What It Means to Break

I feel great right now. Well, mentally at least. Physically I’m exhausted, my sciatica has returned with a strength I can feel all the way down to my left calf and I’m definitely starting to feel hungry. But mentally, my head feels calm and clear for this one beautiful moment.

Every week Zach and I try to give each other one day. That is, a couple of hours on one day. He’ll get home from work at 4pm and take over watching the kids while I leave the house or I’ll carry on with caring for them and he’ll head somewhere else for a couple hours rather than coming straight home. Those two or three blissfully relaxing, quiet, calm hours are what get us through the week.

Amanda King of Last Mom on Earth recently wrote an article that was published in the Huffington Post about needing a break from childcare. I love the way she articulates exactly what I’ve been feeling. In her article, called What It Means When We Say We Need A Break she writes: “It means that I need a moment to feel like a human being in the midst of a relentless life where I don’t belong to myself anymore; where I give my love and energy away, every moment of my existence, and can’t figure out how to keep any for myself.”

Yes. This. That pretty much sums up “stay at home mom” in a nutshell.

She goes on to talk about husbands who don’t understand what their wives are saying when she asks for “a break” when he gets home from work. In essence, that is the point of the entire article: a convincing argument to those partners who don’t “get it” to try and explain just exactly what it is we stay at home types are feeling and what we need in order to continue to go on caring for everyone else, all day, every day. “When you’re a father, caring for your kids doesn’t count as work. It counts as something you promised to do when you created a life.” I agree completely with this, and I can’t find a way to say it better. I hate when dad taking care of his own children is referred to as babysitting. Dad does not babysit. Dad fathers his children. Nobody ever refers to mom as a babysitter, even when she works full time outside the home. Allowing this quirk of speech to carry on in our society just perpetuates the idea that mom is the parent and dad is a part-time, second class caregiver. I feel our society has made leaps and bounds in progressing past those outdated and ineffective roles, but they will never be gone completely until our everyday words describe the reality we wish to see.

Going back to King’s article, I would add one more thing. While eloquently and clearly stating the need for mom to get a break, I feel the same could be said for dad. Yes, there are certainly dads out there who need a wake-up call when it comes to what their stay at home wives do for the family every day. I have struggled at times to get my own amazing husband to completely understand my views on this. HOWEVER. The average dad of today is much more involved, much more hands on with his children and the general running of a household. They cook, they grocery shop, they change dirty (cloth!) diapers, they do laundry, they wear babies and carry diaper bags and don’t feel their manhood threatened by doing so. My own wonderful husband absolutely does a large share of the parenting, in addition to his full-time job. Which brings me to my point: yes, mom needs a break, but so does dad. Being a parent can rapidly strip you of your sense of identity and ability to feel like you are a priority (to anyone) if you don’t ever get a little time to center yourself, to do something – anything – without simultaneously caring for the physical, emotional and mental well being of everyone else but yourself.

So today, right now, is my day. What did I do? I took the car my husband drives to work each day and drove it through the carwash. Then I vacuumed out six months worth of pine needles from the floorboards. I filled it up with gas for him at the station we can get a great discount at but never go to because it’s so far out of the way. And now I’m spending some blissfully uninterrupted time at the local library, seeking creative outlet on this here blog. Yes, I just spent half of my break doing chore-like activities as a thoughtful gesture for someone else. That’s just it though – a “break” doesn’t have to mean selfishly thinking only about myself. It just means I can think about anyone or anything that I want to, and nothing that I have to. I let my thoughts wander while I vacuumed. I didn’t feel rushed to get anyone home for a nap or diaper change or feeding. I got the satisfaction of getting something productive done without the stress of doing it with two small humans needing something from me the whole time.

This is what carries me through the week. Tomorrow will be Zach’s turn and I hope his break revitalizes him as much as mine has me. Because we both need it and we both deserve it.

2 thoughts on “What It Means to Break

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