What Stay At Home Parents Mean When We Say We Need a Break

What Stay At Home Parents Mean When We Say We Need a Break

Originally titled “What We Mean When We Say We Need a Break” written by Amanda King

As a stay-at-home mother of two small children, when I say that I need a break, I’m not talking about wanting a vacation or a treat as a reward for doing my job.

Needing a break doesn’t mean that I’m seeking a respite from my responsibilities or that I want to put my feet up.

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.

We’re all very aware of partners who don’t understand the point of giving the stay-at-home parent of their children a break. They go to work all day and they don’t have fun at work, do they? When they come home to the stay-at-home parent who says, “I need a break,” they think, When do I get a break? I just worked all day and now I have to come home and give my partner a break?

The point of a break, when you’re a stay-at-home parent, isn’t fun, or excitement or relaxation, although breaks that contain those things are great, and we absolutely totally deserve them, because everybody does.

When a stay-at-home parent says, “I need a break from being a parent for an hour or two,” they aren’t trying to swindle you into doing the work of caring for the house and children so that they can get out for some fun and letting loose.

Needing a break isn’t the same thing as wanting a vacation.

When you’re the out-of-home working parent, caring for your kids doesn’t count as work. It counts as something you promised to do when you created a life. It isn’t the same thing as going to a job. Caring for your children means that you’re teaching them how to be people and giving them the chance to be happy.

Taking time out of your life every single day to care for your children is absolutely vital to their growth as people. It’s not something you grace them — or your partner — with. It’s not a favour. It’s not extra work at the end of a long day. It’s part of who you are, because you’re a parent.

You are absolutely required, by the fact that you made a baby, to spend all of your time and energy being a parent to that baby, for the rest of your life, and that isn’t bad news. Parenting is about your kids deserving a parent who is engaged and who demonstrates that he loves them, because that is what will help them become happy, healthy, successful people.

When I get a break at the end of my day, I don’t use it to have fun. I don’t need a break so that I can unwind and have a blast being me, all on my own, finally, without the kids.

I go to the gym. I go grocery shopping. I might take a walk or ride my bike. I garden. I might write or read for a while. I do yard work. I do whatever I need to do, in that moment, to feel like I deserve to exist.

I do what I need to do to feel sane and stable and capable of keeping up with the never-ending needs of my beautiful children.

My breaks might allow me to think my own thoughts for a few moments. They might allow me to drive a car without being tense and distracted. I might need a break because I want to use the bathroom without someone watching me, or without worrying what might be happening downstairs and yelling, “Mummy is almost done! Are you guys OK?”

I want a break, not because I’m bored or restless or craving some fun, (although I am probably feeling those things a lot of the time.) I want a break because I put absolutely everything I have into staying at home with my kids. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, there isn’t a single second of my day where I’m not engaged and on call.

There isn’t a single moment where I am alone with my thoughts, where I’m not being touched and needed and where demands aren’t being made of me.

Not a single moment.

Not when I’m brushing my teeth or showering or trying to find something clean to wear. Not even in the bathroom.

As stay-at-home parents, we understand that going to work all day isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy. We get that we’re lucky to spend our days with our children. We’ve had responsibilities and stresses outside of parenthood, and we understand that life is challenging for you, and for everyone.

We know that commuting to and from work and sitting in a cubicle all day is not how you would choose to spend your time, if you had a choice. We know that going to work is not a personal break where you can unwind and put your feet up. We totally get that, and we love you and appreciate you for all you do to keep our families safe and cared for.

We would be better at saying thank you if we had even a single ounce of energy or sanity left over at the end of the day. We love you. We do. And, thank you.

We still need a break, though.

Not because we work harder than you or deserve something you don’t. We just need a few minutes to not be on edge, working our nerves and spirits raw for the safety and happiness and health of our kids. We just need a moment to remember who we are, to not feel worried and harried and invisible.

We need a second to catch our breath, to make our own choices, to try to love ourselves, for a moment.

We need the opportunity to exist, as a human being with a name and thoughts and ideas; as a person who is allowed to complete a thought.

We need to be allowed to drive a car and use the bathroom without being pulled away and pressured.

We just need a moment, or we’re going to fall apart.

We love you. We aren’t trying to get anything over on you.

We’re not trying to say that we don’t think you work hard.

We aren’t trying to weasel some fun or excitement out of life, by denying you yours.

We just need a second to try to remember who we are.

— Amanda King from Last Mom On Earth

Note from BellyBelly: We acknowledge that these days, the population of stay at home fathers is increasing, as such, this article has been edited by BellyBelly to reflect this.

Highly recommended reading: Becoming Us by Elly Taylor via Amazon or Book Depository (free shipping).

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10 comments

  1. Every way ive tried to explain this has not even come close to the awesome way this article is written! Thank you for really explaining how exhausting being a stay at home parent really is/can be

  2. Thank you for writing what so many stay at home parents think. When I got to stay at home was after my second child but I didn’t just have my 2 kids. I started babysitting 5 other kids under school age. I also started working 3 nights a week out of the house for 5 hours a night. My days started at 6:30am and ended around midnight. My husband would come home from work to me leaving for work, our 2 kids and whoever hadn’t been picked up yet. It was a tough time but I would do it all over again to be there for my kids.

  3. Seriously? You are an adult with adult responsibilities! I work 4 days a week in a high intensity job that is both mentally and physically draining then when I am home I am there %100 – kids, homework, extra curricular activities, dinner, play, baths, stories, lunches and all the other stuff that every other adult does such as cleaning and washing, walking the dog and so on….you know those things grow ups do whether or not they are a parent. I don’t sit down till about 11 to 12 most nights. I am only on here now as I have a sick day! I stayed at home for three years….I loved it and will freely admit I loved the carefreeness of it all and I certainly had more time on my hands for a break! Please quit your whining! I know I am going to be criticised for this but I know there are plenty of others who agree! Of course any parent wants a break being an adult is busy work!

  4. This says it so much my husband understands this now at first he didn’t. And now with my youngest going to start school this year I am now looking for a job that will allow me to get the off to school and be home when they get off the bus

  5. It’s definitely good to understand what a stay-at-home parent means when he or she says “I need a break”. However, I also think that some understanding is in order coming from the other side as well given the tone of this post.

    “When you’re the out-of-home working parent, caring for your kids doesn’t count as work. It counts as something you promised to do when you created a life. It isn’t the same thing as going to a job. Caring for your children means that you’re teaching them how to be people and giving them the chance to be happy. Taking time out of your life every single day to care for your children is absolutely vital to their growth as people. It’s not something you grace them — or your partner — with. It’s not a favour. It’s not extra work at the end of a long day. It’s part of who you are, because you’re a parent. You are absolutely required, by the fact that you made a baby, to spend all of your time and energy being a parent to that baby, for the rest of your life, and that isn’t bad news. Parenting is about your kids deserving a parent who is engaged and who demonstrates that he loves them, because that is what will help them become happy, healthy, successful people.”

    For some reason, the author thinks that what the out-of-home working parent does while not home isn’t work, and that when they come home and continue to “work” with the kids it isn’t work, either. Yet somehow when the stay-at-home mom does it it’s work. There is only one difference here: the location the work takes place. Working out of the home and then coming home to “work” with family is still work all day, just like it is for the stay-at-home mom whose work is located at home all day. The statement, “It’s not extra work at the end of a long day” is a red herring; it applies to both parents. They’re both required, all day long. This kind of statement doesn’t apply more to the parent who works out-of-the-home for part of the day than it does to the one who works at home all day with the kids.

    Due to the above, it’s absolutely as valid for the parent who works out-of-the-home for part of the day to say, “When do I get a break” as it is for the parent who works with the kids all day to say, “I need a break”.

    Yes, it’s good to know what a person might mean when they say, “I need a break”. But attacking the other person is not a way to prove the point. The fact is that both parents are working all day.

    “From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, there isn’t a single second of my day where I’m not engaged and on call.”

    This applies to both parents. I know that the author wants to feel entitled here, but it simply doesn’t work that way.

    “Not because we work harder than you or deserve something you don’t.”

    Good, I was wondering if the author was going to get it by the end of the post.

    “We just need a few minutes to not be on edge, working our nerves and spirits raw for the safety and happiness and health of our kids.”

    And so, I’m sure, does the other parent, who also works all day long, just in multiple locations. That parent’s working day isn’t over when he (or she) gets home anymore than it’s over for the stay-at-home parent when the spouse gets home.

    “We aren’t trying to get anything over on you”

    Nothing except for trying to somehow prove that you’re more entitled to a break and that when the out-of-home worker says, “What about me? When do I get a break?” it’s somehow invalid simply due to the fact that the person works out of the home before coming home to continue working at home.

  6. Tosh! Think about things before you have children. They take up your time BIG STYLE. If your partner works, then you look after the kids. That`s life. You could always swop roles.

    1. I would definitely definitely “swop” roles. However, until men start lactating (and don’t even try to tell me you could ever pump milk and breastfeed long term. That simply doesn’t work for most moms), until women have equal pay, and until I can take a maternity leave whole my body heals from birthing a human being without being docked in some underhanded way at work, I simply cannot swap roles.

      Oh, and this entire “think about it first” thing is nonsense. You can have NO idea how much time a child takes up until you are either a parent or live full time with small children. What do you want women who can’t hack it to do? Abandon their families?? Does that seem wise?

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