Yeah baby, an exciting week for — well, probably not anyone who has entered adulthood.
For those of us who have, spring break is just another week. And for those of us with kids, it’s really just a pain in the ass. Extra daycare woes and interrupted schedules make this week (as well as the following) more difficult than fun for my family.
However, this year is different. This year, my son went to visit his grandparents. Although I am still going to work all week as usual, I took the weekend off. That probably sounds ridiculous, as that’s generally what the weekends are for, but when you are a parent, that is not what you do.
As a working mom, I spend my weekends trying to catch up with life, making moments count with my son while also slipping in a jog and folding piles of laundry.
But not this weekend. I lived. It. Up. (By dull suburban standards anyway ….)
Friday night, my husband and I hung out at Top Golf. Saturday we went for a long jog and then had a great night out with friends in Bricktown — we even hit Taco Bueno at 2 a.m. to complete the evening. Plus, throughout the two days, I went on long walks and relaxed on the couch.
Yet at every turn, guilt snuck in. That self-reproach parents feel when they enjoy life without their children present. It hung heavy over me when I should have been grateful for the short respite from the stresses of parenthood.
Parental guilt is a real thing, and it is even greater when both parents work. Work-life balance is an ever-present goal that seems just out of reach. In fact, every fender-bender on I-35 threatens the delicate balance between achieving my career goals and picking my son up from daycare on time.
Digitally disconnecting from smiling depression by Lisha Dunlap
Still, in the same way that kids need a break from school, parents can benefit from breaks, too. Not the kind of vacation that includes a trip to Disney World, but a chance to recharge and reconnect as husband and wife, or even — gasp — as individuals.
Unfortunately, many judge those feelings as selfish (because parents are constantly judging instead of understanding each other). But I disagree. I wish my own parents had taken more time for themselves over the years. I hope I would never have viewed that as selfish, because it was well-deserved.
An article titled Getting Rid of Parental Guilt in Family Education, a website providing sound advice for parents, agrees:
Much of the guilt that parents feel can’t be tied to specific actions or issues, it’s just a vague sense that you’re doing everything just a little bit wrong, or that you’re just slightly inadequate for the tasks set before you. Free-floating guilt is a little message from the universe that it’s time to take a break.
It is definitely true that I have needed the break, and my exhaustion has taken a physical and mental toll on me. So, although every couple hours I have exhaled a heavy sigh of guilt as I looked through the most recent photos of my son on my phone, I am pushing past this parental guilt to an acceptance that it is indeed alright to enjoy the next couple days until my sweet son returns.
If you find yourself struggling with these same issues, don’t feel alone. Do your best — every day — because that is your responsibility as a parent. But take a break when you need it. I don’t mean run away to South Padre Island or Cabo this spring break, but I do encourage you, if possible, to embrace the moments you can that give you joy.
Go for a jog, read a book, practice yoga, watch a movie or whatever makes you internally happy — just do not feel bad about it. Even if that means whipping up a few Jell-O shots after your kiddos have gone to bed.
Happy spring break.