When “Taking a Break” Doesn’t Help


When “Taking a Break” Doesn’t Help

“You should take a break, go get some coffee.”

“Do you need a break, Mom?”

“Won’t you please be quiet?! Mom needs a break”

“Are you sure you are getting enough breaks?”

For the last two years, I have been under more stress and anxiety than I can remember. I still have dreams about missing an entire semester of a college class. Even those dreams however, don’t produce the gut-wrenching and paralyzing anxiousness that the nightmares and subsequent hours of insomnia this stage of parenting produces.

We have a young family in a house that sometimes feels like it is bursting with life, thanks to both noise and boyhood destruction. On a daily basis I am waging war on the laundry pile and the kitchen sink, only to find the mess resurrected in a day or a few hours. There is always a disagreement to referee and an injustice to be righted, both without reliable first-hand accounts. Unanswerable questions, insatiable stomachs, everlasting energy and the complete inability to aim into a toilet…can any other moms relate? Of course! I know you can. I hear it when we talk, I see it internet memes and pressed in hot vinyl on t-shirts and coffee mugs, and feel it through the voice of the haggard mom in the grocery store…I just need a break.

Over the last two years, I have felt myself growing more in need of the “break” and less fulfilled by it as well.

I can come back from a nice, quiet hour of girl talk, shopping, even napping, and immediately feel the stress/anxiety/anger snap out, as if I have never been away at all. Truthfully, it scares me. It scares me that my life’s work, what I will spend (have spent) my youth and my energy and most of my years on, is something I currently long to avoid.

So what do you do when the best advice the world seems to have doesn’t work? It’s unfortunate if you are reading this, feeling the way I do, and looking for the typical blog post silver bullet of advice, because I don’t have it. I’d like to say that self-care will take care of the stress, but that doesn’t help the mom facing medical debt with no pennies to spare. I’d like to say getting plenty of sleep at night will be beneficial, but that doesn’t help the mother of a colicky newborn. I’d like to say alone time would be the solution, but you may be the stay-at-home mom who feels too guilty hire a babysitter.

No, I don’t have the solution, but I am slowly understanding that it doesn’t begin with escaping the reality that I live in. It begins with recognizing what is true and what is not. It also begins by surrendering to the knowledge that life can no longer be solely focused on one’s self. There can be moments, perhaps hours, of self-work, personal encouragement, and grounding yourself in reality, but it seems that in my own life, escape always brings on the resentment that I can’t escape more.

I hope you find the peace in your parenting storm, Mama. I hope you seek truth and find it and speak it. I hope joy comes through the mess and you can revel in it. And I even hope that sometimes, you can catch a break and enjoy it.

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Hi, I am Elizabeth! I am married to a Chattanooga fire fighter, and mother to four boys and a princess who test my sanity and patience on an hourly basis. To keep my head above the waters of parenting, I get lost in books and try to articulate my thoughts into words with meaning. Our daily activities include playing outside, wrestling, sword fighting and trying to time everything to produce the most sleep at night. Follow me on Instagram @BossMom_247 for insights on living with boys, possibly a few rants and definitely an overabundance of baby girl pictures.


  1. Mom of three boys under 5 (plus a girl after).

    What I have to say is just that I have so been there…for years…and then one day, I blinked, and realized I wasn’t as stressed… the boys weren’t so little or so ‘all on’ all the time. ‘The calming’ began when the oldest was 6 and.continued as they got older. They began talking about books they were reading, asking deep questions, hugging me spontaneously when I was wound up. All the little things I did that had seemed to make no long term difference suddenly all added up to grow these boys who were wonderful. They are now 6, 9, and 11.

    I wish that I had had a way for continuous cycling daily breaks as I think that is more what I needed over years but we had neither the family nor financial means for help. I just dug in and held on until life moved us along.

    My big main stress relief was to listen to audiobook all the time with headsets. Our library has so many. It helped me so much to have them. I also began to play audiobooks for the boys when they were playing and they calmed listening to them and would play better for longer.

  2. Lizzie! This is so so good! Thank you for your words and encouragement. It’s ok that life is not always about my comfort or needs. It is a phase in life where I have to give and give with little or no thanks. But it is good and right and true and the lack of sleep and stress and headaches are an investment in my 3 boys and that, is worth it.

  3. More than anything else or any other advice, it helps to know that other moms feel the exact same way. And it’s true, you just have to accept what is and try to enjoy it when you can. It helps to keep things positive around you- upbeat music, funny movies, and light books. Also, disconnecting from my phone more has helped me a ton. I found myself resenting my children when I was trying to lose myself in my phone and social media. Limiting my time on the screen helps me be more present. Like really, actually present. I can’t believe what a difference it has made. I was happier when I only had one child (I now have 2 boys, ages 3 and 7), and though having more than one child is inherently so much harder, the big difference back then was I didn’t have a smart phone to distract me from real life. Just something I’ve noticed. Let’s all hang in there! I hear there’s less anxiety when they get more self-sufficient and independent.

  4. I can totally relate, I’m an uncle to 24 kiddos and it’s really hard. I’ve found that sometimes you just can’t take a break, you just have to learn to push through the hard times to get to the good times.

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