Relax Mom: 5 Reasons to Take a Break Already

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Moms worry about being the best at everything. We want to be the best mom that makes the best Bento Box lunches and snaps the best Instagram photos of the best Pinterest parties for our best dressed, best behaved kids who think we’re the best. I know we do it all for our kids, but we need to stop worrying about being the best for them and take a moment to ourselves.

We need to do more things just for us. We need to make being away from our kids a priority at times and stop foregoing our needs and wants for the wants of everyone else. Instead of martyring ourselves by falling on the sword of perfect mommyhood, we need to pick our battles and accept our limitations in order to win the war. I’m not sure what the war is against exactly. It’s probably a war against Universal Entropy trying to snatch away our precious cherubs and turn them into 37-year-old slobs playing video games in our basements for the rest of eternity. But I tell you, as counter-intuitive as it seems, taking a break will actually make us better.

Here’s why:

Because we are wearing ourselves thin. We are running ourselves ragged. We are operating under the delusion that if we give all of ourselves up for the sake of our offspring, we somehow love them more and they will turn out better and need less therapy. But it’s not true. We’ve all heard the analogy that you need to fill up your own bucket before you can give anything to anyone else. Well that is true. If you are overtired and hangry and frumpy and miserable, you’re no good to anyone, least of all your children.

Because you deserve it. If your kids deserve every happiness life has to offer, don’t you as well? My children bring me immense joy. But they bring me MORE joy when I’ve had a little break to think my own thoughts and speak like an adult and do an activity that doesn’t involve any mentions of ponies, Pokemon, pimples or pee.

Because your family will survive your absence for a little while. Let’s assume your partner is a good, capable, loving person. They can survive without you for a bit. My kids LOVE daddy time. And if he doesn’t take care of the brood and the nest the way I would, all the better. A dad’s method of parenting is its own glory to behold.

Because you are setting an example of healthy behavior for your children. You don’t want to raise sweet little angels who grow up to be codependent pushovers. You want your kids to leave the house as kind, empathetic, productive, assertive, healthy adults. Lead by example.

Because children like a little autonomy anyway. Even if they complain about it, they thrive with a little responsibility. My teen boys are a great babysitting team. One plays with the baby while the other makes hot pockets for dinner. As a reward they get paid more allowance, learn life skills, and get to play video games while I’m gone (as long as the baby lets them).

Here’s how:

Take a nap. Take a night off.  Take a weekend away. Make arrangements for your kids. Your husband or mother or best friend or babysitter or older kids are all perfectly  capable of watching your kids for awhile, and what they can’t handle they’ll call someone for help with. If there’s an emergency they’ll call you, so if you don’t hear from them, you know you can relax.

If you’re starved for alone time but can manage nothing more, hide in the bathroom a little longer, wake up an hour earlier or stay up and hour later. Or if you’re needing sleep, go to bed a little early. Nap while the kids are at school. Have your partner do just one midnight feeding so you can get a solid 5 hours. Pay attention to what you need, try to get it, and ask for help. You can even swap with other moms. You know you’d be willing to help a girl out when she needed a break, and your friends would most likely do that for you too. You’ll come back refreshed, rested and ready to face those responsibilities with renewed energy. I am much more capable of forming a coherent thought, not to mention sentence, once I’ve had some time to think by myself for even 10 minutes. And the ability to do so makes me a much more effective human and definitely a more patient and loving mother.

Here’s when:

Whenever you feel yourself going crazy. When you are chronically sleep-deprived, when the tensions are rising and your anxiety level skyrockets, when you spiral into depression and you know that you Just. Can’t. Even.

As moms we can’t just pick up and leave at the slightest whim.  But having something to look forward to, a light at the end of a sometimes really dark tunnel can give us the strength to persevere through one more poopy diaper from a toddler or one more argument from a teenager.

If there’s anything standing in your way, I just hope it’s not guilt. I know, I know, I struggle with it too. But I also know that this will help you. Sure, it requires creativity, but it’s necessary. If your husband is not keen on the idea of holding down the fort without you, remind him about how much more relaxed and happy his wife will be *hint hint* when she returns. If you have no money to go out and do something fun, bring your coffee or hot chocolate or diet Dr. Pepper and sit in the car in the Target parking lot until 2 a.m. doing crossword puzzles (true story).

Let go of the anxious, guilt-laden lies in your head that tell you you’re a bad mom for not wanting to be with your kids 24-7. Let go of the notion that you can do it all and be it all to everyone always and that you shouldn’t need anything because you’re a giver and it’s selfish to take care of yourself. Go ahead, take a break. If it makes you feel better to tell people that I MADE you do it, then feel free. I’ll take the blame if all hell breaks loose while you’re gone and your kids end up needing life-long therapy. But trust me on this, everything will be fine. You got this. And you’re welcome

Wife of 17 years. Mom of 5 kids. Mormon my whole life. Talents include cracking myself up and excelling at mediocrity.