hear us out. Walking through a store without herding little ones or arguing about what you’ll buy that day could be just the refreshment you need. You could even peacefully “just browse” that one section you always have your eye on.

7. Organize Your Room

Our rooms are supposed to be our sanctuaries, but sometimes keeping them tidy can get pushed aside for say, the kitchen or the kids’ bathrooms. Just like needing to have uninterrupted grooming (see above: take a bath), uninterrupted tidying of our personal space can also do wonders!

8. Go for a Walk/Drive

When was the last time you went on a journey with no set destination in mind? Simply walk out of the house and see where the wind blows you for an hour or two!

9. Picnic in the Park

Date nights typically involve going to restaurants because they (a) force us to sit still and have adult conversations, and (b) change up our regular routine. A picnic achieves both of those things—at a fraction of the cost.

These ideas can be used for “me-time” or for the coveted date night. The point is, getting a sitter to give yourself a break will always be worth it. It doesn’t always need to be attached to big plans. These mini-breaks pay off. 84% of parents say making more time for themselves has a positive impact on their relationships.

Schedule some “break-time” for your mental wellness this month. Call the sitter and ask them to take the kids to the park or stay in a specific part of the house for an hour or two. Your mental health and your relationships will thank you!

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