Your Time Off Really Needs to Be Time Off

by Melissa Stanton

It's rare and challenging enough for a stay-at-home mother to get time to herself away from her kids. Since such freedom is so precious, your time off shouldn't be spoiled by the person left in charge in your place. As much as possible, try to protect yourself from the spouse or grandparent who takes charge of the kid(s), but then calls during your time away to ask...

• Simple (dare I say stupid) questions, such as, "Where should I throw away a stinky diaper?"
• ...that you get on the phone and say hello to the kids.
• ...for ideas about what he or she can do to keep the children busy.
• ...what to feed the kids since they won't eat what you left.
• ...when you'll be home (even though you provided that information before you left the house).
• ..."Can't you come home early?"

To head off such questions:

  • As you walk out your front door, don't hedge with comments such as, "Call me if you have any questions."
  • Ensure that the person in charge has everything that he or she will need in order to care for the children, and make sure they are capable enough to be able to wing it a little.
  • Speaking of which, you need to allow your "stand-in" to do his or her own thing with the kids. Your mom or partner isn't you, and they can't be expected to do everything exactly the way you would. Sometimes a woman who is the primary caregiver of her children takes ownership of her "job," as anyone does, and gets a little territorial. Such behavior can make a man think he doesn't have what it takes to take care of the kids -- or lead a wife to not let her husband care for the kids because he won't do it "right."

Now if, despite your great preparations and positive attitude, your stand-in does call while you are out, don't reward him or her by answering their non-urgent questions. (e.g. "The baby won't nap. What should I do?") Gently, but firmly, tell your partner or parent that you have complete trust in them, and that you're sure they'll figure it out. You can remind your stand-in that you are happy to have them call you if one of the children is bleeding or they are on the way to the hospital.

Remember, you work hard on a daily basis taking care of your little ones. Your few hours, or even day or days away from home, shouldn't require that you exhaust yourself with preparations before your departure. Nor should your respite result in you having to put your house back together after your return. Make sure your husband or partner understands that your time off is for you to recuperate from your daily life, and not from the crazed days leading up to your absence. The renewed you must not be depleted on Day One by cleaning the messes and solving the problems created while you were gone. After all, the energy you gain from your much-deserved break is needed to keep you going when you return to your routine.

Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books). Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mother of three (including twins), she was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Visit with Melissa, and learn more about her book, at Real Life: Support for Moms. Become her Facebook friend via The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide fan page.

Copyright © Melissa Stanton. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.