Every parent needs a break–from grabbing a kid-free lunch to a quick walk around the block to a hotel night stay. Date night is the most common advice for the overwhelmed mom.
I’ve heeded this advice, especially as a way to give ME the time-out I needed before a mommy meltdown.
Except… this solution isn’t sustainable. What’s the typical scene after a date night? I’m relishing the amazing dinner I just had, heading back home, maybe even feeling rested and replenished… only to open the door and realize it’s back to the grind.
Because there’s no quitting in motherhood. Anything else in life–a difficult hobby, a stressful job, or even a toxic relationship—we can quit. Feel like sleeping in and not working out? Sure. But that won’t happen when my kids are clamoring for breakfast.
Day in and day out—for years—it’ll be like this. And it can be overwhelming, if not downright depressing, when I’m struggling with the obstacles.
Sometimes I’ve wondered, what have I gotten myself into? Who was I kidding, thinking I could handle this? And I cringe when I think about the days of my old life, when I wasn’t sleep deprived or didn’t dread another tantrum in public.
It’s hard being a mom:
When it takes three months to finally get around to buying makeup at the mall.
When my day revolves around nap times.
When my husband and I are up every few hours tending to three sick children.
Date nights or leaving the kids with a sitter are great, but they don’t always solve the problem of feeling overwhelmed with motherhood. Because the problem with taking temporary breaks is… they’re temporary. They tease you into thinking you can eat at a restaurant and actually enjoy every bite only to remind you that in about two hours, you’re probably not going to do that again for a long while. You go home and feel tethered to your kids again and life can’t be normal until they’re older. (And who knows what challenges will happen then?)
Sometimes we need something more than the afternoon off to feel like we have “a life” again.
So when date nights aren’t working, I do one simple thing:
I involve the kids in my life.
I remember the first time I felt life resume its normalcy: I was sitting in a crepe restaurant with my then-infant son, waiting for my order. It was a daring endeavor: until that point, I had hesitated even bringing him out, and the thought of waiting in a restaurant freaked me out, fearing diaper explosions or an inconsolable baby (with others’ irritated dagger eyes aimed right at me).
But that day, I decided to make a quick stop at a crepe restaurant. I would order something to go, even with baby in tow. And guess what: he sat on my lap, curious as can be, without giving me any problems.
“I can do this,” I thought.
When I feel like I can’t do anything because of the kids, I find one activity—one level up from my comfort zone—and just do it.
I do my best to prepare: I pack the bag with snacks, toys, diapers, wipes—anything I’ll need to make the outing a success (or at least prevent a disaster). And I keep it simple and try not to overestimate my kids’ threshold (like staying out for a long time).
Each time I do this, I realize I can have a life with kids. And perhaps more importantly, challenging myself raises my confidence and makes me feel strong enough to do nearly anything.
With each challenge, I grow into my role, gaining experience and confidence as I go along. I begin to learn the best way to avert a tantrum and how to combine errands with fun kid-related activities.
It’s not just outings. In the past, I’d cook after the kids were asleep, afraid of the chaos if I so much as step into the kitchen for a minute. Now, I cook and clean while they’re awake: I cook quick recipes and the kids play in the kitchen, and life feels normal since I can still get things done even with the kids around.
And it’s not just errands, either. Something as simple as being able to read a book while the kids are playing can be all I need to keep from feeling that life isn’t on pause until they’re asleep (or 18).
My kids are my world. But that doesn’t mean everything else is shoved to the back. By involving the kids in activities I enjoy or need to do, my life has become more normal again.
What activities do you with your kids in tow?
Nina Garcia is a working mom to three boys—a five year old and toddler twins. She blogs at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she’s learning about being a mom.
Photo: Dmitry Boyarin