Having a break does not mean we love our kids any less... it just means that we are human.
My son is just shy of five months old. He spends Monday with Nanna, Wednesday night with Grandma, Friday with Grandma, and Saturday night with Nanna and Pop.
I use this time for respite in order to do the things I enjoy or to catch up on some sleep or housework, and I often feel guilty for it. Then I question why do I feel guilty? Honestly, why do we feel guilty for admitting that we need a break?
There are many positive aspects of having a break, and having a break does not mean we love our kids any less. It just means that we are human and it’s hard work to look after another little human 24/7. It’s time we stop feeling ashamed for accepting help.
1. Time off is refreshing.
Being a full-time parent is exhausting, particularly in the early months, and it’s hard to give our best to our children when all we want to do is crawl back into bed for an extra hour. Having a break allows us to rest, and being rested means we have more energy to give our children everything they need from us.
When you’re rested, you’re more capable of picking up on your child’s subtle cues and better able to respond to their needs.
2. Time with family is healthy.
That break you feel guilty for having is actually a chance for your child to spend quality time with important people in his life. It will strengthen his bond with the other people in his immediate circle, and it will teach him that he can cope if you’re not around.
If you’re afraid of damaging your bond with your child, don’t be. Your child still knows who you are and will always love you most of all, but it’s a break for them too. They get to spend time with other people instead of being around Mummy all the time, and then they get to enjoy the feeling of coming home to Mummy when the time is up.
3. You’re at your best when you have an identity.
Taking time off to pursue your interests will prevent you from identifying solely as a mother. We love our children, but there is more to our identity than chief bum wiper and food bringer.
It is healthy for your child to see you having interests and hobbies, it will teach them a life lesson about how one part of our identity does not define our complete identity, and that you can give everything to certain aspects like motherhood without losing yourself in the process.
It will also help prevent resentment. Some mothers find that the loss of a separate identity leads them to resent their children, and this is not healthy. Having time out will help you find the perfect balance between your responsibilities and yourself.
4. A tired Mummy is not ideal.
We’re all capable of burnout if we don’t have a break. Name any other job where you are on-call 24/7 for 18 years straight with no break. My guess is you won’t be able to think of one; every other job schedules holidays and daily hour limits to prevent burnout, because humans are hardwired to require “off” time.
Think back to the old days; children were raised by families, and it worked. It was completely normal for a child to stay at Grandma’s house once or twice a week, and to go visit aunties and uncles while Mummy did the shopping. It was completely normal then, and it’s completely normal now.
The only difference between then and now is the media-induced concept of the “super-Mum” who does it day in and day out and never looks tired. That is just not realistic. Humans are social by nature, and it’s time we remember that it’s okay to share the load.
5. Needing time off does not mean you don’t love your children.
Whether you go to a day spa or just curl up on the couch with a good book, looking after yourself is the best way to show your love to your children. Not only will you be refreshed when you have them back, you’ll also be setting a good example about self-care that will help your children to look after themselves.
Children learn by example, and this is a good way to teach them how to balance their responsibilities and their leisure time.
Don’t feel bad for needing a break. You’re doing fine!