How to Get a Break When You Have No Help

Do you ever have those days where you have a toddler pulling on your shirt, a preschooler begging you to feed him his food, put on his shoes, put on his clothes, a sink full of dishes, a to-do list a mile long, and no one to lean on but yourself?

What you desperately want right this very second is just 5 tiny minutes to just be, without having to do anything for yourself or anyone else. You just want quiet. You just want silence. You just want a magically clean house. You just want that to-do list to be finished and off your mind. You just want your kids to entertain themselves for a moment without needing you. You just want a break. So much neeeed. It can feel suffocating sometimes. Then to add salt to your wounds, you realize that the only person that your child has to depend on in that moment is you. You have no back up childcare, you don’t have a partner at home to help, or you don’t have a partner at all. It’s just you and you have to find a way to pull yourself out of the anxiety and desperation screaming from within every particle of your body without taking it out on the innocent little beings that depend on you. No pressure, right?

Here is a list of 5 small ways that you can use to revive your spirit and patience a bit while still having your kids in tow.

1. Start the day off focusing on the relationships rather than the obligations waiting on that list. It might be tempting to check emails, mail, and Facebook within seconds of opening your eyes in the morning. I know I do it frequently and regret it. If you wake up before your kids (I applaud you because I sure don’t!), focus on your relationship with yourself. Instead of hitting up all of the to-do’s of the day, start out with a cup of tea, painting, some yoga, or some silence. Focus on clearing your mind and filling your cup a bit. It’s absolutely acceptable to take a break before the day even begins. Sure, doing some housework or other work is sometimes necessary, but sometimes those things can be put off and done with the kids later on. If you wake up with your kids, focus on filling their cups first thing. If you love on them and connect with them the second their eyes open, they won’t be trying to pull that need for connection from you while you are in a distracted state, which usually leads to a frustrated state. No one wants frustration the second they wake up; not us or our kids.

2. Let go of obligations that don’t bring you any joy. I don’t have a lot free time. I do freelance writing, photography, and run an etsy business in my “spare” time which is usually bits and pieces here and there that I can find when my kids are distracted. Or I work at night whenever I can. Sometimes I pick up extra jobs that I don’t quite love because they pay. When I feel overwhelmed with specific jobs, or I start to resent them, I reassess what I am doing and why I am doing it. If a writing job isn’t bringing me joy, I let it go and find something more fulfilling. There is always another option. Letting go of all of these self-imposed expectations and burdens that just bring us stress and frustration will free up our minds to focus on things that bring us joy and peace. Overwhelm and stress usually get taken out on my kids because they are the only other people around. It could even be taken out indirectly because when a child sees a parent that is mad, they may automatically think it is because of them. My kids aren’t able to correctly translate my sharp tone, so I avoid situations that cause this kind of unfairness and tension.

3. Leave the dishes for now. The housework will always, I mean always, be there. If I’m trying to get 47 things done and my 2 year old is pulling on my shirt to come lay down for the 15th time to nurse, I have three choices. Go with her again and get away as soon as possible which leaves her still reaching out to me for connection. Say “just a minute” while I continue working. Or stop and say to myself, “these dishes will be here later. Those crumbs will be there later. That laundry will be there later.” But my little one needs me now. And by letting go of the expectation that I need want to get these dishes done now, I have released myself from that obligation. I can, therefore, focus on my child. We don’t have to nurse 15 more times because she was requesting nursing as a way to connect. I can get down and be present with her; play with her; read to her.

4. Utilize screens when you need to. When you don’t have anyone to lean on, a screen can be an electronic knight in shining armor. There should be no guilt in using a screen to distract your children while you regroup (or ever). When I want to shower, my toddler usually screams at the curtain for the full 3.5 minutes of my “peaceful” and “relaxing” me-time. My solution is to give her a video on my phone so that I can have a moment to enjoy the heat of the shower and get acquainted with the day ahead. Other useful times (for me) for using a screen are when I’m trying to make dinner and they don’t want to participate, when I need to get some freelance work done that has a deadline and I have to get it finished, or when I’m at the end of my patience rope and just need to sit in a dark closet for a few minutes without anyone knowing where I am (or crying out trying to find me).

5. Make a nest. This one never fails to succeed. Sure, you aren’t accomplishing anything on a to-do list with this option, but you will be able to lighten your emotional load a bit. To build a nest, grab lots of blankets and pillows and stuffed animals. Maybe some snacks and books too. Pile them all up into a shape that will allow you and your children to fit in it (a tent or canopy would also be a great option; like a little cocoon). Then get down into the pile and just be there with your kids. Laugh. Hug. Lay and stare at the ceiling. Look at each other. Be fully present. It doesn’t take any energy if you are running on 2 years of no sleep. It doesn’t take any real planning. And it gives a lot to everyone involved. Try it! You won’t regret it.

There are tons of ways that you can find little breaks within your day, you just have to get creative and keep an open mind.  I really love this list of Nanovacations by Linda Clement with Raising Parents. Whatever you choose, just remember that you are not alone. You are valuable and valued. You are worthy. You are heard. You are supported.