Moms reveal where they find peace and quiet – The Boston Globe


I’m writing this column during February school vacation. As such, I started out thinking I’d focus on the important ways parents carve out meaningful personal time in a hectic world. But then I asked about your strategies. One of the first replies was from a woman who confided that she fakes stomach problems to hide in the bathroom. Next, I realized I was working on this story … while on a supposed ski trip in Vermont. It was clear I’d have to reframe my approach to something more, ahem, realistic.
On the surface, you’d think we had more free time than ever: According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, the average amount of time spent working has declined by 17 minutes per day. Time spent on leisure and sports activities increased by 32 minutes per day. Americans even spent 2.1 hours more per day at home.
Reading between the lines, I can only conclude that the decline in work is due to being distracted by kids; the “leisure and sports” activities include finding lost iPads; and the time spent at home involves relaxing pursuits such as quarantining and arguing with one’s spouse. I won’t even get into the survey’s grooming data.
That said, we seem to be rounding a corner. Case counts are dropping, the warm weather is coming, and many of us might even be returning to offices sooner rather than later — for real this time. As such, where do you snatch your peaceful moments? Let these parents be an inspiration.
In Cambridge, Anne Norris strolls through the city at 5 a.m. While this hour might seem ungodly to some of us (me), she relishes the solitude: “I love the quiet of the city at that time. Really restorative and calm. A great way to begin the day,” she says.
Perhaps she can bond with Kristen Reardon, wide awake at 4:30 a.m. in Somerville. “I wake up for morning coffee and elliptical. … I love a little me time before anyone wakes up,” she says.
Speaking of solitude, Arlington’s Cate Campbell makes use of a Mother’s Day gift: a lock on her bathroom door. (Maybe grooming statistics will improve soon?) She also walks with a friend every Sunday on a nearby bike path. “Free therapy,” she says.
In Beverly, Katherine Morley Eramo also takes refuge in the bathroom as she balances working from home with caring for her 1-year-old.
“I used to be a very fast showerer, but now I take advantage of every minute in there when I can. I asked for nice body products for Christmas, so I have a little treat to look forward to. Shower steamers are a great alternative to bath bombs. The shower is perfect because I can’t hear what’s going on while my husband and son are playing, and my little guy doesn’t hunt me down. I just have a few minutes to think or zone out,” she says.
In a world where so much is uncontrollable, Charlestown’s Shannon Fry focuses on what she can control: her nails.
“I started painting my nails once a week during the early months of the pandemic. Especially when my kids were home all the time, it gave me an excuse to take a short break from the endless cycle of preparing snacks and cleaning the kitchen, and it helped me feel slightly more put together when everything else seemed chaotic,” she says.
In Middleton, Liz Farese multitasks during her sons’ hockey practice.
“Crank up the heat, throw the seat back, and listen to a Peloton meditation for 20 minutes,” she says. Take that, tanking stock.
However, Kathleen Berne in Needham wins the multitasking prize: She blow-dries her hair while reading.
In Lynn, Bailey Bollon also finds solace behind the wheel.
“Sitting in my car alone listening to the radio and going for a drive, even if it’s 15 minutes, [brings] back old high school vibes of just driving purely because you can and cranking up music (even though now it’s more cranking up NPR),” she says.
Jamaica Plain’s Sara Whelan still Zooms 2020-style with her best friends once a month, who are scattered across the country.
“I’m really struggling with [free time] right now. With my two kids in school but not afterschool, those work hours feel extra intense,” she says. “Connecting online is really important for my sanity.”
Running keeps Beverly’s Amy Chruniak on an even keel — she even ran the Boston Marathon while pregnant with her first son in 2018 and again in 2019, 22 weeks postpartum. Then she ran the Chicago Marathon in 2021, when her second son was 6 months old. She’s prepping for the Boston Marathon again this April. (Amy, you’re making the rest of us look bad.)
“It’s totally hard juggling the training, but I want my boys to know how important self-care is,” she says.
In Boxborough, Jules Feldman Batchelor agrees.
“Daily workout. If I didn’t do it, I’d be a miserable mother and partner,” she says.
In Chelmsford, Johanna Shaw has committed to two curling leagues per week.
“Having something recurring that is just part of our schedule is much easier than trying to make time over and over for separate activities,” she advises.
In Littleton, Margot Bloomstein takes the Bob Ross approach.
“Painting and drawing are my outlet, so I work on art projects alongside my daughter. In cold weather, I grab our sketchbooks, her pastels, and my watercolors, and we drive somewhere with a good view. I park, she hops into the front seat, and we both get to work capturing the scene in front of us,” she says.
In Acton, Sandra Hinds discovered finger-knitting tutorials on YouTube, with many benefits.
“I have found it to be a relaxing me-time activity. Plus, my quiet time is allowing me to share some of what I make with others,” she says.
Rebecca Miersma watches crime shows (“Midsomer Murders” or “Poirot”) in Milford. Ain’t no shame in it. And, in Natick, Sarah Aspinwall and her husband have a deal: They each get four hours on the weekend to do whatever’s needed, and errands don’t count.
“Whether it’s working out, napping, reading a book, or going outside for a walk — probably easier with one small kid at home than multiples, but it was a tip from a friend, and I’m grateful for the recommendation. [It] helps balance out the feelings of lost identity when you become a parent,” she says.
Kara Baskin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.
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