Time-off obstacles, overcome!
Below, some of the big reasons moms hesitate to pull a temporary disappearing act -- and permission to do it anyway.
"I'm okay. I don't really need a day off." All moms need days off occasionally, and you might not realize that you're at the end of your rope until you find yourself dangling over a precipice. "Everyone is like a pitcher of water. If you keep pouring it out -- taking care of the children, pets, bills, your mother-in-law -- without filling it up again, you'll be running on empty," says Dunnewold. "Remember: You're doing a good thing for your kids if you do something for you."
"The kids will suffer if I leave them for that long." That would be true if you vanished off the face of the earth, never to return; we're talking one day (or half a day, if that's all you can swing). Your children may be upset when you actually say goodbye, but they'll get over it with ego-crushing speed. "We think that things will fall apart or something bad will happen if we leave," says Dunnewold. "But ask yourself, is getting your nails done or having lunch with your friend really going to wreck your kid?" Says Gina Osher, a mom of 2-year-old twins in Los Angeles, "I tell myself it's really good for my kids to be with other people, so it's not all about Mommy."
"My husband/babysitter won't keep her in her routine." Even if you write it all down for your partner or caregiver, there's always the chance that naps will be late or nonexistent, or that your child will not get the afternoon snack that keeps her from becoming a monster by dinnertime. But is it really such a disaster if it happens once in a while? Kate Miller, a mom in Providence, RI, has learned to let this stuff go on her weekly day off, when her husband has guys' day with their two sons. "So he lets them watch too much TV, and he doesn't wash their hair properly, in my opinion," says Miller. "It's fine. Everybody's alive." Besides, whoever's left in charge will learn firsthand why that snack and nap are critical -- and deal with the consequences. (The key here is to stay out long enough that you miss the meltdown, which may not even happen.) "This is less anxiety about the child than it is anxiety about control," says Dunnewold. Let it go.
"I work all day, so I already spend so much time apart from them." This is a toughie, but working at an outside job still doesn't give you all you need to feel human. Besides, working brings home the bacon, which is another form of caring for your children. "If you're the type to feel guilty about this, maybe you should feel guilty if you don't take the day off," suggests Miller. "You're not letting your kids see their mom in a good state. They don't get to experience you when you're rested."
"I stay home and my husband works hard all week, so I feel bad taking a day to myself." Well, you work hard all week, too, if you're taking care of kids -- some would say harder, given the zillions of details you keep track of and all the needs you must satisfy. "There are labor laws in this country," Dunnewold points out, and you can decide that they apply to you, too. For every eight hours you work, you're entitled to a half-hour lunch and two 20-minute breaks. If you're a stay-at-home mom with no help, you work 16 hours a day. That means you have 14 hours a week coming to you. If you take even half of that you're still not slacking off. Raising children is a valuable contribution to the world; you should be rewarded for that.
"I'd feel better if I used time alone to take care of things that are stressing me out." Okay, but use some of it for fun. If you have three hours off, be constructive during only one of them. And then keep reminding yourself: You will be a better mother, on all levels, if you tend to yourself.