Take a Time-Out for Love


Parents, more than anything else, want to do a good job. You want to raise smiling toddlers, well-adjusted teenagers and successful adults. To do this, you spend hours researching the right schools, the right babysitters and the right summer camps for your kids. In between day jobs and dinnertime, soccer games and dance lessons, you read up on the latest toys, the best vacations and the safest cars.
It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

But exhaustion is not good for you or your relationship, and it certainly doesn’t benefit your kids. This is why it’s critical to give yourself a break. Before you find yourself shouting at the people you love. Before you lose your patience, your job or your relationship.

Even if you can only spare a weekend away or a simple dinner-and-a-movie night out, a brief parental “time out” might be just the thing to clear your mind and revitalize your relationship, which is good for the entire family.

The Importance of Couple Time
It’s smart to play an active role in your kids’ lives. By taking part in their schoolwork or activities, you get to know your children, while providing guidance and support as they grow up.
But many parents think they have to stay attached to their kids all the time, keeping an eye on their every move. Unless you have a reason to stay ultra-involved in their daily activities, taking some time away from the kids will minimize strain on your relationship and boost your spirits. It will also nurture their individuality.

Your short but meaningful respite will accomplish three important goals:
For You – It will provide much-needed rest, contributing to your health, happiness and clarity of thinking.
For Your Relationship – It will bring joy and connection, and help your partnership last.
For Your Kids – It will serve as a great model for your children, teaching them about relationships and self-care.

Plan in Advance
It’s one thing to say that you’re going to take a break, and it’s something else to actually do it. With a little bit of planning, you can slip away for an afternoon or weekend, and then return to your normal routine in a way that reduces stress rather than increases it.
1. Take a look at your schedule. Can you fit in a matinee on Wednesday? What about a quick lunch on Friday? Is it possible to hire a babysitter and indulge in dinner and a movie, or even a night at a B&B on the last weekend of the month?

2. Be creative and vigilant. If you don’t see an opening in your timeline, create one. Make it a priority. You deserve the break, and if you feel fatigued and overextended, the break is probably long overdue.

3. Think about the things that need to be put in place before you go, like babysitting and back-up care. Plan in advance for critical matters such as food, medication, pets and household preparations. Don’t let the details pressure you — just make a list and handle each task one at a time. Write instructions for the kids or babysitter to use in case of emergencies. Include your cell phone number, if you have one, and other essential contact details. Keep this information in a safe and accessible location.

4. Once you have the home and child care ready, focus on your own plans. Do you need to make reservations? Will you rent a car? If your whisk-away time includes a long drive, decide on the route you’ll take, and use the Internet to explore restaurants or things to do when you arrive.

5. Here’s another option. Don’t plan a thing. After you have the child care all set up and you feel confident that the kids and pets won’t starve while you’re away, relax and enjoy the freedom that comes from knowing that a mini-vacation is about to be yours.

Make the Most of Time Away
By now, you already prepared the kids for day-to-day activities as well as emergencies. In order to savor your time with your partner, you must leave your worries behind. Really let go.
In the beginning of your getaway, you will probably find yourself talking about your children, your job or the things you forgot to organize before you left. That’s OK. Just give yourself a time limit, so you can shift your thinking to the present and start enjoying some peace of mind as soon as possible.

Whether you find yourself at a beach, park, movies, restaurant or hotel, look at the world around you. Watch people. Breathe the air. Tell a silly joke. If you make it a personal goal to take pleasure in your surroundings, you’ll feel relaxed before you know it.

Taking time away from the children might sound like a luxury. It isn’t. If you want to be a great parent, and raise confident, well-adjusted kids, it’s critical that you give yourself a break now and then to revitalize your spirits and enhance your relationship.

Not every family has the time or money to support a weeklong, parents-only retreat. Consider a weekend at the beach, or even a three-hour escape to see a movie, a walk though the park or a romantic dinner where you splurge on dessert at a favorite restaurant. Even a short respite can transform tired, burned out parents into happy ones, which makes for stronger relationships and healthier, more joyful kids.

Eve Nicholas is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in many family and parenting magazines.