When Both Parents Need A Break

I hear the following scenario(s) a lot:  Mom and Dad have a preschooler; Mom is at home: Dad has a lot of commitments: Dad would like to have some time to himself; Mom would like some time to herself and therefore would like Dad to spend some time with preschool-aged child OR Dad would like to spend some time ALONE with Mom but Mom is very attached to their child and finds it difficult to leave.(And I know some mothers who feel Dad cannot handle their child and won’t leave child with Dad or child doesn’t seem to want to stay with Dad).  Whew!  Lots of different things going on here!

I have many thoughts on these scenarios; let’s see if I can sort them out bit by bit.

Scenario #1Dad has many commitments. Mom would like a break when Dad gets home but Dad is rather tapped out.

Here are some thoughts:

The first thing my husband said when I said, “Quick!  What comes into your head with this scenario?” was this:   “Life before children is not the same as life after children.  Can Dad back off on some of these commitments for these Early Years?”

Yup, he said that.  No prompting, just honesty!  I love that man!

So, Number One:  BOTH of you look honestly at your commitments  outside the home and ask is it essential or not?  What is essential right now is  raising your child.  That has an expiration date and the time to this child-raising is now.

Also, these times may call for tough choices if all these commitments are economically necessary.  Could you move to something smaller to live in?  Could you go to one car?  Could you cut back anywhere?

Okay, moms, before you get all happy over that (“See honey, I told you so!  You need to be home!”) please consider this:  Dad may need some time to switch gears prior to walking in the door and being handed a child. There may be several ways to handle this:   Dads, can you stop on the way home and work out?  Listen to something that settles you down on the commute home? Or Moms, can Dad have some time when he walks in the door to switch gears – sometimes feeding the children a snack or having a craft at the ready keeps the children from attacking Dad the minute he walks in the door.

And Moms, make home a place Dad wants to come home to.  If all you do is nag and complain, why would he want to be there?  Think about this, meditate on it, pray on it.

The other facets of this scenario to consider include these three things:

1. Many small children really only want their mothers at bedtime unless you have worked to make Dad the main bedtime person.  Bedtime may not be the best time for daddy-child relationship success and yet it is the time of the day when mothers are completely tapped out.

2. So, if the end of the day is everyone (including the adults)  falling apart, it may be your child is completely overtired.  If you have a three or four year old who is not napping, they most likely will be ready for sleep at 6:30 or 7. Stop trying to keep them up to see Dad get home from work at 8 PM unless your child gets up late in the morning.

3.  Moms, if you are that worn out at the end of the day, look back to your rhythm.  Does it have a balance of out-breath and in-breath?  Can you gear your whole afternoon toward bedtime?  Dinner in the crock pot so  you can spend a good amount of time outside in the afternoon?  Switch up the routine so your child has a nice warming bath with a lavender foot massage, warm food, warm bed?  Snore.

Scenario #2Dad would like some ALONE time with Mom, Mom is reluctant to be away from child.

I say this a lot  on this blog:  It is Attachment PARENTING, not just Attachment Mothering.  A relationship with your child is not a substitute for the intimate relationship with your spouse.  Check out the back posts on marriage here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

and https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/08/parenting-as-partners/

and https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

However, I think there are many ways one can accomplish this without leaving your child with a babysitter.  Much of this hinges on an early bedtime though.

Intimacy needs to happen sooner rather than attempting two hours after a small child falls asleep and is likely to wake up.  This time needs to be a priority for both of you.  The crafting, the computer, the TV, the reading can wait – let those things be the things that are interrupted, not the special time that holds couples together!

Scenario #3 – Dad is ready for a outings with child; Mom and/or child not sure about child having an outing with just Dad.

Mothers, you have to feel secure.  If you loved this man enough to marry him and have children with him, (and assuming things have not changed and you still love and trust this man), please give Dad a chance to do things his way with his child.  You may not choose to take your child to Chik- fil- A for lunch, but if Dad does, let that be Their Thing.  Please do not micromanage their relationship.

Experiment.  Is it better if you leave the house and have Dad and child do something at home or is it better to have Dad and child go out of the house while you stay home?  Can Dad take child for a walk regularly to build up confidence on both sides of the coin before a big date out? 

The other question is how involved is Dad in regular day-to-day care in general – it is parenting by both Mom and Dad that count. 

Dads, be patient. Sometimes you have to get through “mommy-only” phases of development.  As our older two grew, my husband and I had a phrase called “PPW” (Preferred Parent of the Week).  Sometimes the PPW was him, sometimes it was me.  Sometimes it is hard not to take it all personally, but don’t, because it just is.  These phases come and go and pass.

And please, Dad pick things that are not too over–stimulating or crazy for the under-7 crowd.  An under-7 child would be just as happy going to see a construction site for free rather than a huge tour of the museum or a carnival.  Remember that under-7 children, while they love “new” and “special” don’t need to do everything under the sun whilst they are little.  New can be a walk where they see something new, a trip to a construction site, shooting hoops in the park…it does not have to be “big and better and best” to get a child’s attention. 

Just a few thoughts in this subject,


9 thoughts on “When Both Parents Need A Break

  1. Great tips! Thank you! My one question is what do you do if you have a child who will not sleep alone at all? We have co-slept at night since birth simply because it felt right. Our son has only napped in our arms because he required it. He has never slept for longer than 30 minutes by himself ever and it only lasts that long when we get lucky. At that point he stirs, notices I’m not there, and wakes up crying. I know this will pass, but because of it we’ve been very unsuccessful at finding any time to be just a couple. Also, we do not believe in the cry it out methods.

    • Shelly, If you read this blog you know we also are AP parents. You don’t mention how old your son is at all, but it sounds as if he may not be in deep enough sleep when you put him down? What happens if you wrap him tightly in a blanket, nurse him to sleep and then set him down? Or nurse him to sleep in your bed and then slip out? Does he need white noise? Does he have food allergies or reflux? Is he is a developmental spurt or getting teeth? Does he respond to being patted back to sleep or only to nursing back to sleep?
      If he is still really little, yes, this is a phase that will pass, but yes, challenging whilst you are in it. There are several back posts on here regarding co=sleeping. I can tell you co-sleeping is wonderful, this phase does not last forever, and you will be so glad you parented him this way when he is bigger! 🙂
      Your local la Leche League group or Attachment Parenting Group would be a great source of support for you on this matter.

  2. Sorry for the lack of details. I try not to be long-winded, but then leave out the important stuff. I love the AP tone that is in all that you write. I have run across some moms that consider themselves to be AP and then talk about how wonderful the Ferber method is. That one gives me chills. Our son is 27 mos old. I do still nurse him to sleep for nap. We nurse before bed, but he pulls off before falling asleep, gives kisses, talks, flips, flops, and then will finally fall asleep. We always run a fan for noise and the room stays very dark. Luckily no food allergies so far. I believe he may have had reflux as a baby because he would refuse to nurse in bed at night, so all wakings had me nursing him in the rocking chair. Lately he is requiring being nursed back to sleep, but his 2 yr molars are coming in. He seems to almost always be in a growth spurt. He’s always been over the 97th percentile on height. Just in the past month he has started to spread out for part of the night in bed. He used to wake up if he wasn’t touching someone. I’m thinking this is a small sign that one day he’ll be very on his own. I do love waking up to his kisses. I very much enjoy the feel of his warm feet against my legs or back at night. And I so treasure him in my arms at nap when he is completely asleep and laughing. I know the time will be here before I know it when I will miss all this togetherness, but some days it is a bit exhausting right not. Just wondered if you had any thoughts on it.
    Thanks so much!! And thank you for a wonderful blog that you are so dedicated to!! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!!

    • Ferber gives me chills as well….You mention he always seems to be in a growth spurt, which I hear from a lot of mothers of boys. How is his appetite? Does he do greens at all? It is encouraging that he will go to sleep without nursing as the last thing, many 27 month olds won’t do that… I would wait for these molars to come in, and just keep gently putting him back to sleep when he needs it…Sounds like he may be on the cusp of some developmental breakthroughs with the teeth. Hang in there!
      My other thought would be to lay down and fall asleep with him early, and then get up later..Sometimes I will go to bed with the kids early and then wake up around 10 and spend an hour or two with my husband, who can go to bed at 11:30 and feel fine the next day. The kids seem to sleep well at that window. Maybe you will find window of time where your son sleeps well and use it to your advantage. 🙂
      Many blessings,

  3. Carrie, Thank you very much!! Why do you ask if he eats his greens? He does. We are a vegetarian family and I make crazy smoothie concoctions almost everyday and freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays. He does seem to eat all day long most days.
    I think if I want more time with my hubby, I need to be willing to give up my sleep. I’ve always been the type of person who requires 8 – 10 hrs a night, uninterrupted, or I’d end up sick. Obviously that’s changed and I’m not sick all the time, but I do get crabby very easily when tired. I just have to listen to my body and watch it.
    Thanks again!!

    • Greens, as you know, seem to contain some minerals that may impact sleep for the better….:) My other thought is if he is coming out of that first sleep cycle early on and you can get him back to sleep, his second cycle may be longer..
      I understand what you mean though, much of parenting is adjusting ourselves…Thanks for checking back in!

  4. Pingback: Dads Out There? « The Parenting Passageway

  5. Our baby is 4 yrs old and still has this problem. Whenever we’ve tried putting her to bed to have some exclusive mom-dad time, she’s fine for say half-an-hour or so. She then wakes up crying. We then have to break our time and go to her. We’ve tried catching up with each other (chatting up) in the same room that she sleeps but it seems to disturb her. Also our dinner time clashes with her sleep-time. She goes to sleep around 9 pm (wakes up at 7:00-7:30 am). We hate to sleep next to her immediately after dinner. If we wait to eat after she goes to sleep a)it gets too late and b)sometimes she wakes up half-way through our meal or right after we finish. So anway we have to go and lie down next to her with a heavy stomach and a heavy heart!! Akin to a thumb sucking habit, our daughter needs to stroke us, esp my arm in her sleep. If she doesn’t find my arm in her sleep, she wakes up crying. Pls help. Do you think we are spoiling our daughter and making her dependent on us?
    Here are some bits of info :
    a. We cannot advance our dinner time due to our work schedules (both of us work outside)
    b. I am late sleeper. So I end up watching TV alone if my daughter needs her father in her sleep
    c. My husband is an early sleeper and an early riser. (he leaves home by 6:00 am to play tennis)
    d. I wake up around the same time to do Yoga at home.

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