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Toronto, Canada

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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Take the Night Off: Why Every Parent Needs a Break

Written by Jennifer Traynor

Want to know the key to a happy family life? Parents, it’s all about self-care. Giving yourself a break is essential. Running on empty will lead to feeling tired and cranky, which, in turn, can and will affect the family dynamic. Believe me, I’ve been there.

“I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

I remember very clearly when these words came falling out of my mouth. I was having a conversation with my husband a couple of years ago about how I felt all we did was go to our jobs, come home, focus 100 percent on the kids until they went to bed, did more work (in this case, housework) and then plopped on the couch to mindlessly watch some TV before going to bed. And repeat.

Somehow our lives had become all work and no play. We very rarely got out to socialize with friends and date nights were equally infrequent. Our routine had become not only exhausting but also isolating. I expressed to my husband about feeling lost. I was a working mom who devoted all of her spare time to her kids. What happened to the woman I was before having children? The woman who loved reading books, going to a yoga class, enjoyed watching movies, having coffee with friends and going out to try new restaurants. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done any of it.

I was unhappy. It was scary to admit that to my husband. There was a sense of relief when he told me he felt the same.

I was unhappy. It was difficult and somewhat scary to admit that to my husband, but there was a sense of relief when he told me he felt the same. Of course, it’s natural for your life to change when you have children, but in our case, it had gotten to the point that we’d lost ourselves along the way, not just as individuals but as a couple as well. This was having a negative impact on our family life and our happiness as husband and wife. It was time to make a change; to rediscover who we were before having kids and bringing that part of our identity into our lives again.

Jennifer Traynor Family Photo
The Traynor clan.

The Master Plan

We made the decision to give each other a night off once a week. My husband joined an axe throwing league, where he now goes every Wednesday evening. It’s given him a chance to try something new and mingle with friends. My night off is a little more flexible because I didn’t join a class that happens weekly, but usually every Thursday evening you can find me either at a yoga class, alone with my laptop at a coffee shop or hanging out with some friends for dinner or a movie. I like the flexibility because it gives me the choice to have some quiet time to myself or have some good laughs with great company. The other choice we made was committing to a date night at least once a month. Thank goodness for grandparents who can help with babysitting!

The Benefits—Oh, Good God, the Benefits

As individuals, going out once a week to explore our own interests and socialize with friends has given us the chance to reconnect with the identity we have outside of being mom or dad. It’s nice to not be a parent for one night. Sure, we adore our son and daughter, but getting a break from the parenting routine helps reduce the stress that comes along with parenthood. While taking care of these tiny humans 24/7 can be rewarding, it can also, to be perfectly honest, drive you up the proverbial wall. At some point, you have to be a little selfish and do something that doesn’t involve watching another episode of Paw Patrol or cleaning Play-Doh out of your area rug.

As parents, taking a night off has given us a new perspective on our family life. There’s a new-found respect for the other parent’s role and a chance to bond individually with our children. It gives us the opportunity to miss our kids, and we each enjoy filling the other in on things that happen during the night off. We also seriously give kudos to those who parent solo all the time. It certainly isn’t always easy.

As a couple, having one night a week to do our own thing has brought us closer.

As a couple, having one night a week to do our own thing has brought us closer. The chance to destress means there’s less frustration being taken out on each other. And getting back to having regular date nights has been a wonderful way to deepen our bond.

The main benefit, I believe, is the lesson we’re teaching our kids. A healthy family dynamic is not just about meeting the needs of the family as a whole, but also the individuals in it. We all have our own personalities and interests, and it’s important to respect that. Taking a night off has allowed our son and daughter to get to know us other than as mommy and daddy. They’ve become more curious about our hobbies and asking details about what we like to do. It’s given my husband and I the chance to talk to them about trying new things. It has also been good for our kids to see us go out on dates. We’re showing them what a loving couple looks like, and reminding ourselves that before there was this great little family, there was us.

The Moral of the Story

There is often feelings of guilt when parents do something for themselves. I’m here to tell you that it’s normal to feel that way, but don’t let it stop you from taking a much-needed break. By doing so, you’re showing your children that taking time by yourself, and with your partner, is just as important as caring for them.

So, go ahead and take the night off. You deserve it!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.