I am a big supporter of mums taking a Mum Break – of taking time out from the normal everyday responsibilities in order to refresh. And yet reality is we can’t just walk away from our responsibilities – it takes time and effort to make a Mum Break happen.
What does a Mum Break look like?
First of all we need to see that there are different types of Mum Breaks – some are short and sweet, some are extended. Some are taken in your home, some you need to get away for.
Mum breaks I have taken over the years:
- Going to the toilet alone – or talking on the phone without interruptions – or reading the Bible in peace type of breaks
- Having a visit with your friend – even if the kids are with you
- Leaving the kids at home while you go (or they go and you stay at home – my favourite!!)
- Play while the kids sleep, rest or play by themselves
- Just sitting when they sit (resting when they watch a DVD or have a bath)
The purpose of a mum-break is that mum finds time, in her day, to be refreshed, recharged, revived. There are different seasons in our life and each season will bring different responsibilities, different limitations, and different opportunities. We won’t be able to take a break the same way every day, every week, or every year. We need to see that we have options, and then we need to make the most of the options available to us at this time in our life.
We need an Attitude Change
When I was a young mum I had to have an attitude adjustment when it came to taking time out. I remember being really cranky with Peter because he was very intentional about resting on Sunday. It was his time-out, he knew it was important for him to be refreshed for the coming week. And yet, Sunday for me, a mum with a toddler and baby was anything but restful. There is always nappies, bottles, baths, messes to clean up and prepare – let alone getting to church and making sure all that happens! As I was grumping at God about how unfair it was I heard God say to my heart – What are you going to do about it? You are the boss of your days, you can plan and prepare for what happens in your days – unlike Peter who has to answer to clients. How can you make rest days happen?
A few lessons I learnt as I responded to that prod:
- It is up to me to look after myself. Peter will support, encourage and help me when I need it – but ultimately I need to be responsible for the rest that my body needs. I need to make it happen.
- Even though my children are with me all day, I can train them to entertain themselves so I can have a break
- Don’t compare how others take a break – find what works for you and your family within the circumstances you are in
- See the opportunities in our day – just make them work for us
Make it happen:
The first thing I needed to do to make it possible for me to take a mum break – regardless of what Peter was doing, was to train my children. My goal was to be able to take a break, every day, while Peter was at work. When my children were little they had naps, then as they grew older, these naps transitioned into rest time, which then transitioned into room time (quiet play in their room, by themselves for a set period of time). I determined to use these times for myself; I took 1-2 hours a day to read, do craft, or nap.
But training my children was more than just putting them in a room for a time and having uninterrupted time to myself (though that was wonderful!) My children had to learn that I was one of the ‘others’ in their life. We taught our children to consider the other person, to be kind, to be aware of the needs of others but we rarely consider ourselves (mother) as one of those ‘others’ – and yet we are. When we are intentional about making opportunity for refreshment, then we create an opportunity to teach this aspect of loving one another.
Tips I’ve learnt along the way
- Toilet breaks – we all know that as soon as you go to the bathroom your kids will need something. I had a lightbulb moment one day (and yes, I was in the bathroom and my kids were at the door). The only reason they keep talking to us while we are in the bathroom is because we answer back! I started saying to them, “Can it wait” and most often it could. If they answered that it couldn’t wait, I let them talk to me, but I assessed if it could wait or not before I answered them. If it could I simply reminded them – “That can wait”. They soon learnt to think about this before they knocked. Read more: The #1 Tip for Mothers to go to the Bathroom Uninterrupted!
- Visiting with friends – remember feeling very ripped-off after a visit with my friend. My kids had taken center stage for the whole time and I felt neglected, I felt I hadn’t touched base with my friend. The kids weren’t misbehaving they were just visiting with my friend – but it was my friend time. So my kids and I talked about this so that they could see that I made time for them to have time with their friends, and when we visited with my friends that was my time with my friend. I wanted them to be friendly, and enjoy the older woman’s attention too but it had a cut off time – 10minutes or so. At the end of that time I said, Ok – time to go and play – and they knew it was now mummy’s friend time.
- Telephone conversations – talking on the telephone was a big part of me connecting with friends (and my mum) and feeling refreshed after some adult conversation. But just like going to the bathroom, the kids tend to ‘need’ you as soon as you pick up the phone. I taught the kids to interrupt me as if they were interrupting a face to face conversation. I also made sure the kids needs were all met – they were settled into an activity – before I talked on the phone. This reduced their need – their real need – to interrupt me.
- Take a full bag of activities. If I was going out either to a café or a friends place for a visit I would make sure my kids had plenty of activities to occupy themselves, and food. If my children struggled with focus, I would also take a timer but I find that when kids are out and about, they will only do what they do at home. So if I wanted them to sit and read when we were at a café, I needed to teach them and have them practice this at home – it needed to be a normal activity at home. This was another benefit of ‘room time’ because it was a normal part of our day at home, the skills were easily transferred to another situation.
- Your friends need a break too – so sometimes working together for an afternoon break works very well.
Don’t be a Martyr
Sacrificing for the benefit of others is at the heart of being a mum – but I’m not sure that it is necessarily a good trait. We see it as noble, and yes, we do need to put other’s needs ahead of our own, but not to the point of exhaustion or bitterness. We need to be responsible stewards of the resources God has given us – and that includes our emotions and our energy: in essence – our body.
The other aspect where we tend to become a bit martyr-ish is in how we communicate to our husband. For some reason we expect him to read our minds – to know when we need rest, and to know how we best recharge. I remember early on Peter would be available to have the kids while I caught up with friends, or did my chores around town by myself. It was nice, but what my heart dearly yearned for was time at home, by myself. He wasn’t to know unless I told him. We need to communicate our needs to our husband, not so he can fix it all, not so he can arrange it all, though he may be a part of the solution; we communicate with our partner because knowing where each other is up to is a part of being married.
So if its been a while since you feel you’ve found any time to yourself – big or small – go make a cuppa, set the kids up with an activity that will occupy them for 15-20minutes (yes a DVD could be a good thing!!) and think through:
- What type of activity recharges me?
- How can I make that happen?
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