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Respite is not a dirty word

There are many great things about the 21st Century. But planned respite isn’t one of them…

We have come along way towards equality across cultures and between genders.

We are on the precipice of marriage equality.

We are becoming more accepting of parenting diversity, and less judgy of how others raise their children.

We are challenging the mainstream in terms of the hours we work, where we work, and the types of careers we choose and then re-choose later in life.

We are living in a technological world where we lock our doors with our iphones and turn on the lights by asking Google.

We drive plug-in cars, and are thinking of new inventive ways to save our environment.

So why is there still a judgement about parents having respite, and why aren’t more parents doing it?

Respite basically means to have a short break from something. It means a break, time-away, a holiday perhaps.

We have respite from our paid jobs – this is called annual leave.

We have respite from school – this called a public holiday, a weekend.

We have respite from cooking – this is called take-out.

We have respite from exercising – this is called relaxing, or ‘giving your body a break’.

We have respite from socializing – it’s called having a ‘night in’.

By accepting respite from all these things, even things you choose to do and love, it doesn’t mean you don’t love doing them any less.

We all need a break once in a while, this is what gives us balance, this is what makes us continue to do these things for the long term.

So why is it so strange to have respite from our kids?

It doesn’t mean we love them any less. In fact, I would argue that we need respite to continue to be the parents we want to be. For this, this means being calm, warm, fun and educational.

Have you ever head someone say (or maybe you’ve said it yourself), “I’m a better parent when I’m not around my kids.” What these people are saying is, they need respite in their lives and they are better parents because of it.

I recently flew internationally without my children. This is not a normal occurrence let me say, but we live in a developing country and I needed urgent supplies from Australia.

I had three choices: take my almost two-year old who doesn’t cope well with jetlag (or flying), or, take my pre-schooler, but then I’d be paying for his seat as well as mine and I’d have to leave his sister at home without him, and they’d never been apart before. Or I could go by myself, and leave my children in their home with their father, who is an equally capable parents as me.

But to be honest, I really needed a break for a few days. To re-set. To re-fill my cup. To get perspective. To just… breathe!

So that’s what I did. I flew alone, without my children.

But I felt judged because of it. I felt like people couldn’t believe I’d flown without my babies. I felt like people were saying, ‘Isn’t it the role of a parent to look after their kids?’.

They just didn’t understand. They judged me.

They didn’t know the struggles I’d faced this year. They didn’t know that I needed to re-set and re-fill. They didn’t know that it would be really stressful flying internationally with a child on my own. They didn’t know that jetlag is actually really hard on my children, and I would only be in Australia for a week, so they wouldn’t have time to re-adjust.

All they saw, was a Mum who’d left her kids behind for presumably selfish reasons.

And it  saddened me that in today’s progressive world we are still talking about these things.

Why isn’t respite the norm? Why isn’t leaving your kids with the grandparents for a few nights, the norm? Why isn’t working a four day week so you can have a day to re-set, the norm? Okay, that last one is a bit trickier, but it should be the norm, and it doesn’t have to be tricky.

Why is it that parents have to reach breaking point before they’re ‘allowed’ to have a break, and then you get your condescending comments ‘oh, she just needs a break’ from others?

Respite should be a planned activity for parents to spend time just breathing, to re-set, to find peace, so they can be the parents they want to be.

Why is respite such a dirty word?

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About Lauren Jackman (159 Articles)
Lauren Jackman is the author of Canberra Mummy. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lauren writes about the truth about pregnancy and parenting for perfectionist mummies. Lauren is a mum, wife, author, runner and a not a bad cook