Since shelter in place restrictions were implemented due to COVID-19, "me time" has become a fantasy. Between working, homeschooling my four-year-old daughter, and losing the ability to lean on my village, sneaking away to do a sweaty yoga session or have a long chat with a friend over a glass of wine is simply not an option.
Many people warn moms that they can't pour from an empty cup, meaning that they should make sure that their needs are met before they can care for others. In my pre-COVID life, my cup was relatively full. I prioritized my needs and rarely got burnt out because I knew it would make me a better mom. In my new reality, burn-out became very real. Perhaps it was the monotony of my days or the sheer exhaustion of trying to keep up with everything with no help, but I quickly felt like my proverbial cup was dry. Bottom line: I needed a breather.
On a sunny Thursday afternoon, I told my daughter that were skipping homeschool lessons and were not worrying about the overflowing hamper filed with dirty clothes. I put an out of office message on my work email, and I told my husband to pick up a pizza because the kitchen was closed. My daughter watched me like I was a crazy woman as I inflated a cute blow up pool and placed it on our front lawn. I proceeded to throw on a bikini that I have not worn since before my daughter was born, mix a fruity cocktail complete with a pineapple wedge garnish, and pour myself a bowl of chocolate covered pretzels. She followed me as I plopped myself in the middle of the pool, sipped my drink, and blasted music on my phone. When she asked me what I was doing, I told her that we were on vacation and could do whatever we wanted. I thought she'd request the iPad to watch YouTube videos, but instead to my surprise, she asked to join me. We got her in a bikini and she requested a "cocktail" (also known as a plastic wine glass filled with juice).
I know I should have felt concerned that my four year old asked for a drink that she called a cocktail at 2 P.M. on a Thursday, but it was my day off from caring about anything. She requested princess music and I refused. I was listening to what I wanted to, and I was not getting out of my front lawn pool oasis for anything short of an emergency. I was taking one afternoon to do exactly what I wanted to do. Selfish? Perhaps. Best parenting practice? Not at all. But I knew that I needed some time to take a step back.
Our quick dip in the pool turned into a full afternoon vacay. We giggled when the UPS delivery driver pulled up and made a face of utter confusion when he saw us acting like spring breakers on a weekday afternoon. We sang songs on the top of our lungs, ate way too many chocolate covered pretzels, and just chilled. Turns out, my daughter may have needed a pseudo-vacation too!
By the time my husband got home, I was all smiles (and no, it was not because of the one cocktail I enjoyed). I was relaxed and ready to get back to my responsibilities. My daughter survived having one afternoon not be all about her, we were fine eating pizza instead of a balanced home-cooked meal, and the laundry eventually got folded.
It may require some creativity, but taking a time-out is something that I think every parent should do during these challenging times. It may look different for every family — I'm lucky that my work can wait for an afternoon and that my girl is unfussy and easy-to-please – but finding ways to take a mental break is important. You don't need a fancy staycation at five-star resort, just create some space to take a breath, whatever that may look like.