This past weekend, my husband and I spent a kid-free weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday about an hour from our house. My mom was with my kids, so I could leave knowing they were safe, happy and probably a little bit spoiled, Grandma-style. I left happy knowing my kids were happy. But I also left happy because I needed a break from motherhood. And admitting I needed a break from being a mom is a feeling I’ve taken a long time to admit I had.
Back when I was up all night holding a crying baby whom I didn’t know how to get to sleep, I thought motherhood couldn’t get any more difficult than that sleepless, endless moment. There were times when I thought I couldn’t endure one more sleepless night, temper tantrum or unsoothable teething baby. But I had a sense there was an end in sight. Even as a first-time mom, I knew eventually my baby would sleep, those nagging teeth would come in and the temper tantrums would settle in reason and maturity.
But as any mom of an elementary school child knows, parenting bigger kids is far more emotionally draining than one might expect, especially for moms. That’s because as a mom, I am my children’s due north. I am their compass, their safe spot, the metric from which they measure life.
Whether I like it or not, I am their safe haven for their breakdowns, worries, fears, bad moods, disappointments, friendship issues, self-doubt and homework battles. In other words, I am my children’s safe place to dump all their emotions, good and bad, which often ends in a “I hate you mom” or “You just don’t understand.”
It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable admitting to myself that I sometimes need an out
If you’ve been there, you know that being on the tail end of a child’s emotions is incredibly draining. All you can do is receive without reacting. There's no room for your feelings nor is there an outlet for you to unload. Moms are relentlessly there for our children, even when they hate us. And so it makes perfect sense that any sane person would sometimes want to escape.
This past weekend, there wasn’t a mom in attendance who didn’t say she dreamt of the much-needed break. And with each sigh of relief, there was a little bit of shame that came with the confession. Each one of us felt some sense of guilt for sometimes needing a mom pause, which we so rarely get.
It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable admitting to myself that I sometimes need an out, but I’ve found taking breaks has actually made me a better mom when I am with my kids.
There's no job other than motherhood with no vacation time, weekends or breaks. So, since motherhood doesn’t come with an HR department and benefits package, there’s nothing wrong with creating one for your self.
What does that mean? That means having someone you can unload to whether that be a therapist or a trusted friend. That means getting away sometimes without the kids. That means knowing your limits and having a plan in place so you don’t have to be pushed past them. And, that means knowing that you are not alone in needing an escape and that every other mom is right there with you.
And we are.