Taking a break from your kids sounds bad, right? Like it’s not something you should admit wanting, or needing as a Mom. The two parts of ourselves pull against each other — the one desperate for grown-up time and the other desperate to be a “good” parent.
But here’s the truth: wanting and taking time away from your kids is not only normal, it’s healthy. Here’s why.
Parent burnout is very real, which I’m certain you are intimately familiar with after a year of Covid and being required to literally be all things to your children. Humans simply aren’t made or able to meet every need of any other human — including our kids. And to do it in isolation? It’s not a realistic or reasonable expectation.
Let’s take a closer look at what happens when you move into burnout. Psychology Today summarizes the common symptoms:
“Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.”
Sound familiar? It does to me, and I know my clients and I have felt all of these things at some point in the last year. If we can agree that we are burned out, and if we understand that this leads to feelings of detachment and emotional exhaustion, then we can see that taking time for ourselves is actually an essential part of being a good parent.
How Taking a Break from Your Kid Benefits You
I’m sure most of these are obvious, but I’m going to remind you anyway, because we’ve all been through a lot and sometimes it’s good to see these things in black and white.
- Time away from your kids allows you to simply focus on yourself. Your stress level immediately dropped at least fifty percent because the only person you have to think about for this time is yourself. Remember her? She’s pretty incredible and needs some attention too.
- Doing things you love energizes you. After being constantly depleted for over a year now, my guess is that your energy levels are critically low — physically, mentally, and emotionally. An afternoon with a glass of wine and a dozen oysters over a good book can do wonders for your ability to feel human again.
- You get to reconnect with the part of you who isn’t Mommy. Remember the woman you were before you had kids? She’s still there, is still awesome, and two things can be true at the same time: We can love being a mom and love connecting with the part of our identity that isn’t mom: wine lover, artist, dancer, CEO … all of us are more than one thing, and each part deserves our attention.
My guess is that something is stirring inside you, the part that craves some time away from your kids. And I’m also guessing guilt is hot on its heels. That’s why it’s important to understand why taking time for yourself will benefit your kids too.
Why It’s Also Good for Your Kids
Though your kids may not love the idea of you taking a break (particularly the little ones), they’ll actually gain some really important things from that time apart.
- Time away from you allows them to establish trusting relationships with other adults. Creating healthy attachments to other adults is essential to their development. They need to know that they can be safe — and have fun with — other adults as they move around this world. It helps the transition into school and into other activities much easier if they learn that other adults can be trusted too.
- It allows them to develop more of a relationship with the secondary parent. If you are in a family where you shoulder the bulk of parenting responsibilities, taking time for yourself gives the other parent or caregiver the chance to establish their own relationship with your kids and deepen those ties.
- It allows them to build independence. We know that one of our jobs as a parent is to teach them how to be an adult, a big part of which is learning to problem-solve and make decisions on our own. Fostering age-appropriate independence in our kids helps them build their confidence and sense of agency in their lives — which make them healthier and happier. Time away from you gives them the opportunity to build these skills in a safe environment.
A Few Ideas to Get You Started
While a weekend at the beach or the spa sounds like a divine way to take a break from your kids, that might not be realistic for everyone (but if you can, definitely, definitely go for it), so here are a few simple ideas that most of us can incorporate into our schedules.
- Nap time should be for you. I know, don’t yell at me. Nap time is obviously a very helpful time to get things done, but you are not a machine. You can’t just be on from dawn til dusk. So my recommendation is choosing a few days a week when nap times are productive, and days when they are not. For example, maybe Tuesday’s and Friday’s are rest days, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are for laundry, cooking, etc.
- Take a walk with your girlfriend. If you have littles in strollers, coordinate it around their nap time so you can get some fresh air and uninterrupted conversation with a friend. Exercise, sunshine, and adult interaction = win-win-win.
- Spend an afternoon all to yourself. Ask for your significant other, child care provider or a friend who you trade child-watching responsibilities with to take over for an afternoon. Set a timer and do not come home before then… commit to spending time shopping, a meal alone, visiting a museum … it’s entirely up to you. Just do not listen to the voices that tell you to come home sooner.
It’s hard to convince yourself, but you can swing at least one of these things, and I’d suggest you actually schedule these times away from your kids in your calendar on a regular basis. Even the promise of time to yourself on the horizon can be enough to boost your mood and help you power through tonight’s bedtime routine.
No matter what you choose, please prioritize your own wellbeing because you’re a great mom.