Why Giving Myself Timeouts Has Made Me a Better Mom

Taking mental breaks helped me choose my children first

Anyone who has ever asked why parents are so tired all the time hasn’t spent a day trying to keep a toddler alive.

No matter how many baby gates are installed, corners padded and cabinets locked, if there is any opportunity for kids to get into trouble they will find it. When you combine sleep deprivation and the sheer responsibility of parenthood, it’s no wonder parents are mentally exhausted. After all, you are spending your days keeping this tiny human alive, despite their best efforts to the contrary.

After all, you are spending your days keeping this tiny human alive, despite their best efforts to the contrary.

My first daughter was perfectly content to sit. In fact, while other babies were exploring and crawling, Abigail was perfectly happy to sit pretty. This fact led her to forgo walking until the age of 17 months. Her early months were pretty easy as far as parenting goes. Enter my second child, Hannah, who was so hell bent on eating anything she shouldn’t, she once tried to scrape bird poop off of a brick walkway just to get it in her mouth.

Welcome to parenthood. Not only do you have to feed, clothe and give your children affection and love, you need to keep your home clean, safe and intellectually stimulating.

There is a famous saying that goes: you can have a clean house, happy children and your sanity, but you can only pick two. Which ones are you picking as a parent? I know that when my kids were young, I often forgoed my own mental health in order to try and maintain a clean home. If I am being honest, I probably also sacrificed a lot of happiness for my children who likely would have preferred time with mom over a cleaner home.

Those kind of standards are impossible to maintain, eventually something was going to break; I couldn’t let it be me. By taking time for myself, I was able to be a better mom. I found a great running partner and I was able to literally run away from my children three times a week. I got a reliable confidante, lost some baby weight and found out that putting myself first once a day, made me better able to choose my children first the rest of the time.

Those kind of standards are impossible to maintain, eventually something was going to break; I couldn’t let it be me.

If I couldn’t always get a physical break, I also tried and take mental breaks. While children can be very demanding, they are also amazing, lovely and great company. For our family, I found spending  one-on-one time doing something we both enjoy lets me connect with my kids and grow our bond. I have also encouraged extended family to do this so that instead of ‘babysitting’ they are actually able to better get to know my kids.

At night, my husband and I would sometimes choose to take an hour to spend de-stressing alone. I’d have a soak in the tub and he’d play video games once the kids have gone to bed. This allowed us to spend time for ourselves guilt-free and better able to focus on each other when we spend time together.’

Now that my children are all in school, I have found myself with more time to clean and less time with my kids. I wish it were the other way around. I would gladly take a few more handprints on the mirror and more time helping them put them there.

Melissa Robertson

Melissa Robertson

Melissa Robertson divides her time between writing her for the Parent Life Network and wrangling her three children that have lovingly helped her earn the title 'hot mess mom'.