Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

The Importance of Regular Breaks

Good morning! I’m writing this from way up in the air, en route from Austin back to New York. I bought a wifi pass to get some work done on the 3+ hour flight and I was going to write a column for this morning, but I didn’t have any letters in my in-box I felt inspired to answer. So, I thought I’d use this time to check in and say hi.

We had a fun, whirlwind weekend in Austin, arriving Saturday around noon and leaving early this morning. If you follow my Instagram stories, you already saw the highlights of the weekend — lots of tacos, drinks, wandering around, and hanging out. One of the best things about having a couple days away from one’s kids/ responsibilities is simply being able to hang out, specifically without plans or an agenda. Wanna stay in bed ’til 10? Go for it! Wanna go to a bar at 1 pm? Sure! Change your mind halfway there and decide to see a movie instead? Great! Freedom — to feel truly liberated with your time, when it’s usually maxed out with responsibilities and obligations to others — is such a sweet, sweet thing.

So, Drew and I had a good time, and now we’re looking forward to seeing the kids. It’s amazing how just two days away can fill your heart with a longing for these little people you love so much. I mean, don’t get me wrong — if I’d had another day or two to hang out, I’d happily take it. But missing my kids is a nice feeling, too — one I don’t get to experience very often.

While I was away, I received an email from a regular DW reader who said she thought of me the other evening when she realized she needed a break — from the daily grind of work and the pressures of motherhood (she’s a first-time mom to baby), so she met up with a friend for some happy hour drinks and, just as she was beginning to feel guilty for taking some time for herself, leaving her husband to deal with the baby and home, she thought about how I preach the importance of taking regular breaks. So, just in case you’re new here or for some reason haven’t gotten that message yet: it’s important to take regular breaks! This goes for everyone, but especially women, who not only often carry more burden of obligations and care-giving, but who generally feel more guilt when they step away from their various roles for a minute. It’s not only ok to step away, it’s necessary. Giving yourself time, a change of scenery, the chance to reconnect to: your partner; friends; nature; the activities and things you love, keeps you sane and gives you the strength to keep being a great: employee; wife; mom; friend; daughter; engaged citizen (which is now more important than ever).

I’ll be home in a few hours and I’ll have two kids and two cats who will want/need/demand my attention. I’ll need to quickly plan dinner, maybe grocery shop, unpack and do laundry, tidy up, go through mail, and deal with various loose ends that will need some tying. But getting away for a couple days temporarily changed the progression of emotional and physical fatigue. While I don’t exactly feel refreshed (I was up at 5 am twice in 48 hours to catch early flights), I do feel renewed, and reconnected to Drew and to my core self. I feel better ready to give my attention to all that requires it when I get back home, and any hint of resentment that may have been gnawing at me for the demands of my time and attention has been tempered again. Regular breaks in whatever forms you can swing — happy hours with friends, a solo trip to the movies, a night out with your partner, a weekend getaway, a vacation from your reality — are essential. So, that’s my advice for this morning. And also this: If you are a parent who has kids you usually pack punches for in the mornings, do yourself a favor and start packing them the night before. It might even change your life. Or at least give you an extra five minutes in the morning to catch your breath.

23 comments… add one
  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki March 6, 2017, 11:25 am

    I really suck at the regular break thing. I am away from home 40+ hours a week for work so I rarely want to *not* be with the kid (seriously… I often opt to shop while he’s napping with daddy at home or bring him with because I feel like I’m wasting time that I could be spending with him). We do make a habit of at least 2 dates without the kid per month and I’ve been trying to do more GNO type things with some of the women I met in a mom-baby group while on maternity leave and other friends. Gonna be honest, I’m at work right now and would much rather prefer to be hanging out with that darn kid.

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    RedRoverRedRover March 6, 2017, 1:10 pm

    My son starts kindergarten in Sept, and I just found out today that he got accepted into the before-and-after-care program at the school. Which not only is a load off, because I certainly can’t stop working at 3pm every day, but the care program does hot lunches! I am so psyched that I won’t have to worry about lunches. So psyched. 🙂

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      Kate March 6, 2017, 7:52 pm

      Wait, what’s with kids taking lunches that have to be heated up in a microwave? Don’t schools and daycares sell hot lunches? And what about sandwiches?

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        Kate March 6, 2017, 7:52 pm

        Oops, replied in the wrong place!

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      • Lianne

        Lianne March 7, 2017, 9:21 am

        Yeah it wouldn’t even occur to me to send in food for my son that needs to be heated. I am lucky though, in that our daycare provides meals – this includes breakfast, lunch and two snacks! It was one of the main reasons we chose this place and it’s included in the tuition. They’re not always hot meals and frankly, I wouldn’t care if it was sandwiches every day!

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      • Pamplemousse Rose

        Pamplemousse Rose March 7, 2017, 10:47 pm

        We also chose our daycare because they provide meals. Not making lunches is the best!

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 8, 2017, 11:14 am

        Some daycares provide meals and the cost is included in tuition so isn’t like an elementary school. Others don’t, especially if they have had too many kids who need special diets. They will have every family send their child’s food and there is no sharing allowed. That way if a child need dairy free or gluten free or nut free the daycare doesn’t have to try to cater to all the various diets of the kids.

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    Betsy March 6, 2017, 1:29 pm

    I was all over packing lunches at night for my 2 year old until they took the microwave out of her classroom at daycare because it took the teachers too much time to heat up lunches. By my calculations, if every kid brought in a hot lunch, at 30 seconds per kid that would be 6 minutes. But anyway, now many of my mornings are a mad rush of heating up water for the thermos and then whatever it is I’m hoping she’ll eat that day. Ugh!

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom March 6, 2017, 3:44 pm

      Lots of kids take something like a macaroni and cheese pack where water must be added and then it cooks 3 to 4 minutes. Some kids take things that needs 7 to 8 minutes. One local school had a microwave in the lunchroom for the kids to use and they finally removed it because kids were bringing foods that took so long to cook that if they were at the head of the line they took half of the lunch period and then kids at the end of the line didn’t have enough time to eat. Most lunch periods are 22 minutes in our area.

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        Ange March 6, 2017, 7:45 pm

        Yeah if I want something heated up I usually do at least 2 minutes because anything less leaves it not that hot and potentially dangerous.

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      dinoceros March 6, 2017, 9:06 pm

      I had no idea this was a thing! We never had the option of doing that. I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to microwave for everyone (get the right temperature, etc.). I feel like it would be so tedious.

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      • avatar

        ktfran March 7, 2017, 8:11 am

        This. I can’t imagine making a kid wait his/her turn so that the teacher can warm up lunches. It’s not like these kids get an hour plus for lunch.

        Teachers are already overworked. That’s just another added level of unnecessary responsibility. I guess unless your kids are going to private school and this sort of thing is expected.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy March 7, 2017, 9:42 am

        Yeah, count me among those who think sending kids to daycare or school with lunches that have to be heated up is a little ridiculous. What only takes 30 seconds to heat? Most things require 1-2 minutes, and then you have to stir it and hope it isn’t too hot that the kid burns his or her mouth. It’s one thing if you’re doing that for a couple of kids, but a whole class full? I’m surprised this was even done in the first place! Send the kid with a bagel and cream cheese, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a leftover slice of veggie pizza, some turkey roll-ups, crackers and cheese with some fruit. I mean, I’m not Pinterest mom, but Pinterest does have tons of school lunch ideas for little kids. There’s really no reason you need to feel limited in terms of lunches that don’t need to be heated up!

        Jackson could easily just buy a school lunch, which he did about 50% of the time last year and that definitely made things easier for me. But kindergarteners at his school eat in the cafeteria (vs. in their classrooms like he did in pre-k) and he says the lines are so long that by the time he gets his food, there’s not enough time to eat it all. I volunteer in at kindergarten lunch and recess and can see his point on this, although now that we’re more than midway through the school year, things finally seem to be moving more seamlessly and he’s expressed some interest in getting school lunch on pizza and chicken nugget days. I’ll take the break in packing his lunch while balancing his diet with more nutritional options on the days when I do send him with a lunch from home.

        I think this is the most I’ve ever written about school lunch. (Though I actually do have lots of thoughts about the topic — especially after my several months now of experiencing lunchtime in a public school on a regular basis. Talk about room for improvement!!).

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        Kate March 7, 2017, 9:45 am

        Chicken nugget day was the best! This kid at my lunch table would lick each of his nuggets as soon as he sat down so no one would steal one.

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      • Portia

        Portia March 8, 2017, 9:18 am

        I also can’t imagine sending a kid with things to be heated up by a teacher. The first time I even had the option for a microwave in school was junior high, and even then we had so few microwaves in the lunch room (2 or 3 for a hundred kids) that you just assumed you couldn’t heat up your lunch.

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    Janelle March 6, 2017, 3:19 pm

    Thank you Wendy. I am booking a weekend away as we speak. I have been running three businesses (my ex just opened 2 new locations and I still help him after all these years) and I am exhausted….plus the legs are getting way too pale for the upcoming 80 degree weather.

    I already can’t wait.

    I read somewhere once that part of the enjoyment of a trip is anticipating, booking it, etc. 🙂

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy March 6, 2017, 4:18 pm

    When our plane landed at JFK, I got literally over 32 text message alerts about things needing my attention (lots of stuff going on at Jackson’s school, for example) and I wanted to cry. Going away is great. But sometimes the transition back to reality is a little rough…

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  • avatar

    Janelle March 6, 2017, 5:06 pm

    Since technically it is still a vacation day I say Monday night wine once you get through the school stuff!

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  • othy

    othy March 6, 2017, 5:10 pm

    I’m taking a full 2 weeks off of work this month. I’m thrilled, as this is the longest vacation I’ll have had since college. And I’ll be spending it in Italy. My boss is 100% in support of this, as her biggest feedback to me at my last eval was that I needed to take MORE time off of work. So good riddance work/email – I won’t be missing you 🙂

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    • LadyinPurpleNotRed

      LadyinPurpleNotRed March 6, 2017, 6:45 pm

      Italy is incredible!! Where in Italy are you going??

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    dinoceros March 6, 2017, 9:07 pm

    I’m taking a few days off during spring break, which is exciting! This is our busy season at work, so getting some days off it really needed. It’ll help keep me from biting off the heads of all my students in April, I think.

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  • Lianne

    Lianne March 7, 2017, 9:26 am

    Great post, Wendy! I was the regular reader that wrote to Wendy…normally I don’t feel guilty about needing breaks, but every so often, that nagging feeling creeps in. I hate it when it happens because, Wendy is right! We all need breaks, people with an without kids! But this is human nature…stupid.

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    Vathena March 8, 2017, 10:40 am

    I’m going to Austin this weekend! I’ll be visiting my best friend. We’re staying in an Airbnb away from our three-year-olds. I counted it up and realized I’ve spent 13 nights away since my daughter was born (and 5 of those were with my mom) and my husband has been away probably 160+ nights, as he travels frequently for work. So, he owes me. Haha! We are taking two real family vacations this year, both to beachy locations, and on one of them we won’t even have any other family obligations. Since having a kid, 90% of our travel is just to visit family; our immediate families are scattered all over (Florida, Indiana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon. We’re in Virginia.) I’d love to start doing one trip every year that is not dedicated to family obligation!

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