How to Get a Break This Holiday Season

How to Get a BreakI know the feeling of being at breaking point. I’ve had three children in four years. Our budget is tight and can’t afford childcare for the sake of self-care. I’ve worked a full-time job with on-site on-call hours as well as stayed at home with the children. I’ll note I do not have to manage additional challenges of a partner away for long periods, being a single mother, or behavioral, physical, or other particular attributes that some parents must balance in caring for their children. Here’s what has helped me find breaks, sometimes just five minutes in the day, and sometimes more.

Get off Facebook or whatever your social app of choice is. Social media and apps are a great resource as long as they add to your life. Checking for the umpteenth time if I received an email or looking every time my phone dings with a notification wastes time I could use getting a few minutes of solace. When I discipline myself to check my email minimally (maybe once a day or once an hour, depending on your work and situation), I somehow find a half-hour a day because of the five minutes here and there I save. Delete the app, limit the notifications, or simply put your computer and smart devices away for periods of the day to give yourself some space to breathe.

Write down your gratitude. Keep track of when you do get a break. I get more moments to myself than I realize. This is not to say I don’t deserve them, nor is it to deny that I may need more. Somehow, though, being aware of my time allows me to really feel the reprieve those breaks offer, even in retrospect. I keep track of the moments as the day passes. Try on a post it or in your planner or whatever system works for you. At least use a few slow moments of the day or in the evening to reflect back. This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. Write down a word or phrase (e.g., “all napped at same time” or “15 minutes of quiet Legos”).

Reassess expectations. Figure out what you really need to find a little peace to really get your break. My oldest can help fold or put away the clothes, even though the result is a tad wrinkled, and the toys don’t have to be separated and stored exactly as I’d like so long as they are mostly put away. Also reassess what a break means. Can it be just 2 minutes of quiet? Does it need to be two hours completely away? Likely it’s both, sprinkled throughout the week.

Figure out what pushes your buttons. You can make the most of your break if you understand what you need a break from. My children can be around all day and I’m fine but them sitting on me, or breathing on me, really taxes my need for space. I also ask for “breaks” from requests. I don’t approach the kitchen until a certain time, so they are learning to wait until I’m ready for breakfast requests. Lunch is served at a certain time. This cuts down on the endless requests for food and snacks through the day. You can also put approved snacks within reach of little ones for self-service. Once you know what you need, you are better equipped to get it.

Reach out, and be direct about your needs. I do not claim to know your relationship with your partner, friends, or parents. Given your particulars, speak honestly and clearly about your need. Speaking passively or generally may not prove as effective as speaking clearly. For example:

“I’m so tired!”

Versus

 “Grandma, I’m exhausted with all the sleepless nights from infant teething. Do you have a day coming up when you could watch the kiddos for a few hours?”

Take what’s offered. Even if it’s not exactly what you want, accept it. If you just can’t bear to put your children in someone else’s care, stay home but go in the other room. If your children still come to you, put up a gate, put in earplugs, and let go or take a walk around the block. For me, leaving the kids at home with my hubby means coming home to a messy kitchen or living room, which is more stressful than not getting time alone. So I prefer they go on an adventure to the park. You can also voice how the messy kitchen doesn’t really give you a break, or have them clean up once you return. You can also just accept that whoever offers the help—hubby, parent, friend, church lady—may not be the finely tuned multi-tasking machine that you are. If getting a free hour or two means cleaning up a little extra later, it may be worth it to you.

Let go. You cannot have the space, break, or reprieve if you’re unwilling to let go. I can’t need the break but also need everything to be exactly as I would do it. Someone may pout for a little while, the shirts may not be folded as you would like, or they might get a greasy dinner instead of the well-balanced meal you would provide. If you want a break, you have to actually take a break. Enjoy it.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 7 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Tags: infant, mental health, parenting, preschooler, social media, toddler, wellbeing

Comments are closed.