When Mama Needs a Time Out


Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net

We’ve all done it–lashed out at those we love most. When we’re overtired, stressed, pressed for time, or simply having a pull-your-hair-out kind of day, it can be incredibly hard to maintain self-control. That’s why we need to be alert to our emotions when we first sense them rising. 

How is it our children can be playing quietly by themselves, completely oblivious to the world around them one moment, then in dire need of us when we slip off to make a phone call?

Why is that one shirt of five hundred favorites suddenly the only one our child will wear when we’re running late for the most important appointment all month?

And how, oh how, can we maintain self-control when little ones are wailing and clinging to our legs while we attempt to mop grape juice from the carpet?

There are some days our kids need a time out, and there are other days when we do. 

Doesn’t that sound lovely? A time when, regardless of what you have going on, of where you absolutely woman-71735_1280need to be, you simply press pause? You’ll be amazed what five minutes–just five!–locked in your bedroom with your Savior can do. 

“But I don’t have time!” you say. “It’s Monday, the kids have to be at school, and I need to get to work.”

To which I’d say, when it comes to our kids, we absolutely have to make the time, not just for their activities and one-on-ones, but to do what we need to do to build them up rather than tearing them down. That doesn’t mean we’ll ever reach the perfect parenting stage, but by learning to pull away when we feel our temperatures rising, we’ll greatly reduce our hurtful mess ups.

Because let’s be honest–anger, frustration, snappy comments, and eye rolls hurt. Our children see it all. They’re amazingly adept at reading body language but incredibly inept at understanding the why. When we’re stressed and running around frazzled and irritated, they don’t human-753172_1920think, “Wow, Mommy must be having a bad day.” Nope. Their world is centered around one thing–themselves. (Developmentally, that’s just where they are.) Which means, they believe they’re the cause for every sigh, huff, and scowl.

And with every scowl or smile, they’re forming their view of the world and their perception of self. They’re determining whether they’re cherished or a nuisance, a blessing or a trouble-maker. A source of joy or frustration. 

When I remember that, suddenly arriving at my appointment five minutes late doesn’t feel like the most important part of my day. And besides, if I’m running late and caught up in a mess of vomit (or traffic), getting upset won’t get me there any faster. To the contrary–it’ll probably delay me further as I’m much less efficient when I allow my emotions to take control.

I also like to think of worst case scenarios. For example, when our daughter was young, school mornings were crazy stressful, and there were many mornings the stressful turned to arguing. I hated sending my daughter off to school after a mother-daughter fight. So I began to ask myself, “What happens if she’s late?” 

She’d get written up, maybe. But if her behavior was causing our delay, then it seemed that’d be a good thing, a natural consequence for her actions. Certainly better than allowing frustration to build to arguments that created constant tension between us.

Our relationship was more important, I felt, than her avoiding a tardy slip.

But let’s pull it back a little. What if, knowing I get stressed, flustered and overwhelmed when time is short day-planner-828611_1920and pressure is high, what if I started creating margins in my day? What if I planned for the unexpected milk spill and temper tantrum? 

What if I simply slowed down so I could take a time out, pulling away to listen to praise music or to pray, when things grew stressful? 

And what if I began to pay more attention to my emotions and became aware when that first spark of frustration arose? Rather than waiting until it grew to overwhelming proportions?

And what if I learned how to speak to myself in the middle of the chaos, reminding myself that God’s still in control, even in traffic jams. What if I chose to use that moment, every moment, as frustrating or hectic as it may be, as training and an opportunity to learn–to grow in character, in perseverance, and surrender?

What might I be able to model for my kids? (Because self-control is caught as much as it’s taught.)

What if, stuck at a red light, with kids bickering in the backseat, rather than allowing my thoughts to run amuck as I thought of how late I’m going to be and how little patience I have for sibling fighting, I began to pray. And surrendered that moment and all that lay ahead to Christ.

Knowing He’s working out His plan, for me, for my kids, and for my family, even in the muck, the mundane, the manic, and the mess.

Let’s talk about this! Have you ever given yourself a time out, and if so, what were the results? How does our self talk in the middle of the gunk and frantic affect our patience level and hence our words and actions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.



  1. Going through this now; not that it is anything new, but given my unemployment lingers into the (8th) month, it is magnified to say the least. Sundays seem to come crashing down on me in more ways than one. My prayers for peace, understanding, and healing come often. In the quietness that comes each morning around 8:00 weekdays, I reflect on the simple reminder that He is with me no matter what comes crashing down. I am quickly reminded because He forgave me so long ago, I can and will forgive myself. The stresses of life will return no doubt, but my faith will overcome all. Because of Him … I know the best is yet to come.

    1. Oh, Momtocam, that. Is. So. Tough. Our family went through a time of unemployment, and I slipped into a bit of depression that was largely triggered by anxiety and the uncertainty of it all. Managing one’s emotions during major life upheavals, especially when those upheavals last a long time, can be so very hard. How awesome that you are staying close to Christ through all this. May He be strong on your behalf, and when you mess up, as you will, may He show you how to use your mess-ups as learning experiences, teaching moments, and opportunities to grow closer to those you love. On my FB page, a mom shared how she’d experienced a crazy morning and had lost her cool. She immediately apologized to her kiddos and explained why she’d gotten upset. In doing so, she showed them we all make mistakes and also taught them that they are not the cause for others’ reactions. She also demonstrated how to live with transparency and take responsibility for one’s actions. So though I know her heart is still breaking over that event (because we moms have a tendency to beat ourselves up over every mistake, long after our kids have forgotten them), it turned into a beautiful, grace-filled mother-children opportunity.

  2. I’ve put myself in time-out on many occasions. (and not parenting related – unfortunately, I didn’t learn to do it until my daughter was an adult.) One time in particular I remember, I was on a weekend trip with about 25 co-workers. and so many little things that annoyed me added up into a near melt down. I walked away and found a quiet spot alone. I came back to the group about 10 minutes later a different person. When they asked where I disappeared to, I told them I had to put myself in time-out. 🙂

    1. What a wise woman you are Cat! Isn’t it amazing how a little break and time to regroup can make such a difference! And I love how you shared what and why you did with them; I imagine they learned a great deal from you that day, because we all need a time out once in a while. 🙂

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