A parent’s schedule fills up fast! Between meal planning, appointments, naptimes, and play dates it’s a wonder we get any time in for ourselves! Playing an active role in our kids lives is rewarding and also essential to their healthy development, but ensuring they are healthy and happy goes beyond our ability to multi-task and survive off minimal hours of sleep.  It all starts with taking care of ourselves.

On commercial flights, parents and guardians are instructed to take in oxygen first before giving oxygen to their children. This analogy to parenting is simple. We need to take a breath of fresh air before we can give our kids our best selves.  If we exhaust ourselves, mentally and physically, it’s hard to be there for them as much as we want to be.

Here are four mommy timeout ideas that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on any temper tantrum, dirty diaper, or loving barrage of tackling hugs that come your way:

1. Schedule Kid-Free Dates – Before having kids you and your significant other spent a lot of alone time together. Now the house is filled with toys, little footsteps, and a lot of laughter! Having a family is gratifying, but it’s important to remember that it all started with the two of you. Reward the love you and your partner or husband share by scheduling regular one-on-one dates outside of the home. Valentine’s Day is this month which presents the perfect excuse to hire a babysitter or call on a relative to care for the kids for a few hours while you enjoy a nice dinner at your favourite restaurant or a couples massage at your local spa.

2. Create a Just-for-You Space – Find a room in your home that can act as your special space. Whether it’s the bathroom, your bedroom, or the spare room, choose a place that can be transformed into your own oasis when the kids go to bed or while daddy is keeping them entertained. Take some time away each day to take a bath, read a book or sip a glass of wine.

3. Schedule Your Own Play Dates – Have a childless play date with your gal pals! Friendships are proven to alleviate stress and increase happiness. After all, who else is going to understand how painful breastfeeding is or will understand your celebrity crush on Channing Tatum?

4. Strike a Deal with a Fellow Mom – When you need to run out to the store, but your baby is in mid meltdown mode things can feel quite overwhelming. But what if you had a mom in your neighbourhood you could turn to when you really need a one-hour timeout? If you don’t know any moms well enough (yet) to ask for babysitting favours, arrange care with a family member who lives close by or sign up with a site like Sit Swap, a babysitting exchange for parents.

Taking time away every now and then, just like reaching for that oxygen mask, is important so we can return recharged and ready to take on whatever our days throw our way.