Musings + Essays

How Do You Spend Time Alone?

By: Jen Shoop

Every now and then, I shut down my computer an hour before our nanny leaves. I lock the door and then take a long, hot shower; apply as much hydrating skincare as possible — I’m talking an inappropriately goopy application; and lay in my robe letting my hair air dry while I either read on my Kindle or text my girlfriends or scroll through Instagram or just close my eyes for a spell. It is a winning alchemy. I descend for dinner hour in a kind of peaceful haze, better able to withstand the buffeting of pleas for milk and shrieks about the wrong cup and “but I don’t want peas” and the usual litany of “mama? mama? mama? mama?” Instead of cinching up my shoulders and issuing brisk corrections as I am sometimes wont to do after a long day, I find myself cloaked in quiet, wordlessly managing demands or silently crouching down and pulling those tiny bodies to myself. It is a wonder what a hug can do, when you are in the right frame of mind. It feels as though the cyclonic energy they normally produce during witching hour cycles right through the floor and the world goes still for a minute.

What is this, I wonder?

A few years ago, a Magpie reader that was participating in a short-lived in-person Magpie book club I hosted with my girlfriend Inslee told us that she had participated in a trippy-sounding meditation practice in which various sounds were played and she absolutely forgot who she was and what she was doing. She could not for the life of her remember what happened during that hour of guided practice, but she emerged wearing serenity. I could not accommodate that level of self-erasure (but what happened in there?!) but there is something about an hour of steam, robe-wearing, and masks that accomplishes something adjacent. A space opens. Something gives way. And whatever it is seems to operate according to laws of conservation: the energy I might otherwise expend rapidly working against the shot clock are instead pocketed for mothering through the toughest hour of the day.

How do you spend time alone in meaningful ways? Do you also use that time to conserve energy for other purposes?

Post Scripts.

+A curious case of mom guilt. Interesting comments on this post.

+Ideas for pampering at home.

+My favorite face masks. I must update this to include Summer Friday’s Jet Lag formula — it’s like sleep in a tube. I know I’m very late to the game on this but it is truly a lovely newcomer.

+On self-care as a mother. Interesting comments on this post, too.

+How do you take care of yourself?

+Finding a tranquil frame of mind.

Shopping Break.

+Oo this Doen top is doing me right.

+I am loving woven mules to wear all summer long: these and these turned my head!

+J. Crew nailed it with this gingham rash guard for a little one. (20% off if you are a cardholder!)

+Another Target slam dunk. (More here.)

+I just reordered more of this delicious spicy margarita salt. It really takes a marg to the next level. I figure I’ll keep one in my gift closet to bring as a hostess gift! I am also intrigued by this spicy everything salt, which I’ve heard is delicious on avocado toast, eggs, bagel and cream cheese, etc!

+Nearly every cocktail we make at home comes from this excellent recipe book. This makes SUCH a good gift for a dude. And then you will be the happy beneficiary 🙂

+Loving these pareos from Tory Burch — two of the patterns are marked down significantly! So chic to layer over our new Maygel Coronel suits.

+One of my girlfriends just bought these heels and I might need to follow suit. I feel like they will be perfect for summer weddings! I’m loving the “puffy footwear” trend — check out these adorable ones from Target!

+I have been eyeing these Naghedi totes so many of you have and love for so long — I think I might take the plunge this summer. They are just so chic for everyday wear! (More bags for the season ahead here.)

+This lilac hemp dress is so different from anything I’ve seen this season. I immediately imagined myself wearing it with clogs for some reason.

+Will be ordering micro these active shorts in the white and/or warm aqua colors.

+These pajamas in the superhero print for mini!!!! (And micro!) Thanks to the Magpie who sent me this — as you know, my girl loves superheroes!

+I cannot even with these Louboutins. I can’t! I have nowhere to wear them but that are absolutely fabulous. And you know how I feel about statement shoes…

+Drawn to these all-white APLs with the little hit of hot pink on the tongue, especially paired with all of the new hot pink pieces from Alo and my favorite tank from Beyond Yoga in the hot pink.

+More spring fitness finds here.

+I know several of you have been wanting to recreate this look from LR but none of us can find the top shown here?! If anyone has intel, please share. The proportions/silhouette of this look is fabulous. In absentia, this Sundry top is pretty good as a replacement.

+My sister has been RAVING about these suits from Hunza G. I know they’ve been popular the last few seasons but her effusiveness on this matter has me considering this ice blue one myself.

+In case you’re going to Disney with littles

+This woven Shoshanna is amazing! Mother’s Day?

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10 thoughts on “How Do You Spend Time Alone?

  1. Catching up on a few posts, but heaaavy endorse for Hunza G! I wore my one piece all last summer & just wore it again this weekend with a small growing bump) on a quick trip to AZ and it’s so chic & malleable & easy to wear. I have a bright blue one, but there was a woman easily 30 years my senior wearing the same one in hot pink poolside next to me! Cannot recommend enough.

  2. This sounds awful and miserably antisocial, but I love (and most days strive) to have lunch alone. I’m a prototypical introvert and work on a squad in a high-paced, public-serving environment; when the second half of my day rolls around and I’m already tired (read: dead exhausted, lately), the only way I’m able to be effective, reliable, and on point is by having that alone time to re-focus and recharge. I’ve also found it helps me enjoy my lunch (and a book) more mindfully.

    In the same way that your (delightful-sounding!) pre-dinner self care gives you the calm confidence to handle the remainder of your evening, I think my time away from the fray and ruckus of my coworkers chattering together in the break room is the refresh I need to source more energy to be there for my squad, our clientele, and after that, my family. Dare I say it – maybe these solo battery recharges can be a preventative measure against burnout in the long run?

    1. I agree that alone time is a preventative measure! I am better in all regards (as a mother, a friend, a creative, etc!) when I’ve had time to myself. I love a solo lunch!


  3. I estimate that I spend 85% of my time alone due to living alone and working from home for the past 2 years, so it’s my default state of being. Last summer, I spent two months living and working at my parent’s house and it was QUITE the change- I often found myself wishing they would just vacate the house for 3-4 hours. Hah. I spent less time alone before the pandemic and I suspect that the past two years have permanently altered my alone time requirements. I needed a good deal before, but now I need a lot.

    1. Such an interesting insight — more alone time made it difficult to do with less, when you might think it’d achieve the opposite (i.e., make you want more companionship). Now that I think about it, I sense that I do have sort of a minimum threshold for alone time each week and when I don’t hit it, I feel out of sorts.


  4. It’s interesting, because I’m a very social person, but I love my alone time. For example, I adore going on big group trips (family vacations, bachelorettes, etc.), but I find that I treasure the alone time when I get home, even if that’s just unpacking and doing laundry by myself. When I’m alone, I love running errands, taking a run, or diving into a new show/movie. I think this preference for a lot of alone time began in law school, when I felt constantly inundated by new information and constantly in competition with colleagues. At that time, going to the grocery store alone and not thinking about school for 30 minutes felt like heaven.
    So, to answer your question, yes, I definitely use my alone time to recharge my social and emotional batteries and to calm my own mind. I’m often surprised when I hear friends that want company just to go to Target or the gas station, but I try to remember it’s just a personality variance. Some people just prefer the company of others, even if they’re sitting in silence, listening to music, or talking casually.

    1. So true — I actually just heard this factoid that doctors noticed some newborn babies will turn their heads towards a sound in the room and others will turn their aheads away from it. The ones who turn towards the sound are almost always extroverts as adults. Isn’t that fascinating? Genes at work?


    1. WOW – great sleuth work!!! I think you are 100% correct. This is helpful because now those of us in search of the top can check eBay for the Peni style. Thank you for sharing this!


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