Saturday, October 19, 2019

It's Okay To Tell Your Kids You Need A Break From Them

What happens when I don't get a moment or two to myself. Read on to find out how I get time to address my own thoughts in this crazy parenting world.

I use several sentences with my children that serve as warnings to them:

"I need space right now."
"I need to not be around you right now."
"I love you, but I'm frustrated and I need a break from you."

At ages eleven, nine, and seven, they have learned to listen to those sentences. When they were babies and toddlers the days were long with very little time for mental breaks. As with anyone raising kids closely in age, or raising kids in general, it's tough to keep your shit together. I remember plenty of evenings running from our house so I could get to the solitude of my own thoughts as I roamed the aisles of Target. I didn't have much of a choice to wait for my breaks, but that also meant I was at my own breaking point.

I never once hid the fact that I needed breaks from my children. However, I also tended to wait until I lost my shit, or was about to. I am constantly reminding my children to stop, take a breath, take a break, and then communicate why you're frustrated. I tell them to find a quiet spot or do something that calms them and makes them happy before they lose it. I realized I needed to listen to my own advice. I wasn't leading by example (which is an important part of my parenting model).

I put my newfound realization to use. I would tell my children I needed a break from them. But you know how children are. I'd try to catch my break only to have them follow me. I had to re-think how I was telling them. I couldn't just simply tell them I needed a break or they'd "take a break with you mom." I needed them to understand why I was taking the break....and find a nice way of telling them they were making me lose my freaking mind.

I've always been open with my children about pretty much everything. However, I very much realize it's frowned upon to tell your children they're anything less than magical, sparkly human beings. There seems to be this unspoken rule of motherhood that we're suppose to take the mental beatings and just deal with it. We're supposed to make ourselves feel better with shopping, or a pint of ice cream and a romantic movie, or a massage, or a drink, or a night out with friends. But to be honest, I do most of those things for myself anyways. I NEEDED for my children to know when I have had it in the moment.

So, I began telling them they were pissing me off (in nicer terms...most of the time) and I needed time away from them. The above mentioned are my three go-to lines that signal my children to let me take a shower alone or not to test my patience anymore. As I've spent the better part of two years taking plenty of breaks from them, I realized that this method is working. For all of us. It's been perfectly fine, no great, to tell my children that I'm frustrated with them, their behavior, something they are doing or have done, or just parenting in general. They know how I'm feeling and in return, much more aware of my feelings and more open about what they need in the moment.

I never worried that this would make my children feel less loved or special (as a fellow momma was worried about and voiced her concern amid my eye roll to her). I put their (mental, emotion, and overall) health and mine a top priority. I learned early in motherhood that you do what you have to do to keep your sanity, even doing all of those never-do's you had before your parenting journey began. If it makes life easier and teaches your children, then it's game on. My children have never once questioned if I still loved them as I told them they needed to get away and give me space for a few minutes. Overall, it's helped keep me calmer and has helped them voice when they too need a break from me. It's far from a cure for their meltdowns and tears, but it's certainly helped them in identifying their emotions and when they need a "calm down." 

It's important that children see that their parents (and other adults in their lives) have emotions too--just as big as their's. It's also important they learn different emotions and how to deal with them--their's and other's. I like to think this is helping them learn these things. Even if it doesn't, it gives me the needed re-charge to keep me going and that helps all of us in the long run.