'I Need a Break!' & I'm Not Afraid to Let My Kids Know (Nicely)

I walk in the back door, toss my work tote onto the couch, take off my coat, and let out a deep sigh. It's been a looooong day, culminating with a commute from hell. And it's going to be a long night, too, because I've got a bunch of chores to get through, and my husband and I are planning to have a Big Discussion -- about finances.


"Hi, Mommy!" says my 9-year-old, bounding over.

"Hi, lovey love!" I say and give her a hug, which instantly helps some stress melt away. (Some.)

"Mommy, you know that science project I'm working on? I want you to go over it with me, we have to come up with a 'hypothesis' and I'm not sure what that is. And do you think I should do static electricity? Or maybe I should do something on plants? I'm really interested in plants. Or ..."

She prattles on enthusiastically, but I'm no longer really listening because all I'm thinking is, OMG, I need a couple of minutes to chill or I might just self-destruct.

I love that she cares so deeply about her project. I don't love discussing it right this very second.

My daughter never seems to notice when I'm anxious. This is partly because I do a pretty good job of hiding it, but also because she's still pretty me-centric. From what I see with other kids her age, that's typical, although I do hope she'll develop more empathy one of these days. I decide I'm going to try helping with that now, because when she stops talking, I look at her and say, "Honey, I'm not feeling too relaxed right now. I'm going to go change into sweats and take a few minutes for myself."

She looks at me. "Okay," she says, grudgingly, "but I really want to talk about the science project."

As I trudge up the stairs, I consider what just happened. I don't feel the least bit guilty. I haven't let on just how stressed I'm feeling, but I have let her know that I need time to decompress. It seems like the right thing to do.

Obviously, it's not healthy for kids to see their parents freaking out about money problems, concerns about relatives, health issues, scary world events, or other biggies, as this can both raise their own anxiety levels and teach them to wig out about stuff, too. But I'm coming around to the fact that I do think it's good for my daughter to know that there are times when I am not totally calm. For one, she's learning that people have the power to self-soothe. I'm also modeling a nice way of saying, "I need a break!" Plus, I'm letting on that life doesn't only revolve her. And since she knows that I love what I do for a living (I'm an editor and writer, which we regularly talk about), she's not getting the sense that work is a stressful thing.

I slip on my yoga pants and cotton tee. I rub on lemony hand lotion, my therapy in a bottle. Then I head downstairs, feeling ready to face whatever the night may bring. Including ...

"MOMMMMMMMY! I think I want to do experiments on static electricity! How do you think I should do that?"


Image via Sara.Nel/Flickr

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