Being a mom or dad is a 24/7 job, fully encompassed by a cloud of diapers, tears, bumps, bruises, and the magical guessing game of "what's wrong with the baby?" There is no break from parenting, and it can take its toll unless you find ways to decompress and give yourself a brief mental vacation. However, when you are perpetually on the clock, at the beck and call of your adorable bundle of snot, taking a much-needed break is no easy task. Parents learn to get creative. Here are eight ways we can take a mental break from life:
1. Driving alone. I am guaranteed two times per day when my car is MY car, and nobody else's. The first of these two times is driving to work at the early hour of "haven't had my coffee yet," and the second is after work on my way to pick up my daughter. That brief respite in the afternoon, when the radio belongs to me at whatever volume I want, when I can think and breathe and relax, is wonderful. If you see me driving 10 miles per hour under the speed limit, don't be alarmed -- I'm simply trying to savor the moment.
2. Showering. Showers are pure relaxation, and if you have the chance to take one while knowing the baby is being watched by someone else or is down for a good nap, then I strongly suggest you take advantage of it. This oasis provides the perfect opportunity to literally do nothing, which is bliss.
3. The restroom. It's funny, I never thought of the restroom as a sanctuary, but now that I have a baby, that place has become the closest thing I have to a man cave. That little room with a door provides us with one of the smallest glimmers of alone time in our house, so you bet I'll be sitting on the top of the toilet seat catching up on the latest sporting news. And guess what? I'm not even ashamed of it. This is called "being creative."
4. Power napping. This is a skill reserved for only the most highly trained parents. I don't care if it's for five minutes or 30, if there is a brief pause at any time in my day, I am more than likely closing my eyes to put as much juice in my battery as possible. Five minutes in the car? Yep. A 10-minute break at work? Believe it. As a father, I have become the quintessential napper.
5. Coffee. Coffee is more than a caffeinated drink to parents -- it is a way of life. Taking a sip of good coffee is like liquid encouragement, whispering to parents, "you've got this." So thank you, my dearest coffee, for the continuous stream of self-esteem boosters. Our relationship is one that I cherish.
6. The time before lifting the baby out of the car. There is this five-second window where, when arriving at your destination with the baby in the back seat, you open your door to walk around to the other side to lift your baby from his/her car seat. Those five seconds are precious -- the door closes behind you, you are alone, you are free to feel the wind on your face and smell the roses, if only for an instant. And then, you're a dad again. I have been known to prolong those five seconds all the way to eight seconds -- because yeah, I'm a rebel. Get over it.
7. Sports. Ah yes, my old friends basketball, baseball and football, who are always there for me in times of need. I do not see them as often as I once did, but things between us always pick up right where we left off, like no time has passed at all. I miss you, old friends, but you know that I make time for you whenever I can. Thank you for always being there.
8. When baby sleeps. There is a very specific reason this is the last item on the list, and that is because nothing compares to when your baby sleeps. Suddenly, you are faced with endless possibilities. Do you take care of your responsibilities, do something you yourself will enjoy, or do something amazing for your partner? The choice is yours, but choose wisely -- you never know when the little peanut will wake up again.
So, fellow parents -- do what you can and do what you have to in order to decompress and keep your mind right, and take your little mental vacations where you can get them. Your baby and your partner both need you to be at the top of your game.