How easy is it for you to unplug from your parenting tasks? Do you take intermittent breaks to refresh and refuel? Even when we know it is important, it can be difficult to take the time we need to step away and take a break. We may feel overcome with the worries of how things might run in our absence. Perhaps we feel the anxiety of trying to prepare or plan the time away. Despite either of these, it is important to realize that time away helps bring fresh energy and life back into our tired souls and helps us parent even better. So, it truly is worth it!
While debating the topic of this week’s blog article, I was managing my own anxiety over time away. So, it felt like a perfect opportunity to tackle the issue. After all, I’m in this parenting journey with you! And the struggle can be real, whether it is for a few moments of solitude in a day, some alone time during the week, or vacation time away.
My husband recently got a business bonus. We have talked and dreamed of going to Mexico for 18 years. The two of us have not gone away on a trip with just the two of us for nearly 15 years. So, on the heels of what has been a very tough season in our life, my sweet husband decided that he would use this bonus money to take me to Mexico. I’m simply thrilled! I have never been to Mexico and have no idea what to expect. But it will be fun to get away just the two of us! (We may not know what to do at this resort with no kids around! Whose meat will we cut? Can we take anyone to the bathroom? What do you mean, a vacation with no spills?!)
Now you can imagine what the task of mothering six kids still at home might entail. Planning a trip and working out the logistics of being away can be a bit intimidating. And I would be lying to say I haven’t had some sleepless nights as I prepare. So how do we go about unplugging and recharging without guilt or anxiety?
These are some things I have learned over the course of the last 20 years and leading up to this upcoming vacation. Maybe passing these tips on to you will help you learn them faster than I did!
Learn to be comfortable with time away.
It sounds simple, but it took me a long time to learn this one! I remember one stretch of mothering, where I hadn’t gone anywhere or done anything without a child along for 18 months! That’s crazy! No matter how much you love your parenting job, it is important to get a little air apart from the usual tasks and responsibilities.
Why had it been so long? There were a couple of reasons. Number one, my husband was a bit uncomfortable with the high need baby. And number two, I was uneasy about how things would go if I wasn’t there.
Parenting is a team effort. It is important to gain trust in each other. Sometimes an uncomfortable parent will only learn to get more comfortable by having those chances to take the lead. We can easily rob the other of those opportunities to gain some confidence and ease the burden of the one doing the primary care.
So, whether it is a challenge for you to take a few hours, a night, or a weekend, I encourage you to give it a try and get more comfortable.
Plan time on a regular basis.
We can get so busy in our parenting routine that we just keep going. We feel worn out and weary, and our parenting starts to show it, but we keep going and sometimes to the point of exhaustion. So, one way we can avoid this, and get more comfortable with time away, is to just plan it into our schedule.
One of the questions I get asked most as a mom of seven….”How do you get time for yourself?” And that, unfortunately, is one of the hardest lessons I have learned in parenting.
I have loved mothering. I thoroughly enjoyed all the baby years. And truth be known, I honestly enjoy being with my kids. But even so, I still need some time away. At times I may have overlooked that. And other times, it has felt painfully clear.
I also have to admit that until I started planning some small amounts of time routinely, it was difficult to see through. In the last year and a half, my husband has also grown to understand how regular time truly energizes me. And I think even he would say it is well worth it.
Ask for what you need.
I can remember well those early days with newborns. There were times I just needed my husband to be eyes on a baby/toddler combination so I could feel like it was safe to shower! He wouldn’t necessarily understand that stress, as it didn’t usually affect him the same way.
I can remember other seasons, where a great deal of my time would go into diapering, cleaning up messes, helping, training, disciplining, and nurturing all day long. By the end of the day, I would feel like my brain was a bit fried. I remember dreadfully desiring adult conversation. My husband, since working with other adults in the day, may not have known that feeling like I did.
Whether it is adult conversation, extra eyes, another set of hands, or simple alone time in the shower…you might have to specifically identify and ask for what you need. It is easy to think that others and especially our spouse should or could anticipate our needs. And that just isn’t realistic. It can leave us feeling disappointed or let down when it doesn’t happen, when the needs aren’t met.
Understand your changing needs.
Our needs for time can differ in various stages of parenting. I remember during potty training days, just needing someone else to man the potty trips for a couple of hours so I could think about something other than potty or poo!
I know there have been seasons in following numerous kids’ sporting events, that I just needed an activity or outing that didn’t revolve around kids’ sports.
In the season of parenting three teens, I just sometimes need to escape a bit and have some laughs with a friend. I can start to feel a bit “uncool” or “unfun” but some simple friend time has me laughing and remember the lighter sides of life. And when I go home to the teen issues, I am armed with a much better sense of humor!
Twenty years into parenting and with our youngest getting close to school age, I am starting to find those small chunks of time that I can start committing to my interests and passions. I love writing. So sometimes, my time away is quiet time in a hotel room writing my book or sitting in a Starbucks writing.Distinct seasons may bring about your need for friend time, alone time, date nights, hobby time, or just time to rest, relax, or catch up on sleep. You might even need to take just a quiet moment or two to figure out what your needs might be. Click & Tweet!
Set aside the guilt.
Once we have decided to take some time away, and maybe even taken the risk of planning or executing that, a strange thing can happen. We can start hearing this nagging voice in our minds that tries to tell us that we don’t deserve it, that it is selfish, or that we should be good enough parents that we don’t need it. But those are all faulty thoughts!
There is nothing selfish about taking some time to refresh and refuel. Learning to maximize those moments can help us to refocus, seek clarity, or enjoy some calm. And these moments lead to a heart and mind that is better able to exercise patience, peace, grace, and joy. And when we can do that, we are better parents in the process.
We may fear what others will say, think, or judge about us for taking these breaks or time away. But truly, it is one of those times in parenting when we have to be clear for ourselves of our motives and intentions and not be swayed by other’s opinions. And truth be known, others would probably offer more support and understanding than you might ever imagine.
So, what might be keeping you from taking some necessary time away? What kind of time are you most in need or, short but consistent breaks, intermittent but longer time, or a true vacation?
Maybe this is a good time to self-evaluate but then also start a discussion with a spouse or supportive family member. You might even be surprised by what your spouse or support person might add to the conversation.
In preparing for this trip away, I was told by some of my supportive family and friends that they were glad I was getting away. That helped extinguish some of my fears. They offered reassurance and support that I should take time to invest in our marriage and get a break from some of the parenting challenges that take a lot of ongoing energy. Those simple words of support were a true gift.
I encourage you to use the discussion starter questions in this week’s download to spend some time thinking through these issues. If you aren’t subscribed yet to receive the free resources, click here to sign up. And then why not take that next step toward finding that necessary time you need to refresh and refocus. Take a step in the right direction as a parent!
Let’s do this!
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