Being a mom. I don’t know of any other jobs where you’re on call 168 hours a week, you don’t get paid (in cash anyway), and you feel guilty when you ask for time off. As a mom, chances are, you’re “on duty” about 100 of those hours (just over 14 hours every day) AND you’re “on-call” the other 69 hours every week (while you sleep).
If you’re working outside the home or working from home, you’re still “on-call” most of those 168 hours.
Someone falls out of a tree and sprains their wrist at camp.
Someone has a headache and needs to be picked up from school.
Someone has a nightmare and crawls into your bed crying at 4am.
Someone… well, you could easily write in another 47 of these I’m sure.
Think about this for a moment:
You are ON DUTY 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week, 672 hours a month, 8,764 hours a year…. Even if you love EVERYTHING about being a parent. Even if you have ZERO parenting challenges. Even if there is no CONFLICT or FRUSTRATIONS or SLEEP ISSUES in your life… that is a lot of time without A BREAK FOR YOURSELF.
Why do we somehow feel guilty when we admit we need a break?
Why do we often wait until we’re losing our minds to GIVE OURSELVES PERMISSION to take a break?
Why do we think that NOT taking regular, consistent breaks is actually GOOD for our kids and REALLY GOOD for our families?
Wouldn’t you prefer your heart surgeon to get at least 8 hours of sleep before she picks up her blade (instead of 4 hours of sleep)?
Wouldn’t you prefer your dentist do your root canal after a nice morning walk with her husband (instead of fighting and crying half the morning)?
Wouldn’t you prefer your mechanic to replace your breaks after a meditation retreat (instead of being distracted by the confusing school forms she has to fill out this afternoon)?
Wouldn’t you prefer your accountant to calculate your taxes after her vacation to the Galapagos (instead of exhausted after being up with a sick kid for the last 4 nights)?
You get the point, yes?
You, your kids, your work, your relationships, and your family WILL ALL BENEFIT from you taking a break from your 168-hour workweek.
Even if you work outside the home, you are still on-call during those hours, right? The house, the kids, the interpersonal dynamics are all simmering in the background as you work.
These hours don’t even account for the MANY of us who are also taking care of our aging parents, an adult sibling with an addiction problem, or that friend in the midst of a terrible divorce.
It’s A LOT to deal with. And, when you don’t give yourself permission to take breaks, you’re less likely to think straight, be patient with others, hold compassion for yourself, exercise, eat healthily, sleep well, and on and on and on.
How do you actually DO IT though, right?
Step #1: The first step is ALWAYS insight. Self-awareness. Admit you have a problem and there’s another way that’s even better and healthier for you and for everyone and everything you care about. You need to take more breaks. Real breaks.
Step #2: Give Yourself Permission. The first step should help with this one. Don’t wait for OTHERS to figure out you need a break or ask you to take a break or offer you an all-expense-paid nanny for the kids and spa weekend with your closest college girlfriends. Don’t wait. Seriously ONLY YOU can make this happen.
Step #3: Be Specific and Say it OUTLOUD. Don’t make anyone guess what you need most. Choose something, start small and daily. It’s a practice you might have to get used to. For instance, “I’d like to take a shower this afternoon, can you take the kids to the park for at least an hour around 2pm today?”
Step #4: Mention the Benefits. This is an important part of the ask, so it’s officially its own step. For instance, make sure to add something like, “I’m exhausted from not sleeping well last night. An hour of quiet and a shower would feel amazing and make me so happy.”
Note: using the word “happy” is key with your partner.
Step #5: Say Thank You. This one can be tough if you’re feeling a lot of anger or resentment towards your partner right now. However, I challenge you to genuinely express your gratitude afterward. It will get you MORE of what you want in the long run. I promise. It looks something like this, “Ooh, thank you so much for taking the kids to the park this afternoon. The quiet time to myself was perfect and I feel so much better now. That was awesome, thank you.”
I’m so excited for you to set this in motion and get yourself more breaks, more often!