If you've ever dieted before, you're familiar with the idea of a cheat-day. It's essentially a day out of the week (or whatever time frame suites you) that you give yourself a break and indulge on things your diet otherwise wouldn't permit. It's been suggested that allowing yourself a cheat-day actually helps you stick to your diet by giving you the freedom to occasionally enjoy a treat while not making you feel guilty for doing so. I've never been a big fan of dieting, but I'm always down for a cheat-day. I'm not talking about a cheeseburger-and-cookies-filled kind of cheat-day. No, I'm talking about a parenting cheat-day.
There's no two ways about it, parenting is hard. H-A-R-D hard. No matter what age or stage your kids are at, each comes with its own unique set of challenges that are all equally exhausting. I have two young toddlers, the older of which has not begun to speak, so our days are filled with learning activities and exercises to encourage my older son to talk. I love playing and teaching with them, but the love I have does not mean it isn't still stressful. I put so much pressure on myself to be this sort of rockstar mom who can tackle it all and still look fabulous, but the truth is that I need a cheat-day now and then. And I'm willing to bet you do too.
When your kids demand so much of your time and energy, it's easy to get worn out pretty quickly, but it's also extremely difficult to take time to and for yourself. Just as dieters need a cheat-day to indulge a little, parents need a cheat-day to reset. Every family is different, so there's a good chance your cheat-day will look different from mine, but at our house we observe a cheat-day by staying in sweats and/or jammies and vegging out on the couch most of the day. I let the boys watch more TV than I usually would, and instead of stressing over meals for the day we just snack. They're both so little that they won't hang out for the whole day, but even the short periods that they will are enough to get in some rest.
Don't get me wrong, just because you call a cheat-day doesn't mean your kids won't still demand your time. There's no getting around that. Having a cheat-day just gives you the freedom to be more lenient and let everyone in the house indulge a bit, whether it's junk food or electronics or whatever else. Taking the pressure off of yourself to try to get everyone dressed and ready for the day, accomplish tasks, complete chores, and run errands in and of itself is a huge relief. One thing I can't stress enough is to not allow yourself to feel any guilt over not getting anything done. Having a little R&R is just as important, if not more so, than getting your dishes done.
The fact is, you can only give so much of yourself before the tank is empty. There's this idea that you just have to push through and deal with it, but you don't. Parenting is exhausting, and it's ok to be exhausted. You have to keep in mind that running on empty doesn't do you or anyone else any good. You have to, have to, have to take care of yourself, too. This was something that I really struggled with for a long time. I would always say there would be time for myself later, but later never came. I got to the point where I was so drained that I dreaded each day. The very idea of having to wake up and start all over again wore me out almost as much as actually doing it. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you've probably felt the same way. Maybe you're even feeling like that right now. Two words, hyphenated: CHEAT-DAY.
Plan out a cheat day. Set a day this week and go pick up some snacks to get you through the day. Add some shows to your watch list. Make sure your favorite sweats are clean and ready to go. If your kids are old enough to understand, let them know. Build it up like it's going to be a super special day of snuggles and movies. Side note, the snuggling definitely helps melt that residual guilt away. Those moments are so precious, and just as important as anything else you could be doing in that moment.
If you're at your limit now then forego the planning. I've definitely had days where I just woke up and decided it was a cheat-day. Slap on some comfy clothes and tell everyone to forage for whatever food they want in the house. There's nothing wrong with an impromptu cheat-day. Sometimes those are the most needed ones.
I'm going to say this one more time for the people in the back - do not feel guilty. You are not weak for needing a day to chill. You are strong for knowing when you need that time and even stronger for allowing yourself to have it. You are not being neglectful or a bad parent. You are taking the time to allow everyone a day of rest and to reset, which is crucial. Plus, it's a prime snuggling opportunity. You have no reason to feel any guilt about taking a cheat-day now and then. The laundry will still be there tomorrow. Whatever housework or errands can wait a day. You need this. Your kids need this. You are still a fantastic parent. You are still a loving and nurturing parent. You are still taking care of your children, and yourself. You are still enough. Even on cheat-days.