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The Mommy Time-Out

Mommy Time-Out
Photo: Kinga Cichewicz/Unsplash

As parents we are taught that our children model our behaviors. Whether we realize it or not we have eyes watching us at all times. We hope that our kids only pick up on our good behaviors and lessons, such as saying please and thank you. But inevitably some less than stellar actions or words are learned as well. Most of the time these slip out accidentally.

What if, however, you know you are on the verge of saying or doing something that you do not want your children to see? Perhaps you have had enough of their fighting and you are at your breaking point. You feel that scream lodged in your throat and it is a matter of seconds before you can’t hold it any longer. (Some of you recall that Lindsay Lohan’s character in “Mean Girls” called this “word vomit”).


Maybe you had a lousy day or got some bad news and need a good cry but don’t want your kids getting scared or asking you a million questions.

Let us do some role reversal. If your child is about to have a tantrum or cause a stir what would you want to happen? It is likely that you would ask him/her to go to a different room to be alone and come back when he/she is feeling better. Many of us call this a “time-out.”

Like child, like mother

Maybe you, as an adult, know you are about to put on a similar performance and also know that your child is watching and learning from your behavior. Doesn’t it seem right that as a parent you should all be allowed to have a self-imposed time-out?

Read: Mom for This Moment

Since our children are learning social rules and appropriate behavior from us, then we should model what to do when you know you are going to engage in poor behavior. Nobody is perfect. We all have our breakdowns. In my home I call this the Mommy Time-Out. (Alternatively it can also be the Daddy Time-Out.)

We all need a break sometimes. Considering the quarantining and social distancing that we practiced this year, we relied on these breaks to help us get through some long days! When I feel my heart racing and the tension in my body intensifying, I tell my kids that I need a Mommy Time-Out.

And the reaction?

When I first implemented this in my home, I explained to my children that just as they need some time alone to unwind adults need that too sometimes. I told them that I was going to my room to decompress and to please give me space until I came back. When I explained this concept, they simply nodded their heads and said it made sense. What seemed like such a novel idea to me did not phase them as I expected. I realized I was speaking their language. (I should emphasize that my children are old enough to be by themselves around the house and self-sufficient.)

I use the Mommy Time-Out as needed (probably a few times a month). My kids don’t ask questions, but rather respect my need to have space. I have noticed, in turn, that they too will occasionally tell me when they need to go to their rooms to calm down. They are again modeling my behavior but this time it is for coping with negative emotions and learning how to calm down.

Read: How to Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Obviously every household has its unique situation and challenges. If you are able, however, I highly recommend that you too try a Mommy Time-Out. Not only does it give you a break and some time to have an emotional release, but it also demonstrates to your children how to manage intense emotions.  It teaches them that it is OK to need to be alone.

This story originally appeared on the website of our sister publication, Washington Family.


Meridith Jacobs lives in Potomac and is the mother of two girls. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she was a lawyer and career advisor. Meridith likes to craft, read, spend time with family and friends and travel during her free time. 

About Meridith Jacobs

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