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The Importance of Solitude

I'm a stressed-out stay at home mom of three kids (ages nine, six, and three) and feel exhausted. My patience is shorter than ever and I need some advice on how to recharge and be a better mom, which to me means being more patient, more willing to answer question after question, and finding more effective ways to deal with many parenting issues that come up each day.

On the day I received this email, I had gotten up early to enjoy several uninterrupted hours in the mountains, and was stunned at how much better I felt, even though I was already feeling pretty good before I went.

So, to this mom, I have one word of advice. Actually, three words:

Solitude is critical.

Raising kids is sort of like being devoured by small piranhas. They’ll eat you alive one little bite at a time with their constant questions and requests and need for attention. And it’s not their job to notice that we need a break and give it to us! We need to take responsibility for realizing that we are burning out, and take care of ourselves by retreating into solitude.

We don’t have to go to a spa or get a massage or do anything exotic with that time. It's unbelievably refreshing just to be quiet; to finish a thought without interruption, to move at our natural pace, to let our minds and bodies settle into stillness, and to have no agenda except honoring our own impulses.

It doesn’t even take that much time to recharge. A couple hours is usually enough for me. But those hours have to be absolutely mine—no cell phone, no visits with friends, no paying bills or running errands, no accomplishing anything or being productive. All else being equal, I like to get out of my house and into nature, preferably near some running water.

The details don’t really matter. What's important is that we all need time alone. Parents of young children need it even more than the rest of us, but often have a harder time finding it. No parenting advice or technique will be helpful if you are too burned out to apply it. To instantly and organically improve your parenting, calm your mind and settle your soul by taking some time for yourself.

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