Take More Breaks!
Ever feel like you’re being pulled in all directions by everyone and everything? At the risk of looking like a blatant panderer, and making my wife roll her terrible eyes in irony (they’re not really terrible – it’s a Maurice Sendak reference sheesh), I am writing this blog to encourage all parents – especially moms, to take more breaks.
You know about my good friends Merriam and Webster? (my only friends at this point) Let’s see what they have to say about the word “take”:
“To get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control. To seize or capture physically. To indulge in and enjoy.”
Please note the operative words “seize, capture, possess.” What? Did you think anyone in your life who will be effected by you taking a break would be delighted to allow it? You’ve been watching too much “Parenthood” and not enough reality. Look, it’s called “take” for a reason. I know, you want to please everyone and fix everything – start with pleasing and fixing yourself. When you ask for one, offer one. When someone else asks for one, ask for one back. (I’m really not going to have anymore male friends).
I know some of you are saying your children won’t let you. I’m not buying it. Here’s the plan:
1. First and foremost, engage deeply with them when you have the time and energy (i.e., put away distractions, i.e. your phone)(now you hate me too). If you do that, they will be more apt to listen to you in general and more willing to allow a break. Most importantly, you will be less guilty about taking one!
2. Tell them kindly that you have some things to do (don’t tell them you need a break from them)(even though it’s true) and let them know what they can do. Give them two or three choices.
3. Give them something to look forward to afterward (dinner, books, park, errands, anything concrete) and an idea of how long it will be.
Be realistic with younger ones. They won’t last very long at first, but practice makes perfect. It’s all about believing in them and encouraging them. And yes, engaging with them after the break, but you’ll be ready for some “them-time” after you’ve had some “me-time.” Even little mini-breaks throughout the day are good for you and your children.
Let me re-iterate the “be realistic” aspect of all this. Younger children won’t be able to entertain themselves for very long. But practice makes perfect. Give them toys and materials that engage their minds and invite their hands to create. It’s good for their independence to spend time alone and learn to entertain themselves. If you get them used to it and make it an expectation, they will adapt. Think of encouraging their independence as enhancing their emotional and cognitive development. For as Confucius himself once observed, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
This past weekend I was coming home on Bart, a father sat quietly reading “The Help” while his two-and-a-half year old son sat in his stroller, looking around at people and sights flying by. He didn’t need anyone or anything. That right there is called a break. Work it into the daily routine. Call it “quiet-time”,“down-time”, “rest-time” or “half-time.” You can call me Al, just call it.
Wanna Get Away?
Seriously. Seize more breaks. You’ll be a better parent and a better person. Isn’t that what this is all about? The more breaks you capture, the less you’ll show your terrible claws and gnash your terrible teeth. Break me off piece of that Kit-kat bar. It will re-energize your love and commitment to your children.
Really, get away. Bags fly free. If you have positive, loving thoughts of your children – enjoy. If you start worrying, file it away for another time to brainstorm solutions. Breaks sharpen your mind – more than ginseng. Heck, double your pleasure and sup ginseng tea on your break. Who knows, you may even be able to form a sentence that doesn’t have “spill, bite, or diaper” in it!
You need it. What’s more you deserve it. Take one before you break.
(Just don’t say I told you to and don’t tell my wife.)
P.S.- If you live here in the Bay Area and you want a real break, check out Bloom Retreat in Walnut Creek! It is a place where mothers and pregnant women can retreat from the daily stresses of motherhood and take a break, relax, feel better, and connect.