As you know by now, my wife is off at grad school and I am home alone with the children for 3 1/2 weeks. Yes, there have been some pitfalls. Yes, there have been both fires and injuries, but we’re okay. Mostly. And then, on Monday afternoon, local superwoman Rumple Station appeared at my door and said “You need a break. I’ll watch the kids. Why don’t you go take an hour?”
I had not asked Rumple to come over and help me; she just knew that I needed an hour because she is a benevolent genius. I protested that I needed to make dinner for the children, but she grabbed some pots and pans, and shooed me out the door. They would eat the hot dogs and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and I would go to some sort of grown-up place and eat something else, alone, in silence. I was almost giddy at the prospect. And then my children asked me where I was going.
“Uhhhhhh,” I stammered, not knowing what to say. “I need to go to the store.”
“Why? For what?”
“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh, well, it is almost Mommy’s birthday, and I might need groceries, and I’m going to eat something, and, um, ahhhhhhh…”
Rumple gave me a sort of a wise, Gandalfian look and said “Why don’t you just tell them that you need a break?”
Yes. Why didn’t I just tell them that I needed a break? Why was I trying to make up some sort of story instead of telling them the truth? And yet, it just seemed wrong to tell two people that I love very dearly that I just had to get away from them or I was going to go insane. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have worded it quite like that, but in my heart it felt like that, or worse. To admit that I needed a break was to admit failure as a parent. It was to admit weakness, and an inability to do the most basic of parental requirements, namely just being there with my children. To say out loud that I needed a break felt like it would break me! But why?
People need breaks. Human beings need time off. There is absolutely nothing wrong, weak, or shameful about needing an escape once in a while. I came back an hour later feeling refreshed, and like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was more patient. I was more fun. Bedtime didn’t feel like a chore, but rather a joy. When your batteries are getting low, please, recharge them. And that pressure you feel to be a SuperParent? That is made up. It’s fake. None of us are superhuman. We just want everyone else to think that we are. Everyone is simply trying to do their best with what they’ve got. So let’s give each other, and ourselves, a break once in a while. And never feel bad about saying it out loud.