Originally posted Nov. 13, 2007
If you've been a parent for more than a nano-second, you've
probably had a moment like this:
"What's wrong with you? I thought you were supposed to be sick?" I
asked my son. I'd been looking forward to a respite from the usual
harem-scarem, but instead watched helplessly as my then 4-year-old
bundle of joy stomped dozens of Cheerios to bits on my
just-vacuumed dining room floor.
At the time, our telephone number was one digit away from the
jail's, and in my exhausted, giddy, mother-of-two-young'uns state I
took full advantage of the occasional misguided caller:
"Uh, yes, is this the County Jail?"
"You know, some days it feels like it," I replied the afternoon of
the Cheerio challenge. I considered the futility of ever vacuuming
again as I took my cordless phone on a short stroll around the
house. "Just how many crumbs can one Cheerio contain?" I asked the
hapless caller, who just wanted to bail out her boyfriend, not
witness my meltdown in the face of domestic futility and chronic
I remember being so sleepy from midnight feedings that I
accidentally brushed my teeth with Desitin. That's hitting bottom,
if you will.
Don't blow off needed "me" time like I sometimes did during those
early years or you just might find yourself with a mouth full of
butt paste to show for it. Cars need tune-ups and so do parents.
Parenting can be simply magical, but it is also heartbreaking,
mind-bending, back breaking labor.
An occasional time-out is a necessity for parents of young
children, not a luxury. And you, who sit there with the bathroom
door locked against the chaos going on around you, probably
understand that without enough internal mettle and external support
from family, friends and the occasional sitter, you, too, might
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes time away from your
kids can be a great gift to them.
Desperate for some respite, I made my bathroom my own private
panic room. Once my kids left the toddler phase and I got over the
need to be available to them even while perched on the potty, I
resorted to locking the door. Keeping it locked has been a
challenge since my husband (a psychologist!) taught the kids how to
use their library cards to jimmy locks, but I still try to squeeze
in a hot bath sometimes.
Recently, when I graduated from my 30s and full-time parenting (my
baby entered first grade this fall), my thoughtful husband arranged
a visit to a local spa where I was to spend an hour in a flotation
tank decompressing. I'd never bathed in darkness in 10 inches of
water so dense with Epsom salts that I'd float like a cork, but
I'll try anything once.
It seemed simple enough. Take a warm bath, nap even, and relax
knowing I wouldn't be mauled for a whole hour. Pure bliss, right? I
hung up my plush white robe, sat down in the tank and closed the
door. Two deep breaths later I decided to lay back and let go, but
my earplugs fell out and I ended up with water in my ears and a
wicked case of vertigo. After the dizziness passed, my mind
wouldn't rest. I wondered if the kids would actually get the juice
boxes I'd left in the school office for their lunches and couldn't
shake the thought that the tank reminded me of a coffin. I tried to
talk myself into my happy place, but was so distracted by floating
into the side of the tank that I tried to gently push myself away
from the wall with my pinkie toe. Somehow I got salt in my eyes, so
I reached for my towel, which caused the darned ear plugs to fall
out again. As I groped around in the murky darkness, I laughed at
the absurdity of working so hard to relax and finally bailed.
A reunion with my inner child would have to wait.
Learning to relax takes practice, apparently. Good luck with that.
There's no one-size-fits-all formula for blissing-out, but this
respite-starved mama will stick to tried-and-true baths in her own
But I'm changing the lock.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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