Mini Mental Vacations For Mom

Taking care of kids all day is a stressful business. I constantly find myself gritting my teeth, biting my tongue, and sighing. Lots of sighing. And while in the end, I do love being with my kids, there are times when all I want is to be by myself for just one minute (like when I go to the bathroom). Thankfully, over the years, I’ve stumbled upon a handful of strategies that allow me to relax amidst the chaos. I like to call them my mini mental vacations. Here they are:

Call a friend. Whenever I feel like I am reaching a breaking point, my instinct it to call a friend. “There’s poop in my hair right now and I only slept for one hour last night. Call me,” I’ll say in a voicemail message. And, inevitably, after talking with my friend, I’ll feel better. Maybe I’ll find out she has poop in her hair, too. Or maybe she’ll just remind me that tomorrow is a new day. Or we’ll chat about the TV show we both like to watch. Whatever it is, it will remind me that I am an adult with things to think about besides picking up crumbs. Sure…I still have to pick up crumbs. But I can talk on the phone about “The Bachelorette” while I do it.

Mentally remove yourself from tantrums. There’s nothing worse than when your kid’s tantrum becomes your tantrum. Like when you give your toddler a peeled banana, and they give it back to you and demand an unpeeled banana, and you inform them there are no other bananas, and then they go bananas, and then you find yourself saying something like: “Fine, then I’ll eat the banana!” And then shoving it in your face. But just because your kid is freaking out, doesn’t mean you have to. The next time you’re faced with a tantrum, try using it as opportunity to do a meditation of sorts. Take a deep breath and mentally remove yourself from the situation. Tell yourself something like: “This doesn’t concern me—he has to work it out himself,” and focus your energy elsewhere (like making a cup of tea to go with your banana). Usually, after crying or whining a bit, I find my son will move onto something else much more quickly than if I had gotten involved. The point is, sometimes the best response is no response. Is this really a vacation? No. But, it is liberating to disengage yourself from situations you have little control over.

Blast some music you like. I used to love discovering new music and would spend hours browsing record stores. But since I’ve had kids, I barely listen to music I like anymore. It’s gotten so bad that when I drive in the car by myself, I find myself rocking out to kid’s songs simply because that’s what’s playing in the CD player. It just doesn’t occur to me to switch to something else. “Hello, everybody…it’s so good to see you!” I’ll croon to my fellow drivers as I drive to Whole Foods (I’ll admit it: Music Together’s signature song is pretty catchy—especially the “Bongos” version). Still, whenever I do make the effort to listen to my favorite music, it makes me really happy. Lately, I’ve been breaking out old CDs of mine and downloading stuff I like off of iTunes rather than automatically listening to songs about donkeys and platypuses. “Mommy and her friends made up a dance routine to this song in high school…wanna see it?” I’ll ask my kids as they sit in their chairs at breakfast. They’ll stare at me as I throw my hands in the air and stuff blueberries in their mouths while I do a little shimmy. I think they like it. I know I do.

Make a cup of coffee. When my energy dips to an unbearably low level in the late afternoon, I crave a cup of coffee. It would be nice to run to Starbucks for a latte, but I can’t always justify the trip: any caffeine kick I’d get is inevitably cancelled out by my exhaustion from travelling to and from there with kids. I always make a cup of coffee in the morning, but only recently did it occur to me that: “Hey, I can do this in the afternoon too.”Making a cup of coffee takes time. You’ve got to pour the water, grind the beans, listen to the drippity-drop. It can definitely be a little vacation. So now I give myself a coffee break in the afternoon. The kids sense I am doing grown-up business–this is a hot drink, after all, that comes out of a machine–so they leave me alone for a minute. And the house smells good. Add in a little vanilla creamer, and I am a happy lady.

Go for a stroller walk. Walking is proven to be beneficial both physically and emotionally, and I find that this is especially true when you are an overwhelmed mom who hasn’t showered for two days and has nothing nice left to say. Going for a walk can lift your spirits. It can remind you there is more to life than the craziness inside your house. It’s also a little break from the kids. Sure, they are still with you. But they are strapped into a stroller and cannot escape. If they are tired or have a snack, they may even be quiet for a while. When you just need a break, try going for a walk. If you’re like me, it might end up being the best part of your day.

Leah Black is the former executive editor of New York Family. She and her husband are the proud parents of Avi and Lily.

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