Staying Sane as a Parent - When to take a break

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Being a parent can be a constant see-saw of emotions, people often feel completely absorbed in their new role one minute, then feel exhausted, helpless and that they need a break the next minute. Decisions can be difficult with lack of sleep, and there are so many decisions, endless, countless decisions, which seem life altering at the time. Sometimes it is easier to decide what is best for baby, but more difficult to prioritise oneself as a parent.


Keeping the baby safe and protected means 24 hour monitoring and closeness with baby, parents are advised to always be in the same room with baby for the first six months. Even when parents are sleeping they have one ear open for any sounds of distress. This can be tying for mums and dads, who often feel like the opportunity to have a long shower on their own would be a rare and luxurious treat.

Actually taking a break can be just as tiring. Parents can really look forward to this relief from duties, only to feel guilty, worried and lonely the whole time they are away from baby. However, if they don't have a break they can become run down, exhausted and not as effective a parent as they could be. Even though, it might not feel like it at the time, having the occasional break from baby can benefit everyone.


Babies can be sad when a parent leaves, but separation anxiety is an important part of development and a sign of a good attachment. It is important to still leave baby when they become anxious but the leaving must be carefully prepared. Playing 'Boo!' regularly enables them to understand that someone can go away but they will come back again. Saying "Bye!" to teddies or soft toys when leaving rooms also develops their understanding of leaving and returning. Gradually they will build up their trust in their parents as they learn that they will come back and so the anxiety will eventually decrease.

If baby is going to nursery or staying with family while the parent has a break or goes to work, time away from parents can be built up slowly. Firstly, it is helpful if they meet their new caregiver with the parents present. Staged increases of time and removal of parent will build their confidence at being on their own. Soon, they will build new bonds with their new carer, feel comfortable with them and enjoy their time away.


Even so they are still often sad at the parent leaving, at first. It is important to role model that leaving is okay and for parents to remind them that they will come back. A quick, cheerful goodbye is effective, with a wave and a smile, walk out at a normal pace. It is important for baby to see the parent leave and that they don't quickly sneak out in order to maintain trust and understanding. They often quickly adjust to their new surroundings and begin to enjoy the change.

Small breaks away could start with the mum going for a short walk, then build up to whatever everyone feels comfortable with. The main aim should be maintaining more identities than just mummy or daddy, so that all the people in the family feel valued, understood and full of fuel.


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