The real reason moms need a break from their kids

Self-care is a HUGE theme in books, blog posts, podcasts, and general popular culture these days. I mean, I even write about it quite a bit!

But it’s taken me a long time to honestly realize WHY it makes such a huge difference to my mental, emotional, and physical health, instead of seeing “self-care” as simply another tick on my to-do list: Take Care of Yourself Today.

Check (or not).

I have 4 boys, two of whom have special needs (combos of Autism, ADHD and learning disabilities), and two under age 5.

There is a lot of crying, screaming, arguing, fighting, and wrestling that happens in our house.

As a mother, I am hard-wired to experience a visceral response when my children cry or scream. I get a jolt of adrenaline in my gut, and my heart starts racing, pumping more blood to my legs so I can spring into action to “save” my child from “danger.”

Except for the “danger” is often that my 5 year old can’t Velcro his shoes and is now wailing in anguish (instead of simply asking for help).
Or the screams are from an epic Nerf gun war in the hallway—except for my gut and brain react to “fun screams” in the same way as “I’m-dying-screams.”

Or….I could list 137 examples of situations that make my heart nearly fly out of my chest on a daily basis. The thing is, 134 of them don’t really require a “fight or flight” reaction from me.

I’ve learned in my 10 years as a mom to cope, to calmly call “Stop hitting your brother in the face with a pillow” from the kitchen” or holler “Knock it off and take it outside, boys!”

I cope, but that doesn’t mean I don’t react. I can’t help it. That is the way moms are wired.

And sometimes, especially in the my-kids-are-under-five years, the mom-instincts get worn out, like a muscle that is damaged from over-exercise and tender to any little jolt.

I recently went away for 4 days to a women’s blogging conference. I learned a lot from the amazing speakers and from the incredible women I met there but do you know what my favorite part of the conference was?
Nobody yelled at me for 4 days.
Nobody cried because I put cinnamon sugar instead of jam on the toast.
No one hit me because it was time to stop playing.
No one argued with me about doing homework or doing the dishes.
No one kicked me because I threw away the cheese stick wrapper the “wrong way.”

I realized something: I am not an angry person. It is not my first instinct to holler and yell and tell people what to do.

But that’s how I get when my mom-instincts have been overused, stretched too far for too long, causing me emotional (and sometimes physical) pain when jarred once again by a needy child.

I needed a break.
I need to remove myself from the intense emotional pressures of motherhood for a time.
I needed to let my mom-instincts rest and heal, just like an over-used elbow or knee needs rest to heal from injury.

We are fighting a good fight, mamas.
We know we are in a marathon, not a sprint.
We are in it for the long haul.

But for all that is good and holy, let yourself take a break from your kids, if even it is for one hour.

Let your mom rock the baby.
Ask a friend to take your kids for a “Sanity Hour” (and then you take her kids next week and return the favor.”
Go online and book a hotel room for one night; say “Peace out, husband,” and GO, guilt free. Sleep and take a hot bath, and soak in the silence.

The stress-fractures of our mother-instincts often need purposeful rest and mindful silence to heal.

By taking four days away from my family, I think I finally was able to understand the practicality of this truth: You have to take care of yourself if you are going to give the best to your kids.

Do you need a break, mama?
How can you fit purposeful rest and mindful silence into your life in the near future?


  1. I think I relate this to teaching 100+ high poverty students AND being a mom. I just had a four day weekend where we were required to be at school in meetings and learning, but sometimes, I find that to be much needed rest from the unnecessary arguments I battle every day. Between my two year old yelling at me because I want her to wear socks to my twelve-year-olds yelling across the room at one another because one of them took their pen (which is actually in their desk). God, just help me better teach them what matters in life and what for sure heck does NOT!

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